An Early Picture of the Flyers Lineup

Could French import P.E. Bellemare be the next Raffl?

Could French winger P.E. Bellemare be the next Michael Raffl?

At first glance it may appear to casual observers as if Flyers rookie General Manager Ron Hextall has done little to alter the club during his inaugural summer at the helm.  After all, this is a franchise famous for their affinity towards splashy, headline-grabbing moves.  But even though things were uncharacteristically quiet on Broad Street this off-season that doesn’t necessarily mean the Flyers won’t be different in 2014-2015.  Of course, change doesn’t always guarantee success.

The most noteworthy modification for the orange and black happened in the front office where longtime GM Paul Holmgren was “promoted” to team President, while Ron Hextall assumed control of all hockey related decisions.  This reshuffling of the company deck was probably done for two reasons: the first of which was so that owner Ed Snider could save face by not having to fire a true company man in Holmgren- 9 years as a Flyer forward, 5 seasons as Flyers coach, and 14 more as a team executive.  And the second, and most important factor, was so that another organization would not poach Hextall away.  After all, the Flyers new GM is one of the brightest young executives in the game.

In a short time since the change the organizational philosophy has shifted dramatically.  Whereas Holmgren focused primarily on quick fixes with big-name acquisitions, Hextall has made it abundantly clear that the Philadelphia Flyers will now approach the future with a renewed focus on prospect development.  Unlike his predecessors, the former Philadelphia goaltender has refused to deal away blue chip prospects or high draft picks for established veterans.  This cautious, more deliberate direction is the reason behind the least-eventful summer in recent memory.  Though a lack of cap space has also handcuffed the Flyers, to a degree.

Kimmo Timonen's hockey career appears over following the discovery of multiple blood clots.

Kimmo Timonen’s hockey career appears over following the discovery of multiple blood clots.

Unfortunately, the organization begins this new era with the unenviable task of supplanting two longtime stalwarts.  Acquired in the same trade with Nashville prior to the 07-08 season, both winger Scott Hartnell (trade) and defender Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) find themselves unceremoniously on the outs.  The longtime fan favorites and close friends will not be easily replaced.   The Flyers also said goodbye to the likes of Erik Gustafsson (D), Hal Gill (D), and Adam Hall (F).

In their stead the team made several  low-profile acquisitions.  First, in the Hartnell trade, the Flyers recouped a player who originally began his career with this organization: R.J. Umberger.  Though slightly less productive than Hartnell, the 32-year old forward is more mobile and far more versatile.  Umberger can play all three forward positions, kill penalties, and contribute on the power-play.  As a last minute replacement for Timonen, following his surprise health scare, Hextall tapped 24-year old former Ranger standout, Michael Del Zotto.  Del Zotto, though coming off two sub-par campaigns, has potential upside as a puck-moving, offensive defenseman.  Brought in beyond those two was veteran rearguard Nick Schultz (Columbus), rough-and-tumble center Ryan White (Montreal), and, intriguingly, french import Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

And since Ron Hextall has made it clear that the future of the franchise starts with the farm system, it should come as no surprise that several prospects have a shot at the opening night roster.  Even if those shots are quite long.  At the top of the list is 2012 first-rounder, center Scott Laughton.  At 20 years of age, and following his third straight highly productive season with the Oshawa Generals, Laughton will either win a spot with the Flyers or report to the Phantoms for seasoning in the AHL.

So where do these changes leave the Flyers roster for the upcoming season?  Let’s first take a look into the potential forward arrangements:

1st line: (LW) Michael Raffl, (C) Claude Giroux. (RW) Jakub Voracek– The combination of Giroux and Voracek has been the clubs most dangerous for two seasons now.  And before his departure, Hartnell was often found on the lines left side.  With Hartnell now serving the division rival Blue Jackets, one of the main candidates to fill the vacancy is Raffl.  The 25-year old Austrian didn’t show a ton of offensive pop in his rookie campaign (9 goals) but he was also adjusting to the North American game and has exceptional defensive instincts.  Playing alongside two elite setup-men, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Raffl could step up and produce 18-20 goals while still maintaining his important defensive role.

