It’s the first we’re seeing of the Leafs this year, and we’d be hard-pressed to say that they’re not off to a hot start. They dropped their last two against Carolina and Columbus this week, but they’re still carrying a 15-8 record, and sitting at third place in the Atlantic. Oh, and that’s been without Auston Matthews for the last few weeks, and William Nylander for the whole season.
The Flyers have had a bit of a rough patch themselves, but are coming off a nice win against the Rangers at home yesterday, after dropping their last four games. But hey, they’re not last in the Metro anymore. And they’re hoping this can be the next step in righting the ship, but it’s not going to be an easy task. So here are three things that they’re going to have to focus in on, if they hope to do so.
1. Good Hockey Goals
It may seem like a basic statement — that you have to score goals to win the game, and more goals than your opponent — but this has been easier said than done against the Leafs so far this season. They’re currently sitting at a +16 goal differential (second highest in the conference), which is to say that they’re having no trouble scoring themselves, while not giving up a ton of chances. For reference, the Flyers are at -7.
We saw the Flyers do well to generate chances in yesterday’s game against the Rangers, but it took until the third period, when the game was all but over, for them to go in. Sure, puck possession will eventually lead to goals, and if you can hold onto it, you should be in decent shape. The Flyers will need to keep rolling with those good efforts, but work a little smarter as well, in order to close on some of those good chances a little earlier.
The other side of this, making sure things don’t get out of hand against a team with a high-powered offense, would be making sure they get a solid performance out of their goaltender. Which, on paper, might prove a little dodgy for the Flyers.
The title of this section doesn’t have question marks because I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk about goaltending when I started outlining this and then just forgot to delete them in the final product. It’s because we legitimately have no idea what’s happening with the goalies right now. After the game last night, the Flyers recalled Anthony Stolarz from Lehigh Valley, and made room for him by placing Brian Elliott on injured reserve.
With that said, Cal Pickard had media availability after the game and seemed fine, and it didn’t look like Alex Lyon got dinged up in warmups or anything like that. So it’s a big mystery. And this means we could be looking at one of three big narratives: Pickard comes home to face off against the team that put him on waivers, Stolarz’s triumphant return to Flyers ice, or Lyon getting some sort of half-rematch against the team whose farm team beat up on he and the Phantoms in the AHL Eastern Conference Final last year (that’s a reach, but narratives often are).
All the same, it’s going to be one of three goalies who’s either been playing in the AHL or was supposed to be, needed to come up big against a dangerous team.
And maybe we have the answers by the time this article posts. But it’s getting weird out here, fam.
3. Kill the penalties
While the Leafs have found some success so far this season on the power play (they’re currently sitting at ninth in the league), the same can’t really be said for the Flyers on the other side. We don’t have to tell you their penalty kill has been bad. You have eyes. You know. But they did a good thing yesterday, in that they were perfect on the penalty kill against a pretty good Rangers power play.
Now, we’re not ready to read too much into this, go so far as to say this means that they’re definitely turning a corner and fixing things, but it’s not nothing. And they’ll certainly need to carry that over into tonight’s game. They can’t be shooting themselves in the foot, or giving away chances for free.
Or, maybe they can just stay out of the box in the first place. That works too.
Puck drops tonight at 7:00, and you can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below.
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Weise - Patrick - Voracek
van Riemsdyk - Weal - Simmonds
Lindblom - Laughton - Goulbourne
Provorov - Hagg
Gostisbehere - Folin
Sanheim - Gudas