The Ottawa Senators continue to surprise as March begins. Despite injuries to their most recognizable players in key positions, the Senators are on fire. Role players are filling in for superstars, third-string goalies are shutting down the NHL‘s elite, and though many expected the Senators to collapse they have defied the odds to hang in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference.
The Philadelphia Flyers started the season as one of the most disappointing teams in hockey, but they’ve started to turn things around. The high expectations of one of the most consistent franchises of the millennium appeared out of reach for a middling roster that lacked depth, but a decent February has the Flyers back in the hunt. Still below .500, the Philadelphia Flyers find themselves just outside the playoff bubble.
Since Scott Hartnell returned from injury, Claude Giroux has improved and the Flyers offense is finally explosive again. For much of the season they lacked a legitimate top-line winger to play alongside their best player. Now, with top-six depth restored, the Philadelphia Flyers have been able to sustain enough offense to win games despite the mediocrity of their bottom lines.
For the Ottawa Senators, goaltending has been crucial to their seemingly inexplicable stretch of improbable victories. Ben Bishop filled in for an injured Craig Anderson with unexpected efficiency, while role players and youth carried the way on offense.
Saturday’s game will likely come down to goaltending and depth again. Ilya Bryzgalov has been good, but the goaltenders of the Ottawa Senators, on the whole, have been better. Can the Philadelphia Flyers wear down the depleted and travel-weary Senators? Will phenomenal goaltending steal the show?
I look for the star power and top-six ability of the Philadelphia Flyers to shine through on home ice in this one.
Philadelphia Flyers 3 – Ottawa Senators 1