The NHL returns from the Olympic break tonight to see the Carolina Hurricanes take on the Buffalo Sabres. However, a majority of teams won’t play until Thursday night.
The Philadelphia Flyers will host the San Jose Sharks at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night as they resume play following the Winter Olympics.
Philadelphia entered the break as winners in five of their last six games. It’s a real shame that they caught fire when they did though because they were forced to lose all the momentum that they had gained.
Are these Flyers going to be able to continue where they left off two weeks ago? Fans certainly hope so seeing as six of their next eight games are against Metropolitan Division rivals, including two against the first place Pittsburgh Penguins.
There are several things this team will need to do to get back to where they were two weeks ago:
1. Ride Claude Giroux
Since December 8th, Giroux has tallied 37 points in 30 games, 12 of which were multiple point games. This also gives him the most points since that date in the entire NHL.
Clearly he is the team’s hot hand. Now that he watches his fellow countrymen return with a gold medal, one that he believes he should also be wearing, it can only add fire to the flame.
2. Let Kimmo Timonen play first team powerplay minutes
There has been much debate about whether Mark Streit or Timonen should play on the top powerplay unit. While Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek have cemented their spot on the line, Streit and Timonen haven’t been able to separate themselves from each other.
Timonen has played about 30 more minutes on the powerplay than Streit this season. He is clearly comfortable with the other four members of the line, and has helped anchor it for the past few seasons.
Timonen is also returning home from Sochi with a bronze medal that he won with Finland. Finland was projected to have an outside chance at medaling in Sochi because of top nations like USA, Canada, Sweden, Russia and the Czech Republic being the favorites. With upsets against Russia and the USA, Finland finished third. This should provide some confidence for Timonen as he returns to NHL play.
3. Trust Steve Mason
Mason entered the break on an absolute tear. In his last three starts, Mason allowed only three goals on 96 shot attempts (save percentage of .969), including one 35 save shutout.
Despite and few rough patches, the 25-year-old has been a bright spot for the Flyers this season. Ray Emery has been an adequate backup for Mason so far, but the elevated level of Mason’s play so far this season cannot be ignored.
4. Hope Vincent Lecavalier finds his form
Lecavalier has played in 46 of the Flyers’ 59 games this season, missing 13 due to injury. He was a questionable signing in the offseason because he didn’t fill any needs the Flyers had at the time.
Having only notched 23 points this season, and four in his last 12 games, his numbers seem to be steadily decreasing.
Although he was a questionable signing, he is still an incredibly talented 33-year-old center who has the ability to help the team and elevate the performance of his teammates.
Lets just hope the two-week Olympic break helped rest Vinny and get his mind where it needs to be. If he is able to start producing like he is capable of producing, the Flyers’ offense will just get scarier to opponents.
HartnellDown Tracker: Scott remains at 201