The Flyers begin their post-Ron Hextall era tonight as they take on the Ottawa Senators at the Wells Fargo Center. A new general manager has not been named as of yet, but it’s clear a new, or in this case seemingly old, way of thinking has returned to the Flyers front office. The emphasis on winning now as opposed to stockpiling assets for the future has appeared to have returned to the city of brotherly love. Needless to say, it should be quite interesting to see what kind of energy the players bring to tonight’s contest in wake of the firing.
Speaking of, there is in fact a game of hockey to be played tonight and the same coaching staff will be on the bench for it. Coming off of an embarrassing 6-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Flyers will look to have answer against the other Ontario team in the Senators. The Sens have had their own fair share of drama with the Uber video released earlier this season, and their team being a relative dumpster fire on paper and in the standings. To be fair, the Flyers are just one point ahead of Ottawa for dead last in the Eastern Conference, although they sit just five points out of a playoff spot.
Ottawa is coming in as cold as the ice they play on, with a 2-8-1 record in their last 10 games, and on a four game losing streak. Philadelphia meanwhile is 4-4-2 in their last 10 but the whole firing the GM thing adds a little insult to injury. So, what can the Flyers do to avoid another embarrassing loss but this time on home ice? Well, obviously win the gosh darn hockey game, but let’s dive in a little deeper.
1. Control the speed of the Senators
The Ottawa Senators are a bad hockey team, but what they do have a lot of is speed. The likes of Matt Duchene, Alex Formenton, and Thomas Chabot provide plenty of speed and flash for this Ottawa team. The lack of speed on the blue line for the Flyers is clear, and was exploited numerous times by Toronto on Saturday night. Sure, the skill for Toronto was also a pretty big factor in their lopsided victory, but the sight of Andreas Johnsson blazing by the duo of Christian Folin and Shayne Gostisbehere was a bit telling. If the Flyers want to avoid another loss, a devastating one to say the least, controlling speed is going to be key.
2. Don’t overthink on offense
I know this is coming off as, “it’s the freakin Senators, just beat the team”, and in a way it kinda is. Although the Flyers aren’t all that much better than Ottawa at the moment, it’s fair to say the Flyers have a lot more talent on their team than the Senators do, and therefore should handedly take this game. This thought creeps up more when looking at the Senators shot selection and prevention. According to Micah Blake McCurdy’s HockeyViz, the Senators are a minus six percent threat level on offense, and a plus 12 percent threat on defense. If you’re unfamiliar with how these percentages work, plus is ideal on offense, and minus is ideal on defense. The Senators must believe everyday is opposite day by their numbers. They are giving up the slot area way too often, and the Flyers must take advantage of this come game time.
3. Show me you’re alive
Alright look, the GM just got fired, and the coach is probably gone soon after the new GM steps in. The Flyers had one of their most lackluster efforts on Saturday night, and it essentially looked like they were playing as if they were the ones who had a 4-0 lead after the first period. The players played on Saturday like they wanted someone to get fired, and the Flyers followed through, albeit with an unexpected firing. The team needs to come out tonight and play like it’s game seven of the Stanley Cup Final. Show me you’re awake now. Not showing up tonight signifies a severe issue whether it be with the coaching or the players themselves. If the GM getting fired doesn’t wake the players up, what will? If they come out slow tonight, and lose to this Ottawa team, I think if there was any doubt in Hakstol getting fired that doubt is then erased.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Couturier — Konecny
Weise — Patrick — Voracek
van Riemsdyk — Weal — Simmonds
Lindblom — Laughton — Goulbourne
Provorov — Hagg
Gostisbehere — Folin
Sanheim — Gudas