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.

Advertisements

Olympic Break Report Card: Part I

Kimmo Timonen takes part in his fifth Olympic tournament.

Kimmo Timonen takes part in his fifth Olympic tournament.

Just over a week ago there were many Flyer fans in panic mode; their beloved orange and black had just lost four straight games, bringing the division to a six-team deadlock, and clouding the clubs future before a crucial West coast swing.  Now, with the Olympic break on hand, the team is singing a whole different tune.

Winners of four straight (5 of 6), including today’s 2-1 win over Calgary, the Flyers head into their forced hiatus with a solid grip on a playoff position.  Steve Mason’s new contract jitters appear to be a thing of the past, while backup Ray Emery came up with a stellar 32-save performance against a pesky Flames team this afternoon.  The offense is clicking, the defense is battling, and organization is on the upswing.  The only thing slowing this red-hot team down now is current, forced hiatus.

While five Philadelphia Flyers (Timonen, Meszaros, Raffl, Voracek, and Streit) head off to Sochi, the rest of the guys will take some time off for some much needed rest and relaxation.  So while the professionals take care of business on and off the ice, here is a breakdown of how our boys in orange and black have done over the first few months:

Netminders:

  • Steve Mason:  While many casual observers will tell you that #35 has had an up and down campaign, those who have watched every one of Mason’s starts would point to his questionable defense as the reason for his fluctuating statistics.  Over the entirety of the season no player has been more important to Philadelphia.  His statistics (23-14-5, 2.49 GAA, .918SV%, 3 SO’s) are impressive, but become all the more awe inspiring when considering the defense he plays behind every night.  With a new 3-year extension “Mase” should provide the stability this organization has been looking for since Ron Hextall was in his prime. “A-“
  • Ray Emery: When Emery re-upped for his second tour of duty in Philadelphia he was coming off an amazing Cup-winning campaign with arguably the best team in hockey, the Chicago Blackhawks.  So no one realistically expected him to replicate the 17-1 record he recorded in 12-13, but they also didn’t expect him to struggle so much early on.  The Flyers defense is nowhere close to as talented as Chicago’s so that is certainly a contributing factor, but overall, early on, Emery just wasn’t good enough.  But lately the 10-year vet has turned it around and provided a calming influence.  His stats (6-9-1, 3.03GAA, .897SV%) still aren’t up to snuff, but he’s certainly getting better.  And he’s a solid insurance policy in case (god forbid) anything happens to Mason. “C”

Defense:

  • Kimmo Timonen:  Much like the rest of the Flyers blueliner’s, Timonen’s season has not been all that he has wanted.  Close to 39-years of age, it’s obvious the longtime vet isn’t what he used to be; he can no longer chase down quicker opponents or fight through injuries that used to roll right off his back.  But with age comes experience and savvy; and you’d be hard-pressed to find many defenders who understand the game as well as this old Finn.  This may very well be Timonen’s last NHL season, but he’s the type of player who could will himself through 3 or 4 more campaign’s, whether his legs are working or not.  “B-“
  • Braydon Coburn:  Since the departure of Matt Carle, via free agency, Coburn has easily filled in as the fanbase’s de-facto whipping boy.  Standing 6’5”, with a cannon shot, and legs like a gazelle, far too much is expected Coburn.  Sure he makes his fair share of turnovers, finds himself out of position too often, and even deflects the puck in his own net sometimes (several times this season), he’s still an unsung hero on a 30-win hockey club.  Coburns outlet passes are crisp, his puck-carrying is usually impressive, and without his recovery speed the Flyers might not currently be in playoff position.  So with a player like this, you have to take the the good with bad.  And 29 other GM’s would agree.  “B”
  • Nicklas Grossmann:  There’s nothing, and I mean NOTHING, flashy about this big Swedes game.  With Grossmann it’s all about keeping his man in front of him and then forcefully forcing him into the boards.  He’s a crease-clearing, shot-blocking, body-checking machine.  And that’s it.  If you expect more, you’re expecting too much.  And that’s where I think Flyers fans get disappointed in the 6’4” Grossmann.  He’ll take the occasional penalty, make a mistake here or there, but it’s all about simplicity with this guy.  And I see no problem with having him as a key cog in the Flyers top-6. “B-“
  • Erik Gustafsson:  When it comes to “Gus” there are two main problems: health and confidence.  When he’s playing with both he looks like a young Kimmo Timonen.  When he’s on the shelf or self-conscious he’s more like Bruno Gervais.  Luckily for the Flyers brass and this young man, 2014 has been solid campaign.  In 26 games so far this season he leads the club with a +/- of 11 and has 10 points.  He’s shown speed, quick decision-making, and a physicality that truly rounds out his game.  Gustafsson’s development has been a godsend on this defense-needy roster.  “A-“
  • Luke Schenn:  For most Flyers fans it’s painful to look up north and see James VanRiemsdyk thriving in Toronto (as they were traded for eachother), but there’s still hope in Schenn’s game.  Despite looking stellar at the end of last season, Schenn entered the 13-14 season in a major funk.  He looked out of place, slow, and indecisive.  But over the past month or so, the other Schenn has started to come around.  At just 24 years or age there’s still time for #22 to become an important cog in Philadelphia system.  Don’t give up on this kid just yet.  “C-“
  • Andrej Meszaros:  On the surface Meszaros’ stats look impressive (especially considering the time he’s sat out), but he’s truly a one-dimensional defender anymore.  Before his series of injuries, Mez was a physical two-way force.  Since his return he’s been an offensive shell of himself.  16 points in 35 games is stellar for a defenseman, the issue is that defense is no longer one of Meszaros’ interests.  He’s been abysmal around his own crease and can easily be pushed around by stronger competition.  With an expiring contract, GM Paul Holmgren should be actively pursuing a trade partner for this blueliner.  “C+”
  • Mark Streit:  Along with Vinny Lecavalier, Mark Streit was one of the Flyers main off-season acquisitions.  The Former Islanders captain was billed an offensive-defender with a penchant for defensive mistakes- and that billing fits him to a T.  Streit started off the season terribly.  He wasn’t producing points while simultaneously giving up plenty.  But recently his play has been a revelation.  He’s now up to 8 goals and 21 assists in 59 games, leading all Philly defenders.  He’s still prone to the occasional mistake, but the Swiss blueliner is now a key cog, especially on the 2nd Power Play unit. “B”

