Jan 25, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks players celebrate after the game-winning goal by center Joe Thornton (19) in overtime against the Minnesota Wild at SAP Center at San Jose. Sharks won 3 to 2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Pre-Game: Sharks vs. Flyers

The San Jose Sharks haven’t seen the Philadelphia Flyers since they won 1-0 in February of 2012 on a goal scored by Ryane Clowe. (Remember Ryane Clowe? He was a gritty little forward, wasn’t he?) But tonight at 7:30 PST, the Philadelphia Flyers, coming off a 2-0 victory against the Los Angeles Kings, will return to San Jose hoping to find some consistency in their season. The Flyers may be tied for 3rd in the Metropolitan Division (what a stupid name) but they are 27-23-6, and have a strong tendency lately of “Lose 2 win 1.” But before tonight’s matchup. We will get both sides of the game with the help of Jordan Kuhns, a writier for TCL Flyers.

How Will The Sharks Win The Game? Puck possession. If you look at the Flyers forwards, they are a very good team. Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, Vinny Lecavalier, Brayden Schenn, you get my point. They are a good hockey team if you look at their forwards. That is only one reason why the Sharks need control of the puck. If they keep the puck, they give the Flyers forwards less time in the offensive zone to make something happen. And they can make it happen. They scored 2 goals on Jonathan Quick with only 13 shots. The other reason the Sharks need puck possession, is the Flyers defense. The Flyers defense is a bit weak and when I say a bit, I’m sugar coating it. Mark Streit is overpaid, and I don’t know any world in which Luke Schenn is a good pickup when you lose James van Riemsdyk. If the Sharks can control the puck, they can force the Flyers defense into mistakes. However, if I had to put my money on it, I’d say the Flyers defense makes the mistakes on their own.

How Will The Flyers Win The Game? Jordan Kuhns (J.K.): The Flyers can win this game most importantly if the road power play continues to dominate. They have capitalized on 26 of 109 opportunities, or 6th best in the NHL at 23.8%. Conversely, their home power play stands at a stagnant 14.6%, at a lowly 24th in the league. What’s the difference? Hard to say. They seem to move the puck around more creatively on the road, utilizing quick passing plays revolving around Claude Giroux sitting on the half wall. It has worked well, as they have scored at least one power play goal in four of the last five road games.

Who Will Be The San Jose Sharks X-Factor? The Special Teams. The Flyers have the #12 powerplay and the #6 penalty kill. The Sharks have the #18 powerplay and the #8 penalty kill. But the Flyers power play, despite being #12 this year, has been a top tier of theirs for years now. Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson need to make sure the San Jose Sharks penalty kill is up for the task, because you never know when Claude Giroux will snipe one past you when you aren’t expecting it. The San Jose Sharks powerplay has struggled massively recently, and it’s hard to see it getting better against the #6 penalty kill, but if they want to get a win, getting the powerplay going is a huge help. The Sharks are a better team 5 on 5, but the special teams will be the difference tonight between a win and a loss. And why is that?

Who Will be The Flyers X-Factor? J.K: 

 As he has lately, Wayne Simmonds continues to rock the orange and black quite well. It took him five games to score his first point, and seven games to score his first goal, but ever since December 17, he has been the clear-cut Flyers’ MVP. He has scored 13 goals and added 12 assists in that 23-game span, or over a point-per-game pace. Only six of his 13 goals have come on the power play. Simmonds comes off of a two point performance against his former squad, the Los Angeles Kings, in a 2-0 win on Saturday. Maybe he can rekindle a bit of that hate he used to have for the Sharks when he donned black and purple.

How Will The Flyers Keep The Sharks Off The Board? Steve Mason. It’s unconfirmed as of right now, but my guess is that Antti Niemi will face off against Steve Mason tonight. Steve Mason may be up and down lately, but he has the ability to shut down teams and keep the Flyers in the game. A prime example of this was Saturday. Steve Mason had 35 saves in a shutout over the Kings. The Kings may be a team struggling to score goals right now (only 3 in 6 games) but Steve Mason can do just enough to keep a team in the game, and it seems he does that every single game. When the Flyers only have 13 shots, Steve Mason keeps them in the game by blanking the Kings and making sure the Flyers only need 1 goal to get the win. If the Flyers win this game, it will be because of what Steve Mason can do.

J.K: Defensively, it has been…tough. Kimmo Timonen missed Saturday’s game and remains day-to-day. A revolving door of defensemen including Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, Mark Streit, Luke Schenn, Andrej Meszaros and Erik Gustafsson continue to attempt to defend. What they will need to do against San Jose is isolate each line’s playmaker. Joe Thornton remains one of the league’s premier passers. Joe Pavelski continues to score plenty of goals. Secondary scoring abounds. It won’t be easy. Having Timonen back for this game will be paramount. It would be foolish to believe the Sharks will be rattled by that historic shutout they were dealt by Edmonton’s Ben Scrivens. If not for him, they could have easily scored 6 goals on an awful Oilers defense.

Prediction: The San Jose Sharks pepper Steve Mason with shots, and Steve Mason plays a strong hockey game. But the Sharks control the puck, force the Flyers D to make mistakes, and get a few past Mason. The Sharks get the win 3-2.

J.K: Sharks win 4-2. Some places are nigh impossible to play in as a road team, and SAP Center is one of them. The Sharks have only lost a total of six times this season, only dropping three in regulation. The Flyers have won 13 of 28 road games this season, but have won two of the last six. An implosion in the third period against the Anaheim Ducks’, whose home record is stupid good, did not help this dubious mark on the road lately. If the Flyers do lose this game, they will have gone 1-2-0 against the league’s best teams. One pundit in particular thought they would go 2-0-1.

Fever dreams for a team stuck on the bubble in a terrible division…

Tags: Antti Niemi Joe Pavelski Joe Thornton Los Angeles Kings Philadelphia Flyers

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