2nd line: (LW) Brayden Schenn, (C) Vincent Lecavalier, (RW) Wayne Simmonds– This is where things start to get tricky for head coach Craig Berube.  Last season Lecavalier’s poor play outside of the center spot proved that he must be in the middle to come anywhere close to living up to his paycheck.  Unfortunately, Berube demands defensive accountability, which isn’t Vinny’s strong suit.  It’s probable this line gets switched around a lot throughout the season but for now this is an okay bet.  Schenn finally reached the 20-goal plateau a season ago, but he left plenty of room for improvement.  Simmonds was an absolute warrior (29 goals, 6o pts) a season ago and should produce similar numbers, no matter the line.  Dealing Lecavalier would be ideal but as long as he’s in orange and black he should be given a look in the top-6.

3rd line: (LW) R.J. Umberger, (C) Sean Couturier, (RW) Matt Read–  Read and Couturier have proven to be one of the top two-way duos in the entire NHL.  Add in Umberger, who has a similar skill set, and the Flyers could have one of the best shutdown lines around.  Couturier, just 21, is already a Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) candidate.  If his offensive game catches up he could be the next Patrice Bergeron.  Read can be penciled in for 20+ goals and plenty of PK/PP time.  Umberger may be used on the 1st or 2nd line, because of his versatility, but he projects as an excellent option for this trio.

4th line: (LW) P.E. Bellemare, (C) Ryan White, (RW) Zac Rinaldo– Berube and Hextall have a lot of choices for the 4th line.  It will be tempting to give Laughton the center job but he’d be better served playing more than 8-10 minutes a night.  That leaves White as the leading candidate.  He’s an irritating presence, a good hitter, and a solid face-off man.  At right wing, Rinaldo should be the guy.  Two seasons ago he was a disruptive ball of energy who managed to draw more penalties than he took.  This past season he fell into his old, undisciplined ways and it made him far less effective.  If he wants to continue being the Flyers main pest he must return to his 12-13 form.  Like I said above, Bellemare is a real wildcard.  He’s 29-years old, has never played in North America, and doesn’t do anything exceptionally well.  However, he’s a solid two-way winger with good speed and above-average offensive upside.  If he doesn’t win the job it could go to someone like Jay Rosehill, an old-school, goon-type.  But that’s hardly ideal.

As complicated as the forward picture may look, it might be just as difficult to figure out the defensive pairings.  Losing a presence like Timonen, along with having only one right-handed shot (L. Schenn), leaves some questions for Berube to answer.  In order for the Flyers to be successful their weak D-corps must be assisted by the forwards and probably bailed out by goaltender Steve Mason.  Anyway, here’s a potential look at the Flyers top-six defenders:

1st PairingAndrew MacDonald- Brayden Coburn– Without Timonen, Coburn is arguably the Flyers top shutdown defenseman.  And that’s hardly a  comforting thought.  Coburn has an exceptional size-speed combination but he’s never been able to be a complete package.  He’s extremely streaky and sometimes makes mind-numbing decisions under pressure.  Still, he’s the best they have.  Despite the advanced stats community berating MacDonald as one of the league’s worst, he is an above-average blueliner.  He turns the puck over too much but he brings necessary mobility to the blueline.  He can play both PP and PK minutes, however the more he’s on the ice the more he can be exposed.  This clearly isn’t an ideal shutdown pairing but Berube has been quoted as liking these two together.

2nd PairingMark Streit- Nick Grossmann– Streit was probably the only Flyers blueliner who lived up to his paycheck a season ago.  He can be a defensive liability but he is their best offensive defender and will take over for Timonen as the #1 PP quarterback.  The Swiss-born Streit should post similar numbers (10 goals, 44pts) to a year ago and help to fill the leadership void.  Opposite Streit will most likely be Grossmann, who is literally his opposite.  Grossmann is a hulking (6’4” 230) defensive presence with poor mobility and little offensive game.  Still the big Swede is the clubs best crease-clearer, a heavy hitter, and a quality shot blocker.  Since Berube likes to go with one puck mover and one stay-at-home player on each pairing, Streit and Grossmann are a solid tandem.

