Another Saturday matinee against a divisional rival, and hopefully similar results to the last one. The Flyers look to bounce back after...well whatever the hell that was on Thursday night in Boston, and get one game closer to the .500 mark. They’ll look to do that against the New York/Brooklyn/Long Island Islanders, a team that has been surprisingly not as bad as expected to start the season.
The Islanders are obviously coming off a very rough offseason, losing their captain in John Tavares and signing the corpse of Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov. But so far this season, the Islanders sit just one point behind the Flyers in the Eastern Conference standings. This is large in part due to star talent Mat Barzal, and much improved goaltending over last season, with the acquisition of Robin Lehner. The Islanders top three point scorers are Barzal at eight points in eight games, Josh Bailey with seven in eight, and...oh you have got to be kidding me.
Valtteri Filppula. Six points. Eight games. Should of kept imo.
The Flyers come into this game sitting at 4-6-0 on the young season, and looking to somehow make us excited about this hockey team anymore. A win vs. the Islanders is not going to do that because well, it’s the Islanders, but it’s something. So let’s take a look at how they can beat their divisional foes:
1. Idk, maybe score first for once?
We’re all aware by this point of the Flyers slow starts, but it honestly bears repeating. Nine out of the Flyers first 10 games they have allowed the first goal, so maybe it would be in their best interest to change that up a bit. They’re going to need the crowd in the game positively quick if they don’t want “Fire Hakstol” chants reigning down all game, so let’s try this whole scoring first thing out. The Islanders may be getting better goaltending now, but this is still a rough defense that is essentially lead by second year blueliner Ryan Pulock. whatever is left of Johnny Boychuk, and Nick Leddy. There’s really no good reason why they can’t score on this team.
2. Contain Mat Barzal
This goes without saying, but considering the lack of depth on this Islanders team, it seems all the more relevant. Barzal is one of the flashiest and most exciting players in the league today, and he will burn you if you give him space. It also doesn’t help the fact that the second year star has already proven to be a Flyer killer, scoring seven points in four games vs. Philadelphia. There’s not a whole lot to be worried about with this Islanders team in regards to high end skill, but Barzal makes up for a good chunk of that.
3. Improve upon a strong shot suppression night in Boston
It’s hardly a “positive” from that Boston game, but the Flyers definitely did a better job of keeping the Bruins to the perimeter in that game. This is something that Dave Hakstol’s teams have done well at in each of his first three seasons, but it’s been an issue in the early going this year. If they can improve upon what they did in Boston, the Flyers should be in business.
Meanwhile, the Islanders have the second worst expected goals-for percentage in the league, just in front of the Anaheim Ducks. While the Flyers are the sixth worst team in that category, what especially is hurting the Islanders is their shot quality. The Isles post the worst xGF in the league at 11.98. The next closest team? The New Jersey Devils at 13.61, almost a full two goals ahead of the Isles. Considering this, the defense needs to keep that trend going, and the goalie needs to start making some saves. The Flyers cannot keep letting themselves get burned off of every mistake.
Flyers Projected Lines
Giroux — Couturier — Konecny
Lindblom — Patrick — Voracek
Laughton — Vorobyev — Simmonds
Knight — Lehtera — Weise
Provorov — Hagg
Gostisbehere — MacDonald
Sanheim — Gudas