Last night, the Philadelphia Flyers won their tenth straight game. Will it last? No, but let’s enjoy the streak while it does last. Meanwhile, the Flyers' cross-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, have strung together seven straight wins, making the state of Pennsylvania the hottest state/province in North America right now, even in the middle of this winter storm.
Each team has three scorers within the league’s top ten point leaders: always a good start to success. But, the goaltending has been just as important during each of these streaks. The once laughable Metropolitan Division has become the dominant division. Columbus has also won seven straight games, while the surging and extremely powerful Washington Capitals have won five (as a Red Wings fan, I have to say we got placed in the Eastern Conference at the wrong time!).
Philadelphia’s Steve Mason has won eight straight games during the Flyers run, posting a .922% Save Percentage while allowing more than three goals just once during this streak. The Flyers have really tightened the reigns defensively and are getting contributions throughout the lineup, not just from Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. Brayden Schenn has scored the game-winning goal three times while the Flyers have outscored their opponents 36-22 during these ten wins, with three wins coming in overtime. But those three are leading the Flyers charge; make no mistake about that, and getting defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere back into the mix will help the cause as well.
Eleven different skaters have scored a goal during the winning streak for the Flyers with Simmonds and Schenn netting six each, then Giroux (5) and Voracek (4), while Michael Raffl and Michael Del Zotto each have three goals. It has been this scoring depth that has pushed the Flyers into the win column each night, while still getting massive contributions from their studs. With a game in Dallas up next for Philly, the scoring should continue, as Dallas’ goaltending has been putrid thus far.
Now on the west side of Pennsylvania, the defending Stanley Cup Champions have been making sure nobody is forgetting about them with their own streak. Pittsburgh has averaged 5.5 goals per game during the run, but let’s see if things cool down now with notable gimp Kris Letang on the shelf for one of his annual unscheduled vacations with the mysterious LBI – lower body injury. Pittsburgh also has three players among the NHL top ten points leaders with Sidney Crosby leading the league in goals with 21, and tied for third in points with teammate Evgeni Malkin at 33 each.
Phil Kessel sits two points back with 31 early on, and is now doing what everyone thought he would when traded to Pittsburgh. Well, bad news NHL teams: Phil has warmed up and now knows what his line mates dream about at night. Crosby leads the NHL in Goals Created (14.4) while Malkin sits sixth at 12.1 and Kessel rounds out this three-headed Targaryen Dragon at 12th with an 11.0 share in the Goals Created department.
Another pleasant surprise has been the +/- plus 18 out of Justin Schultz so far, tied with Shea Weber for the league lead. Schultz is a career +/- minus 78, but in his defense, he has been a plus player since the Pens acquired him last year. I’m not sure if he has turned into Larry Robinson all of a sudden or has just been on the ice every time the Penguins score at even strength. He will be put to the test the next two weeks with increased responsibility now that Letang is on the shelf once again.
The Pens winning streak started with Marc-Andre Fleury in the pipes in the first two games, but after coughing up four goals midway through the third game, he was pulled in favor of Matt Murray, who notched the 8-5 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Murray has been the man ever since, winning the next four games. Pittsburgh will ride the hot hand as long as the results end with a W. On Friday, the Penguins host the Los Angeles Kings, who are a lowly 4-8-1 on the road thus far, so expect the fun to continue in the Steel City.
*If you are not familiar with the Goals Created stat, here are the criteria, per Hockey-Reference.com:
Goals Created (GC) is calculated by adding goals scored to 0.5 times assists, then multiplying by team goals divided by team goals plus 0.5 times team assists. For example, in 2006-07, Sidney Crosby had 36 goals and 84 assists. The Penguins as a team had 267 goals and 468 assists. Thus Crosby is credited with (36 + 0.5 * 84) * (267 / (267 + 0.5 * 468)) = 41.57 goals created. Note that the sum of player goals created is equal to the sum of player goals scored for all teams.
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