A busy day of action in all sports including NHL hockey. In this preview we’ll take a look at an afternoon start game between the slumping Anaheim Ducks and the surging Philadelphia Flyers. It wasn’t that long ago that the roles in this matchup were reversed. Philadelphia has struggled all season to find some consistent goaltending (so what else is new?) but may have found their franchise netminder in 20 year old rookie Carter Hart. Immediately after Christmas, the Flyers went on a brutal losing streak dropping eight straight and nine of ten. Since giving Hart the starting job it’s been a complete turnaround with Philly winning 9 of 11 including an eight game win streak. Hart started 9 of the games during their impressive run and now has a record of 8-2-1 on the season. His stats are solid though not spectacular but he’s giving the Flyers something they’ve desperately lacked between the pipes in recent years–consistency.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Anaheim Ducks were one of the hottest teams in the NHL. The Ducks went on a run of 11-2-0 between November 21 with the only losses coming at Nashville and home against Carolina. Since then the bottom has completely fallen out. The Ducks have won only two of their past twenty games with a record of 2-14-4 during that stretch. Anaheim’s problem has been injuries and particularly to their goaltenders. Ryan Miller is still listed as being ‘out indefinitely’ as he recovers from knee surgery. John Gibson–usually one of the more consistently solid goaltenders in the NHL–has been battling injuries and completely ineffective when he has played. That’s downright shocking given how good he’s been throughout his career. Gibson has allowed 18 goals in his last four starts. He didn’t practice on Friday and is currently listed as ‘day to day’ with an upper body injury. Journeyman Chad Johnson will get the start here and its unclear who his backup will be.
Goaltending hasn’t been the only issue for Anaheim. Veteran Patrick Eaves has missed much of the past two season with a variety of health issues. He’s currently on the IR list for what is described as an ‘illness’. That’s scary given the struggles he had last year with post viral syndrome. Defenseman Korbinian Holzer has ‘left the team for personal reasons’ according to the Ducks’ front office. Holzer has been injured and/or ineffective so it’s not a big hit from a personnel standpoint but it’s just another negative for a team that has plenty of other issues to deal with.
Historically, Anaheim has dominated head to head play with the Flyers entering this game on a 16-10-4 run overall with a 8-4-2 record at Philadelphia. The Flyers have won two of the previous three meetings including the only meeting this year at Anaheim early in the season. In theory, laying this price is tough to do in the NHL but given how well Philadelphia has been playing and how poorly Anaheim has been playing it looks justified. To be honest, I’m not sure that Anaheim is playable at any price given their current situation.