The Flyers are still looking to string back-to-back wins together for the first time this season.
Their next chance is tonight when they square off with the Kings in Los Angeles. Fresh off a 3-2 win to start a four-game road swing in Anaheim against the Ducks, the Flyers look to grab another two points against the struggling Kings and former coach John Stevens.
Los Angeles is just 3-7-1 to start the season and just lost starting goaltender Jonathan Quick for an extended period of time. The presence of all-stars Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar hasn’t been enough to keep the Kings afloat even with Ilya Kovalchuk back in the NHL and leading the team with eight points, the Kings are dead last with just 22 goals scored so far.
The Kings haven’t got much help from their power play (28th overall) and goaltending (.891 save percentage) in the early going, either, making life very tough for Stevens as his seat gets hotter by the day. The Flyers won’t care much, though, and will look to take advantage of the Kings’ slow start and try and climb back to one game under .500.
Nolan Patrick’s game-winner with under two minutes left was a dagger for the Ducks on Tuesday night, but the Flyers were the better team all night and deserved the two points in the end. Brian Elliott was sensational in net, giving the Flyers a much-needed performance between the pipes when they needed it most to crack a three-game losing skid. Elliott will man the net again and look to keep the Kings frustrated offensively.
Without further adieu, here are four things to watch for as the Flyers tangle with the Kings tonight from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
1. Don’t give LA’s power play too many chances to get on track
The Kings have too much talent for their power play to be struggling so mightily. Hm, sound familiar? That said, the Flyers’ penalty kill is the right kind of kook-aid as they just can’t stop giving up power play goals. Dave Hakstol’s bunch was pretty disciplined against the Ducks for the most part, but giving Kopitar, Doughty, and Kovalchuk too many chances to right the ship on the power play would be a grave mistake.
2. Keep up the better shot selection
The Flyers were a downright disaster against the Islanders last Saturday, and one of their main issues was generating quality shots in the offensive zone. Things were vastly different against the Ducks on the road, as the Flyers generated more shots and better shots from far more dangerous areas of the ice. They were rewarded with three goals and a much-needed win, but if they revert back to their selection against the Islanders, they’ll be pumping a pile of garbage towards the Kings’ net.
With Quick out and Peter Budaj manning the crease for LA, the Flyers should have an advantage already. Keep the more quality shots and chances coming and they’ll be celebrating a lot with a leaky Kings defense and suspect goaltending. If not, it could be another one of those long West Coast nights.
3. Build on the power play momentum
When the power play is clicking, the Flyers are a vastly different team. They were rolling with an 0-for-12 skid heading into the Ducks game, but got a Sean Couturier power play goal in the first. That goal came after a fast start and only gave the Flyers more jump in controlling much of the first 40 minutes on the heels of that goal. Like the Kings, the Flyers have too much talent and skill on both of their power play units to go through long droughts.
The coaching staff was willing to juggle the power play lines to start against Anaheim, but then reverted back to the regular setups following Couturier’s goal. Did they make a mistake breaking up their newly shuffled lines too early? Well two of the three power plays were rather successful with one being a total dud.
The results were encouraging, but the Flyers need consistent production from their power play until the penalty kill shows it won’t be a total loss every night.
Claude Giroux led by example on Tuesday, setting up both of the Flyers first two goals with surgical passes. Getting Couturier on the board was also huge, as he’s a first line center with just four goals and zero assists in 12 games.
As those two guys go —along with Jake Voracek— the Flyers go. Combine that with Ivan Provorov finally finding the back of the net and Patrick’s game-winning goal and perhaps some of the young guns are finding their confidence once again to help support the Flyers’ big horses.
With secodary scoring drying up in recent games, and continued defensive and goaltending issues, the Flyers need their best to show up and produce now more than ever.
Kings forward Ilya Kovalchuk is a point per game player vs. the Flyers with 49 points (24G, 25A) in 49 games...they’re lucky to dodge Jonathan Quick, who is 8-3-1 with a .949 save percentage and a sparkling 1.59 goals-against average with two shutouts against the Orange and Black...while his replacement Peter Budaj is 2-4 with an .889 save and a 2.90 goals-against average against Philadelphia.
Not many Flyers have had success against LA, but Giroux does have eight points (3G, 8A) in 11 games against the Kings. John Stevens was, of course, the coach during the Flyers 2008 run to the Eastern Conference Finals where they lost in five games to the Penguins. Stevens was 120-109-34 in Philadelphia during his tenure and was fired 25 games into the 2009-10 season that ended with a Cup Finals appearance.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Couturier — Konecny
Lindblom — Patrick — Voracek
Weise — Weal — Simmonds
Laughton — Lehtera — Aube-Kubel
Provorov — Hagg
Gostisbehere — Folin
Sanheim — Gudas