Next post we’ll take a closer look at the main strength of this team, the forward corps.

 

Is Mason’s New Deal Worth It?

Mason

Steve Mason received a new 3-year $12.3 million extension today.

Before tonight’s divisional match-up with the New York Islanders the Flyers front office was busy wrapping up one important piece of pending business: netminder Steve Mason’s new deal.  After taking a “prove it” 1-year $1.5 million deal to cover the 2013-14 season, general manager Paul Holmgren rewarded the 25-year old with a little security in the form of a 3-year extension.  Some are scratching their as heads as to “why now?”  Instead of after a full season in orange and black.  This is due to Mason’s history in Columbus and recent struggles.  So was this the right move?  Or another Bryzgalov-type mistake?

Mason’s first month or so was ecstatic; he was the only reason the team was even competitive.  Since then, there have been ups and downs.  However, his numbers are somewhat misconceiving towards his impact on the Flyers results.  Since December 19th, Mason has started 10 games with an .896 save percentage.  That percentage is terrible compared to the .940% he was carrying during the first 20 games or so.

Those mediocre results have some critics concerned that Mason’s career path is repeating itself.  During his rookie campaign with the Blue Jackets, the goalie won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year; the following three seasons were dreadful.  But Mason’s recent statistics are somewhat misleading.

First, the Flyers defense has been especially mediocre since the start of December.  Meszaros has been putting up points, but is a liability in his own zone.  Timonen cannot keep up with quick competition anymore.  Streit seems to pinch on every offensive possession, leaving his goaltender constantly exposed at the other end.  And Coburn has excellent speed but sometimes finds himself out of position.  Meanwhile, Luke Schenn has clearly regressed since the end of last season.  It can’t all be blamed on Steve Mason.

Secondly, let’s examine his recent statistics.  If you remove Mason’s worst performance (a 5-goal stinker against Tampa Bay) his save percentage jumps from .896 to .908.  Remove his second worst performance (a 3-goal WIN against Buffalo) and the percentage goes to .914.  Take out just two of his last ten starts and the numbers are very respectable.  Mason has still been a solid goaltender.

So while it may be a gamble to commit to another netminder following the Bryzgalov/Bobrovsky disaster, Mason may not be as much of a concern as some will make it out to be.  And considering this season’s 1-year $1.5 million deal, the entire contract could be considered 4-years at $13.8, which averages to a much more respectable $3.45 million per year (instead of $4.1).  Critics should atleast wait and reserve judgement until after the season before criticizing Holmgren for another mistake in net.

Flyers Reach .500 (Finally)

Mason was his usual self, stopping 36 of 38 shots.

Mason was his usual self, stopping 36 of 38 shots.

Since the Flyers were shutout by the Devils on November 7th, they’ve been the hottest team in the NHL.  Ever since that Thursday in early November, the Flyers have gone 6-0-1 (and it probably should’ve been 7-0-0 if not for the Winnipeg gaffe).  This is a club that started 1-7, couldn’t score a goal, and were, frankly, an embarrassment.  But after Saturday nights 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders, the orange and black now sit at 10-10-2 or .500 by NHL standards (despite the 2 shootout losses).  They’re clicking on all cylinders and it’s been a joy to watch; a welcome change from the torture that was the early season.