3rd PairingMichael Del Zotto- Luke Schenn– During the lockout shortened 2012-13 season it appeared as if Luke Schenn had finally started living up to his billing as a top-five draft selection.  However, last season he regressed and went back to making the same tentative mistakes that cost him during his Toronto days.  With limited mobility he must be far more consistent with his positioning.  When he’s in the right spot he usually makes the right play.  Schenn is a hitting machine and he must use that skill to help clear the front of the net far more than he has in the past.  Opposite Schenn is Michael Del Zotto, a former Rangers first round pick who has either been very good or very bad during his five NHL seasons.  MDZ isn’t a great skater but he is easily an upgrade on Timonen’s mobility (or lack-thereof) and brings impressive offensive instincts.  New York and Nashville stopped using Del Zotto on the PP, which severely reduced his productivity.  The Flyers will (hopefully) not make the same mistake, as he is easily the team’s 2nd most dangerous offensive blueliner.  He should get every opportunity to run the point on the 2nd PP unit.  Most NHL defenders don’t usually develop consistency until they’re 26-28 and both of these players are still just 24.  There’s a good amount of upside on this bottom pairing.  Veteran pickup Nick Schultz can step in if needed.

Steve Mason was the Flyers rock during this past season.

Steve Mason was the Flyers rock during this past season.

Unlike the rest of the club the goaltending picture is completely clear.  Steve Mason proved that he has what it takes to start 60+ games for this team, which is a luxury not seen consistently in this town for many years.  Behind Mason is Ray Emery.  Here is an in-depth evaluation of the Flyers net presence:

StarterSteve Mason (33-18-7, 2.50GAA, .917sv%)–  When Mason was first acquired at the end of the 12-13 season there were snickers from fans around the league.  After all, this was a player who had followed up his Calder Trophy winning season with 3+ miserable years in Columbus.  But since his arrival in Philadelphia it’s been a renaissance for the 26-year old.  For someone who stands 6’4″, Mason has remarkable athleticism.  He carried his teammates for long stretches last season and almost stole the Rangers series by himself.  In order for this team to be legitimate contenders they need an even better season from ‘Mase’.

BackupRay Emery (9-12-2, 2.96GAA, .903sv%)– ‘Razor’ is a mid-level NHL backup with deteriorating physical skills.  For spot starts he is a respectable option but if Emery is needed for an extended stretch the Flyers are cooked.  At 32, and with a history of serious hip issues, Emery has lost almost all of his lateral quickness.  If teams get him moving post-to-post he’s very beatable.  If Emery is injured or can’t live up to the job requirements, Hextall will look to longtime European vet Rob Zepp or 20-year old, top prospect Anthony Stolarz for relief.


Hextall’s First Move: Re-up Timonen

Kimmo Timonen will return for his 8th season in Philadelphia.

Kimmo Timonen will return for his 8th season in Philadelphia.

With the 2014 free agent class of defensemen looking less than stellar (severe understatement), newly minted General Manager Ron Hextall decided it was in the best interest of the Flyers to retain a longtime Philadelphia stalwart: diminutive blueliner Kimmo Timonen.

Timonen, 39, arguably coming off his worst professional campaign since all the way back in 2000-01 (while with the Nashville Predators), had been debating over the past several weeks on whether or not he’d return for one last shot at that elusive Stanley Cup.

When the news broke that the 5-time Finnish Olympian and 5-time NHL All-Star had been re-signed the major question was: At what cost?  After all, Timonen is coming off a campaign in which his 35 points and  poor decisions under pressure didn’t quite match-up with his excessively high $6 million cap hit.

Initial reports, both national and local, pegged the agreement at 1-year and $2 million; a coup by Hextall, according to most experts.  However, when the deal was officially announced it was, in fact, substantially higher.  Though Timonen’s base salary came in at $2 million, his new contract includes an extra $2 million in bonus money, bringing the aging defenders’ actual cap hit to an excessive $4 million; Much like Jarome Iginla’s $1.8 million base salary with Boston last summer that actually came out to a $6 million cap hit with all the incentives included.  Now that deal obviously worked out for Iginla as he reached the 30-goal plateau for the Bruins.  But with Timonen clearly on the downswing $4 milllion is far too much for an organization that entered this off-season with just under $7 million in free space to begin with.  This means someone like Lecavalier (good luck), Hartnell, C0burn, or possibly restricted free agent Brayden Schenn will have to be moved if Hextall hopes to make any significant additions.

