The Detroit Red Wings will attempt to snap a 10-game losing streak (0-9-and-1) against a team in a particularly vigorous battle for playoff positioning in the 37-25-and-11 Philadelphia Flyers this evening (7:30 PM EDT on NBCSN with Ken Daniels and Brian Boucher/97.1 FM).
The Flyers sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ve gone 3-6-and-1 this month, turning things around recently via a 2-game winning streak, so they really need tonight’s win to keep the Columbus Blue Jackets from bumping the Flyers into a Wild Card spot.
Put bluntly, however:
The Flyers really need to win tonight, the Red Wings really need to not lose tonight, and you and I know that it’s late March, so the Easy Story on a national broadcast evening is to talk about Petr Mrazek and Petr Mrazek some more.
I have a bad feeling that the Wings and Flyers’ respective, hard-working media corps are going to work their asses off to get Petr to admit that he was an unhappy customer, Petr is going to say something sly but meaningless enough to cover his ass while expressing dissatisfaction, and that’s going to be the entire day.
I’d prefer to agree with the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa, who suggested that the Wings need to get “the kids” out of their slumps, and I’m genuinely interested in the Flyers’ level of relative desperation given that they’ve been mediocre this month from Mrazek on out.
Neither team practiced on Monday, so the Flyers’ media was already calling Mrazek’s match-up with the Wings a “revenge game” on Sunday, and Mrazek was willing to talk about starting tonight, as he did with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi…
“I’m looking forward to it,” Mrazek said after playing solidly, except for a bad late goal, in the Flyers’ impressive 6-3 win over Washington on Sunday. “We’ll see who Coach is going to decide to go with, but if I’m going to be in, even better. I’m really excited for it.”
As in Detroit, Mrazek has been inconsistent in his brief time with the Flyers, going 5-5-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage. Rookie Alex Lyon, who is coming off Saturday’s 4-2 win in Carolina, is the other option for Tuesday’s game, but coach Dave Hakstol is expected to go with the more experienced Mrazek.
When he was traded, Mrazek said he realized right away that the Flyers had one more game in Detroit.
“It’s gonna be nice to get back, but when the game starts, it doesn’t matter who is on the other side,” Mrazek said. “We are going there to get some good results, and we have to build from there.”
After losing seven of eight games, the Flyers regrouped nicely over the weekend, winning in Carolina and whipping Washington. They sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division with nine games left.
Next they face a reeling Detroit team that is out of the playoff picture and has lost 10 straight, during which it has been outscored, 41-19. The Red Wings have allowed four goals or more in eight of their last nine games.
“It’s gonna be nice to be back in the town where I spent my first five or six years in the NHL, but now it’s the opposite [side],” Mrazek said. “It’s gonna be fun.”
And Mrazek continued while speaking with the Courier-Post’s Dave Isaac:
Work ethic hasn’t been a problem since Mrazek joined the Flyers, but results have. He was very sharp in his first three games, winning all of them and had a .947 save percentage. His next seven games he was 1-5-1 with a .863 save percentage. In a huge game Sunday, Mrazek had a comeback performance with 25 saves against the Capitals.
“I thought he was excellent,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “When you look at a back-to-back like this there’s gonna be some breakdowns and your goaltender has to be front and center. I thought Petr was (Sunday).”
Washington is in first place in the Metropolitan Division and the Flyers beating the Caps was a huge confidence boost, not just in adding two points in the standings but also the quality of opponent. The Red Wings would be the opposite end of that spectrum, the only team in the NHL with zero wins in their last 10 games.
For Mrazek to go back to Detroit, motivation will likely be sky high.
“When you get traded away or that team doesn’t want you (any)more, obviously you have something to prove personally but I think it will be pretty exciting for Petr to be back in Detroit,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. “It should be fun.”
It would have been a tall task if Mrazek didn’t have a good game Sunday. Alex Lyon has played very well, particularly in relief. Twice in the three times he’s been tapped mid-game for mop-up duty he hasn’t allowed a goal. That was the case the last time Mrazek got a start and allowed four goals on 10 shots to the Columbus Blue Jackets.“After the game against Columbus when you don’t finish the game you try to go into the next game with big confidence and build with that,” Mrazek said. “I tried from the beginning of the game to focus on the puck and get as many pucks as I could. That was a big first period for me and our team.”
Until they won Saturday and Sunday, the Flyers had won only one of their previous eight contests, which is not really a surprise.
Over the course of the season, the Flyers have lost 10 games in a row, have gone 12 games in a row without a regulation loss and finished the month of February with a 10-1-2 record, only to stumble to a 3-6-1 record thus far in March.
They have been the NHL’s poster child of a team that runs hot or cold.
But heading into Detroit, the Flyers are on a two-game winning streak and have a 19-12-5 road record, which is ninth-best in the NHL. They are also determined to finish in the top three in the Metropolitan Division, but the standings are tight.
The Flyers only trail Washington by four points for first and Pittsburgh by two points for second in the Metropolitan, but Columbus is only two points behind the Flyers and New Jersey is only three points behind Philadelphia in the division.
So, the Flyers could finish anywhere from first in the Metropolitan to being the second wild card team in the Eastern Conference.
The Flyers have won two in a row, ending a 1-6-1 skid. Captain Claude Giroux has points in nine of his last 10 games and 11-15-26 totals in the past 19 games.
Winger Wayne Simmonds scored twice in the victory over the Capitals. Philadelphia is 17-2-1 when Simmonds scores a goal.
Second-year center Travis Konecny has four points in the past four games, and rookie Oskar Lindblom netted his first NHL goal in the win over Washington.
“That’s what winners are made of,” Simmonds told Philly.com. “That’s the type of effort we’re going to need out of every single guy in this dressing room.”
Nothing is going right for the Red Wings, who are winless in 10 games (0-9-1), the first time they’ve hit double digits without a victory since the 1981-82 season. Detroit is 0-8-1 in March, and the team hasn’t gone an entire month without a win since November 1982 (0-8-5).
Blashill cited a Philadelphia source — Eagles quarterback Nick Foles — when assessing what his team is currently up against.
“Nick Foles talked about it after they won the Super Bowl, how much adversity he’s had to fight through,” Blashill told detroitredwings.com. “You hope to come out stronger on the other side. That’s what life’s about.
“This isn’t supposed to be easy. This is the National Hockey League. Sports isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be hard. That’s why it feels so good when you win. So we’ve got to find a way to keep fighting here.”