Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers vs Calgary Flames

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Saturday night into Sunday morning, the Philadelphia Flyers played the Vancouver Canucks close. Carter Hart and Jacob Markstrom both played well for their teams in goal, but the Canucks got the win. The Flyers went to a shootout, which is never good news to Philadelphia fans, and that trend continued. Tanner Pearson put the game-winning goal behind Hart in the shootout and the Flyers received their first loss of the season. There was a silver lining however in the fact that Philadelphia would receive a point towards the overall standings for going into overtime.

On Sunday, hours after the Philadelphia Flyers caught their first loss in the 2019-2020 NHL season, the Calgary Flames lost to the San Jose Sharks. In that 3-1 loss in regulation to the Sharks, the Flames fell to 2-3-1 on the season. San Jose got off to a quick start in the first period, taking a 2-0 lead. Calgary scored their only goal early in the second period, but the Sharks answered back with a shorthanded goal of their own. Cam Talbot got the start in the net that game for the Flames. Two of the goals he surrendered came from right in the slot. The other was a goal off a skate in front of the crease.

Over the last ten games against each other, the Calgary Flames have the advantage against the Philadelphia Flyers, winning seven of those last ten. Tonight, the Flyers have the opportunity to be the agent of change for that trend. Going into tonight’s game, both teams are coming off a loss, but I think that Philadelphia is the better team. The caveat here is that Carter Hart has started every game for the Flyers and Brian Elliott will make his 2019-2020 season debut. For the Flames, goaltender David Rittich will be back in net tonight, resuming his duties as the starter.

Looking over the injury report for both teams, the Philadelphia Flyers still have a clean bill of health with no reports. There is one player on the Calgary Flames that has been reported as injured. That is Juuso Valimaki, who is still listed as month-to-month, recovering from a torn ACL.

Calgary Flames – Skaters

Johnny Gaudreau is the leading scorer for the Calgary Flames, tallying seven points. In those seven points, Gaudreau has three goals and four assists. One of those goals came on the powerplay and one of those assists came on the powerplay. All the other points result from even-strength hockey. Gaudreau is scoring 18.8% of the shots he takes this season.

Just behind Johnny Gaudreau is Matthew Tkachuk, who has tallied six points to far this season. Of those six points, two are goals and four are assists. All of his goals have come during even-strength hockey while one of his four assists has resulted in the powerplay. Tkachuk is scoring 14.3% of the shots he takes this season.

Defensively, Mark Giordano is the most effective player on the Calgary Flames defense with a +/- of 2. Giordano registered a goal and two assists this season. The lone goal was during even-strength hockey and one of his assists was on the powerplay. Where Giordano is most effective is blocking shots, totaling thirteen blocked shots so far this season. Along with those blocked shots, Giordano dished out five hits.

TJ Brodie has a +/- of 1 this season, making him the second-best defenseman on the Calgary Flames. He’s yet to register a goal this season but tallied two assists during even-strength hockey. On defense, Brodie has blocked six shots and connected on one hit.

Calgary Flames – Goaltending

Starting tonight is David Rittich, who has already started five games this season for the Calgary Flames. This season, Rittich has won two games, lost two games in regulation, and lost a game in overtime. His save percentage is at 90.6% while allowing an average of 3.15 goals against. In a shootout, skaters are scoring 66.7% of the time. In those five games, Rittich has started this season, he has surrendered sixteen goals.

Philadelphia Flyers – Skaters

Travis Konecny is still leading the Philadelphia Flyers in scoring this season with six points. Of those six points, he has scored the same amount of times as he has been credited with an assist, which is three apiece. All of his goals have come during even-strength hockey while all of his assists have resulted in a powerplay goal for a teammate. Konecny continues to play a vital role in the resurgence of the Flyers powerplay. Konecny is currently scoring on 42.9% of the shots he takes.

Travis Konecny’s partner in crime this season as been Oskar Lindblom, who has collected three points this season. Of those three points, two have been goals and one has been an assist. All of his goals this season have resulted in the powerplay while his lone assist had taken place during even-strength hockey. Lindblom and Konecny have great chemistry on the powerplay and it shows this season. Lindblom is scoring on 20% of the shots he takes.

On defense, Travis Sanheim is still producing most efficiently. He almost buried a game-winning goal against the Vancouver Canucks, but the puck hit the post. He’s tallied only an assist offensively but has a +/- of 3. That lone assist was during even-strength hockey. I would like to see Sanheim become physical since he has yet to register a hit this season. He’s only blocked two shots in three games this season.

Matt Niskanen has produced a little more on the offensive side of the puck, credited with two assists this season. Both of those assists have been on the powerplay, so he has been just as important as Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom. Defensively, he has a +/- of 2. He’s been more physical than Travis Sanheim, dishing three hits while blocking three shots. What’s separating Niskanen from being better than Sanheim on defense is his +/- statistic figure.

Philadelphia Flyers – Goaltending

Brian Elliott has yet to play this season, so he will be coming in cold in comparison to the Calgary Flames’ David Rittich. The thirty-four-year-old goaltender has shown flashes of brilliance in the preseason but has also looked slow in the net at times too. However, since he is fresh off the bench, I think that plays into Elliott’s favor. This is a game where defensive play is very important.

Faceoff Possession

The Philadelphia Flyers and the Calgary Flames don’t have a big spread in separation in the faceoff department. The Flames have four players that are marked over 50% in faceoff wins when at the dot. Those players consist of Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Milan Lucic, and Mark Jankowski. Overall, Calgary is winning 48.7% of faceoffs as a whole. The Flyers have five players that are marked over 50% in faceoff wins. Those five players are Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, and James van Riemsdyk. Philadelphia, as a team, is winning 56.5% of their total faceoffs. The advantage goes to the Flyers at puck drop.

Prediction

This is a tough call because we have a good sample size for David Rittich in net for the Calgary Flames and nothing to read off of for Brian Elliott. Last season, Elliott did finish with a goal against average of 2.96 and a 90.7% save percentage. That is on par with how Rittich is playing this season. It will be a close game, but I think it is fair to say that the Flames may get a 3-2 victory. However, I don’t think the Philadelphia Flyers are in big trouble entering this contest. It’ll largely depend on the defense’s performance. The last time I said a game would end with the score of 3-2, the score was right, just the prediction was on the wrong foot. Let’s hope that happens tonight.

Puck drop is scheduled for 9:00p, live from Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. The money line favors the Calgary Flames at -145 with an over/under set at 6.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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