There’s no question that Kimmo Timonen certainly brings value to a young and developing nucleus, but not $4 million worth.  He is a warrior, however even the greatest iron men begin to show sizable chinks in their proverbial armor as time catches up with them.  Just ask Cal Ripken.

#44 can still effectively run the point on the powerplay, but his decision making must improve because he no longer possesses the necessary recovery speed to prevent shorthanded breakaways.  Kimmo is still an important component in the leadership department, however, his voice may not be as necessary with the development of younger player like Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, and the up-and-coming rookie, Scott Laughton, who captained both the Oshawa Generals and Canada’s World Juniors club.

Kimmo Timonen will go down as one the best Flyers defenders of all-time; up there with the likes of Mark Howe and Eric Desjardins, but it seems that once again this organization went with nostalgia over logic.  With such a weak free agent crop it’s understandable that Hextall did not want to let go of an experienced blueliner, nonetheless, every athlete has a shelf-life and it just might be that this Philly legend has passed his expiration date.

Update: According to the new CBA parts or all of the $2million in bonus money can be counted against the 15-16 cap, instead of next season’s. That means that Timonen’s cap hit for 2014-15 could be anywhere between $2 and $4 million.

Mason Carries Club To Huge Game 4 Victory; Series Tied 2-2

Mason, returning from injury, recorded 37 saves in a 2-1 win.

Mason, returning from injury, recorded 37 saves in a 2-1 win.

We see it all the time in the NHL playoffs: a hot goalie stealing a game, series, or even occasionally the Stanley Cup for his respective team.  And on Friday night in Philadelphia it was 25-year old Steve Mason stepping up to rob the New York Rangers of what would have been a crushing 3-1 series lead.  Instead the series stands tied 2-2 following the crucial 2-1 victory.

The game started off in familiar fashion as the Rangers jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on a 1st period goal by Dominic Moore.  But the Flyers, desperate for a home win, turned to a man who had not started a playoff game in five years, since he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  And Mason answered the call, shutting down New York for the final 55 minutes of the contest.

It certainly wasn’t an easy game as the orange and black were outshot (38-25) and out-chanced by a wide margin.  But the goalies were the obvious difference.  Lundqvist, though solid, was clearly playing second fiddle as he made 23 saves on 25 shots.  He allowed the tying goal to Matt Read in the first period, then was beaten for the game-winner by a Jakub Voracek deflection in the second.  From that point on it was the Mason show as he beat back a barrage of Ranger shots, including a diving stick save on Ryan Macdonagh to preserve the win.

The match-up continues on Sunday at noon (on NBC) as the series shifts back to New York for game 5.  If the Flyers want to pull out a series victory they would be wise to provide their starter with a little more support in the next few contests.  Mason cannot be expected to replicate his sterling .974 save percentage, but he should atleast allow his teammates more leeway than Ray Emery (who started games 1 through 3).


  • Claude Giroux still has not scored a goal during the 2014 postseason.  Despite his play not showing up in the score sheet much during the series, the captain was not invisible during game 4.  He played solid two-way hockey and was able to draw a penalty that led to Voracek’s game-winning goal.  Still more is expected of the captain going forward.  But atleast he made good on his guarantee that the Flyers would tie this series up.
  • Speaking of stars not showing up, the Flyers have quite a few of them.  We aren’t seeing enough out of Hartnell, Lecavalier, Timonen, Simmonds, and Schenn.  Still, with the series tied at 2-2, it’s important to note that we still have not seen the Flyers play their best hockey.  If their goaltending can keep them competitive then their deep forward group should be able to grind out a few goals.
  • The Flyers aren’t the only club with key players not playing to their potential.  Rangers star Rick Nash has been essentially invisible through 4 games.  The guy has too much size, skill, and speed to stay silent, however, so the Flyers better be prepared for #61 in game 5.
  • Defenseman Nick Grossmann was lost during the second period after he went awkwardly, feet first, into the boards in the Flyers zone.  He limped off the ice and missed the rest of the game.  It remains to be seen whether or not he will miss Sunday’s game.  If he is indeed out then coach Craig Berube must choose between Erik Gustafsson and Hal Gil.  Gustafsson is the favorite to fill the void.


