Saturday saw a pretty complete win from the Flyers as they pretty much controlled the game from start to finish against Columbus. That made for two games in a row in which the Flyers came out on top from a puck possession perspective, both in total shot attempts as well as in score-close situations. That's not always easy to do considering score-effects in their 4-2 win over Columbus, so it's encouraging.
Unfortunately it's not going to get any easier against a New York Islanders team that has won eight of their last nine contests, including three in a row which included Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh twice. The Islanders are currently tied for the Metropolitan Division lead with Pittsburgh.
The Isles do most of their damage at evens, considering both their power play and special teams are mediocre at best. Their power play ranks 15th and their penalty kill ranks 25th. Of course, the Flyers' penalty kill ranks...last. The Islanders are the league's sixth best puck possession team per both Fenwick% and Corsi% (per War On Ice).
Unsurprisingly, the Islanders are led by their Captain John Tavaras, one of the best players in the league who's currently sitting at 20 points in 20 games. In addition to Tavares, it's been a combination of shrewd acquisitions (Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Nikolay Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovsky, and Jaroslav Halak), young players taking a step forward (Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome), and improved goaltending from Halak that have propelled the Islanders to the top of the division.
It will be interesting to see the lineup that the Head Coach Craig Berube opts to go with tonight after dressing seven defenseman against Columbus instead of Jason Akeson. Twitter reports yesterday had Carlo Colaiacovo paired with Luke Schenn in practice which could be a hint that perhaps both would be scratched for tonight's contest. [UPDATE: Reports from practice today suggested that the Flyers will indeed go with seven defensemen again.]
The game begins at 7PM on The Comcast Network (damn Sixers...and I say that having watched my first Sixers game in perhaps 13 years the other night).