Last year’s schedule was — and I cannot actually confirm this, but it feels like it in my head — a bit of a rarity for the Flyers, as none of their three games against the Boston Bruins were Saturday afternoon outings that inevitably ended in Flyers losses. Those seem to have been a staple of Flyers schedules of the recent past, and sure enough, they’re back this year, as the Flyers head to Boston this afternoon for the first time this season. (Surely enough, their other game in Boston this season will be at 1:00 on Saturday, March 11. Eff off, schedulers.)
So as the Flyers get set to take on their last two games before their five-day bye week begins, they’ll square off with the Bruins in a game that is fairly important for a January game between two teams that aren’t even in the same division.
Big-picture, the Flyers and Bruins may seem far away enough on these standings that you’d think this game wouldn’t be that important. But! Just one point separates the Flyers and Bruins right now, and with Atlantic Division opponents Ottawa and Toronto both having five games in hand on the Bruins despite being one and three points back of Boston, respectively, it would not be surprising to see the Bruins fall into the wild card picture before too long.
And that’s where they’ll find the Flyers. We saw Philadelphia leapfrog this same Boston team into the playoffs on the final weekend of the season last year. Every game counts.
But a win today will certainly be tough. Putting aside the Flyers’ Bad Saturday Afternoon Game In Boston Mojo, there’s a good case to be made that this Boston team is better than you’d think at first glance. Their 5-on-5 score-adjusted shot attempt numbers are actually the best in the entire NHL so far this season, and most other shot-quality-based metrics have loved their play this year as well. And Tuukka Rask has been his standard excellent self so far, with a save percentage of .926 on the season.
Yet they’ve still tallied more losses than wins this season (though just barely), because hockey is weird. In any case, they’re a team to watch out for in this second half of the season, and picking up a win today in their building will not be easy.
For the Flyers, lineup-wise, we know three things for today’s game. For one, Matt Read will miss today’s game and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. There was no official word on an injury from Read in Thursday night’s win over Vancouver,
and we don’t believe he left the bench for any extended period of time, but given the fact that he played a team-low 8:43 in the game, it’s likely he was dealing with something then and there. but apparently he missed part of the first and second period of said game with an injury before returning, so whatever was ailing him then is likely what’s holding him out today.
With Read being injured and Boyd Gordon being on waivers (assuming he is either claimed or sent to Lehigh Valley, allowing the Flyers to activate Mark Streit from LTIR) the Flyers only have 12 healthy forwards available, meaning Roman Lyubimov will be back in the lineup after sitting on Thursday.
The second change is the likely return of Streit, who said yesterday that he has been cleared to play and should draw right back into the lineup.
Where he lands and who sits for him — and whether Radko Gudas will find his way back into the lineup or not, after being an allegedly healthy scratch on Thursday — is anyone’s guess.
In his place, the Flyers are scratching Shayne Gostisbehere because everything on Earth is pain and life as we know it is meaningless. (Eat at Arby’s.)
Finally, Michal Neuvirth will start today, after a strong relief appearance against Vancouver. With the Flyers facing the Capitals tomorrow, it wouldn’t at all be surprising if a good game from Neuvirth today led Hakstol to start him in both of this weekend’s games. Hopefully that’s a decision the coach will be forced to make. We shall see.
For Boston, your starter in net is likely Rask, who had a scary moment the other night when he was hit in the throat with a puck but is apparently fine and good to go today.
Game’s at 1:00 p.m. ET on CSN Philly, 97.5 The Fanatic, and (we think?) the CSNPhilly.com live stream. Elsewhere, your options today are NHL Network in the US and Sportsnet in Canada. No NHLTV or Center Ice due to it being a national game.
Lines and (especially) pairings below, due to the expected changes, are a guess. Go Flyers.
Flyers lineup (via)
- Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Travis Konecny
- Nick Cousins - Sean Couturier - Jake Voracek
- Dale Weise - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
- Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Roman Lyubimov
- Ivan Provorov - Andrew MacDonald
- Michael Del Zotto - Mark Streit
- Brandon Manning - Shayne Gostisbehere
- Michal Neuvirth
- Steve Mason
Boston lineup (via)
- Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
- Frank Vatrano - David Krejci - David Backes
- Tim Schaller - Ryan Spooner - Riley Nash
- Austin Czarnik - Dominic Moore - Anton Blidh
- Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
- Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
- John-Michael Liles - Kevan Miller
- Tuukka Rask
- Anton Khudobin