Big Day for Orange and Black

Fresh off a National Championship, star defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere signs on.

Fresh off a National Championship, star defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere signs on.

April 15th, 2014 has been an especially eventful day for your Philadelphia Flyers.  With game one of the Flyers-Rangers opening round playoff series just two nights away, not much was expected of this rainy Tuesday.  Instead, several important stories dealing with past, present, and future have come down the shoot.  First, past-wise, remember that hit goaltender Steve Mason took in Saturday’s win over the rival Penguins? Well, now it appears as if the resulting injury might be more serious than anticipated.  More on that in a minute.  As for the present, to the surprise of most, deadline acquisition and former Islander defender Andrew MacDonald will be staying a Flyer for the foreseeable future, as he inked a 6-year, $30 million extension.  Pricey, I know, but most likely necessary.  And finally, NCAA Frozen Four MVP, and 2012 Flyers draft pick Shayne Gostibehere has inked his entry-level contract instead of returning to Union College for his senior campaign.  Some good, some bad, but important news nonetheless.

Now here’s a closer look:

  • Steve Mason:  Mason has had his ups and downs this season but he’s also clearly established himself as the Flyers unquestioned #1 netminder.  Unfortunately during Saturday’s overtime victory against the Pens, Mason was run over in his crease by Pittsburgh’s Jayson Megna.  While the hit didn’t look especially serious, Mason laid in the net for an extended amount of time before returning to action.  He then was unable to finish the contest, which the Flyers front office referred to as a simple precaution.  However, it now appears that our #1 goalie, and backbone of the team, is questionable for Thursday nights opener at Madison Square Garden.  Now, backup Ray Emery is no stranger to playoff hockey (he backstopped the ’07 Senators club to the Cup Finals), but most Flyers fans would probably sleep a lot better knowing Mason is ready to go.  Especially after third-stringer Cal Heeter’s performance (6-5 SO loss) in the season finale against Carolina.  As of right now Mason is questionable, so keep your fingers crossed.  It’s very unlikely that this Flyers team could run the postseason table without their most important player (outside of Claude Giroux).
  • Andrew MacDonald:  6-years, $30 million, quite a price-tag for a guy who’s never put up more than 28 points in a season.  But those who have watched the 27-year old since his arrival in Philadelphia will understand that MacDonald’s importance goes far beyond his scoring statistics; the guy is an intelligent, mobile, two-way threat.  And he’s probably better than any free agent defender that would’ve been on the market.  Defense has become the premium position in the NHL over the past decade and when you find a good one, you hold on tight.  Did GM Paul Holmgren overpay? Absolutely, but that’s just the current economic landscape in the NHL.  Many “experts” laughed when the Flyers gave Mark Streit his contract; well 10 goals and 44 points later it appears as if the Flyers front office has had the last laugh.  MacDonald will never put up that kind of offense but he’s a much needed steadying influence, with the ability to escape trouble in tight spaces.  And he’s already had an amazingly positive effect on the game of Luke Schenn.  Schenn looked lost before he was paired with “MacD”, but since then MacDonald’s mobility has allowed him to play his physical, shot-blocking game.  Don’t think of this as just a $30 million investment in one player, but rather as an important investment in the entire team defense.  Maybe it’s a mistake, but only time will tell.
  • Shayne Gostisbehere: If there’s one Flyers prospect that is seriously exciting scouts it’s this kid.  On display in Philadelphia this past week for the NCAA’s Frozen Four, the Union College junior defender out-shined his competition (and that includes “Johnny Hockey”, Johnny Gaudreau) in leading the Dutchmen to the National Championship.  And instead of returning to school for his senior campaign, the slick defenseman decided the time was right to turn pro; a decision that the Flyers front office couldn’t be happier about.  Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, little was known about the 5’11” 160-lb string bean blueliner.  But a whole lot has changed in three seasons.  In fact, this season he was even a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker award, the college hockey equivalent to the Heisman.  He’s been most often compared with Torrey Krug of the Boston Bruins.  With electric speed, soft hands, and a booming shot, expect to see “ghost” (as he is called) in the NHL sooner rather than later.

Flyers End Two Game Skid

Lecavalier bounced back in a big way after his 4th line demotion.