Here’s a closer look at the win:

  • The 3rd line consisting of Downie, Couturier, and Read has been downright dominant.   Although Talbot was a valuable penalty killer and fan favorite, he just doesn’t have the offensive ability of Steve Downie.  Downie’s grinding, power forward style has opened up a ton of space for Matt Read, who’s been flying, and Couturier, who (despite sub-par offensive numbers) has been dominating puck possession along the boards.  If this trio can continue its dominance then the Flyers will boast one of the best top-9 forward groups in the entire league.
  • Every time I write about the Flyers I can’t help but bring up Steve Mason; the dude has just been lights out.  In fact, he and Emery have both been excellent.  Mason’s numbers (7-7-2, 2.11 GAA, .933sv%) would be even better if he had had some goal support through the Flyers first month of the season, and that is absolutely amazing. Against the Isles he managed 36 saves on 38 shots.  The Flyers have not seen netminding like this since Roman Cechmanek or maybe Brian Boucher’s magical rookie campaign.
  • I’ve mentioned him already but, Matt Read… wow.  The winger is on fire.  He’s worked his tail off all season, but not until recently has he gotten the equivalent results: 4 goals in the last two games.  Signing him to a 4-year deal before the start of the season is making GM Paul Holmgren look like a genius.
  • For the entire season, Adam Hall has been winning faceoffs at an awesome 64% clip, but lately he’s been incredible.  I don’t have the exact statistics but over the past 6-7 games he’s been well over 80%; probably closer to 90%.  He’s been almost unbeatable and it’s so very important to the Flyers penalty kill.  No one expects Hall to keep up that pace, but his addition is another that Holmgren deserves plenty of credit for.
  • Captain Claude Giroux is finally rounding back into his usual form.  Over the past 7 games he’s put up 8 points, giving him 15 in 22 on the season.  Those numbers still aren’t up to par, but we’re finally starting to see glimpses of the star who stood so tall in that fateful game six in Pittsburgh two seasons ago.
  • One major change from the Laviolette to Berube regimes has been the consistency in the defensive pairings.  And, in my opinion, that familiarity has done wonders for the team’s overall defense.

The Flyers look to continue their hot-streak Monday in Sunrise, Florida as they take on the 6-13-5 Florida Panthers.  The game starts at 7:30 on CSN, so tune in.

Kimmo Timonen Carries Club To Huge Victory

The old vet was all over the ice in an important 5-2 win over Ottawa.

The old vet was all over the ice in an important 5-2 win over Ottawa.

There’s been so much negativity surrounding Kimmo Timonen, the grizzled 38-year old Finnish defender lately that it seemed the former stalwart would never break out of his slump.  But Tuesday night in Philadelphia, the monkey came off #44’s back, as he scored the game winning goal on a nifty little maneuver that would have made Claude Giroux proud.  On top of his goal, Timonen also added two assists as the Flyers rolled through a struggling Senators squad, 5-2.  The team that once looked like a sinking ship at 1-7, now has life at 8-10-2.

Let’s take a closer look into this key victory:

  • I know it’s getting repetitive, but Steve Mason was unbelievable once again.  I don’t know how this 25-year old net-minder ever became a scapegoat for the Blue Jacket’s issues.  He stopped 32 of 34 shots and performed a few acts of pure larceny when it was still a close game. His save on Kyle Turris’ penalty shot was a thing of beauty.  Hopefully this is the Steve Mason we see for the rest of his Flyers career.
  • It cannot be understated how important Nicklas Grossmann has been to the Flyers this season.  He’s been an absolute rock on the blueline, and probably saved the game with his skate save on Kyle Turris on a wide-open net in the 3rd period. On top of that he assisted on Adam Hall’s much deserved empty net goal.
  • And that’s the perfect transition into our next unsung hero:  4th Liner Adam Hall.  Over the past 6 or 7 games he’s been at/or around 80% on faceoff’s; which is just astonishing.  He’s an ace penalty killer and isn’t afraid to step up for his teammates.  Overall, he’s essentially the perfect 4th liner and he’s a big reason why Paul Holmgren felt comfortable trading Max Talbot.
  • The Flyers absolutely have to reduce their penalties, especially the “delay of games” where they send the puck over the glass.  The PK has been good, but they’re playing with fire.
  • Seeing Sean Couturier get off his 20+ game goalless drought was a thing of beauty; however, the goal was not.  But I don’t think Couts cares at all.  He’s one of the hardest working Flyers and is excellent defensively so it was a nice treat to see him get that slump behind him.
  • The top-6 forwards (Giroux, Voracek, Hartnell, Lecavalier, Schenn, and Simmonds) were locked in last night.  And the 3rd line wasn’t too shabby either.  Here’s hoping that trend continues.

The Flyers look to move closer to .500 on Thursday when they take on the hapless Buffalo Sabres.  The orange and black cannot underestimate this team, however, as there are hundreds of instances of terrible teams coming up with herculean efforts- and the Sabres have an excellent tandem in net of Ryan Miller and Jonas Ehnroth- to upset superior squads.  Tune in at 7 p.m. Thursday to see if your orange and black can continue their hot streak.