New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers schedule begins and ends friendly, but is challenging down the middle

With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

Philadelphia Flyers schedule analysis

Total mileage: 34,193 (seventh lowest in the NHL, second most in Atlantic Division)

Back-to-back games: 13

Toughest stretches

For the most part, the Flyers have a pretty friendly schedule, with most of their big spans being at home.

November concludes with a tough stretch of five road games in six, but the end of 2011 could be especially hairy for a team that will employ a man known for his early-90s mullet.

The Flyers will play two road games against 2010-11 playoff teams (Dec. 13 vs. Washington; Dec 15. against Montreal) before they host a home contest against Boston. After that challenging trio of games, the Flyers will play five consecutive road games during the holiday season. The trip takes them to Colorado (Dec. 19), Dallas (Dec. 19), Madison Square Garden vs. the Rangers (Dec. 23), Tampa Bay (Dec. 27) and then concludes in a dramatic fashion. The Flyers will face their cross-state rivals while dealing with the cascade of boos that will greet Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh on Dec. 29.

The Flyers’ chances of winning the Atlantic could be quite promising if they do well during those two especially daunting stretches.

Easiest periods

After playing two road games to begin the season, the Flyers hope to stock up on a home-heavy run. From Oct. 12 to the end of that month, they’ll play seven of nine games in Philly. (To extend it a bit further, they’ll play nine of 12 games at home starting on Oct. 12.)

February and March might combine to be their best two months of the season, though.

Starting on January 31, the Flyers will play nine of 11 games at home (concluding with a Feb. 18 contest against the Penguins). March presents a golden opportunity as well, with 10 of their 15 games coming at home – including five of their last six to end that month.

Overall outlook

In the grand scheme of things, the Flyers’ schedule seems very favorable. Surviving tough stretches in November and December will be key for them to keep their composure and capitalize on fantastic opportunities in February and March. Don’t be surprised if people are confounded by Philly’s up-and-down season, when perhaps it will have a lot to do with their schedule.

The Flyers went through an off-season of upheaval, but if they can start strong and weather a storm midway through 2011-12, they could very well win another Atlantic Division title. Judging from their late schedule, they shouldn’t be taken lightly even if the Flyers find themselves behind going into late January.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.