Lecavalier bounced back in a big way after his 4th line demotion.

Following two sub-par efforts against the LA Kings and the New York Rangers the Flyers entered Friday’s match-up badly in need of two points to keep pace with the rest of the Eastern Conference.  Their opponent, the suddenly inept Toronto Maple Leafs, entered the game having lost six straight contests.  The Leafs, tied for the final wildcard spot in the East, had a lot to prove.  But it was the orange and black who appeared to be the more desperate team.  Behind solid efforts from Vinny Lecavalier, Claude Giroux, and Steve Mason the Flyers pulled out an important 4-2 win.  The victory kept the team within one point of the 2nd place Rangers while still having two games in hand.

Here’s a closer look at the action:

  • After spending most of the season on the 2nd line alongside Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, head coach Craig Berube decided Vinny Lecavalier needed a wakeup call.  So the longtime vet was returned to his natural center position, only on the 4th line.  Vinny was clearly upset with the move but he managed to channel that anger into one of his best performances in months.  Alongside linemates Zac Rinaldo and Adam Hall, Lecavalier was a constantly attacking the Leafs porous defense.  Although the 4th line did not manage any points 5-on-5, Vinny put in a rocket one-timer on a 5-on-3 Powerplay for his 16th goal of the season (and the Flyers opening goal).  It’s unclear whether Berube will use this game as somewhat of springboard and put the 14-year vet back on the 2nd line or keep him in his natural center spot on the 4th.  The Flyers need another big effort Sunday afternoon when they take on the deep and dangerous Boston Bruins.
  • Steve Mason managed 32 saves on 34 shots and frequently bailed the Flyers defense out.  His yearlong numbers may not reflect it but Mason may be the teams most consistent performer.  He will enter Sunday’s matinee with a record of 31-17-6 with a 2.53 GAA and .916sv% (with 4 shutouts).
  • Claude Giroux continued his tear as he notched 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists).  The Flyers first line (Hartnell-Giroux-Voracek) was the only one that remained unchanged last night and that was clearly a good decision.  Giroux now has 78 points (25 goals, 53 assists) after managing just 7 in the seasons first 16 games.
  • Zac Rinaldo had an especially good game.  In 11:32 of ice time the diminutive but deadly forward drew a pair of Leafs penalties, registered five hits, and won multiple puck battles.  Those outside of Philadelphia may not understand the value of the pugnacious Rinaldo, but he’s clearly an important piece of the puzzle.
  • Former Flyer James Van Riemsdyk scored another goal against his former team.  Just 4 seconds into the the 2nd period, JVR took a Tyler Bozak pass, carried the puck into the left face-off dot in the Flyers zone, and launched a quick shot over the shoulder of Steve Mason.  The talented power forward now has 29 goals and 29 assists this season.  He actually tied an NHL record for the fastest goal from the start of a period.
  • Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf continued his horrendous campaign.  He was seemingly on the ice for every nice offensive play the Flyers made last night.  It’s amazing how far his stock has fallen over the past two seasons, especially for a player wearing the “C” and making $7+ million.  It appears as if 28-year old could be trade bait this summer, though I don’t know what team would trade for that contract (the Flyers?).
  • Scott Hartnell continued his bounce back campaign with an important Powerplay deflection in the 2nd period.  There have been many who have chastised GM Paul Holmgren for giving Hartnell a long-term contract following last season’s debacle, but he’s clearly regained his chemistry with Giroux and Voracek.  Hartnell, 31, now has 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) in 2013-14.
  • Though he hasn’t produced many points since his recall, winger Tye McGinn continues to outplay the injured Steve Downie.  McGinn, who is younger and cheaper, provides the same sandpaper in his game while also bringing more offensive ability.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Downie become a healthy scratch when he finally recovers from his last concussion.  McGinn took Lecavalier’s place alongside Simmonds and Schenn last night.

With the important victory the Flyers now stand with a record of 39-27-7 (85 points) and hold the third spot in the Metropolitan division.  That is somewhat misleading however as the 2nd place Rangers only have 86 points with two more games played.  Up next, the Flyers will need to bring their “A” game to knock off the Eastern Conference leading Bruins on Sunday.  The game starts at 12:30 and will be televised nationally on NBC.