Thanks to a 3-0-1 West Coast road trip, the Flyers are back in the thick of things in the Metropolitan Division. They’ll look to continue that momentum with another date with the Arizona Coyotes, whom the Flyers took down by a 5-2 final back on Monday night.
That win over the Coyotes capped a successful road trip, but one that featured a couple of bad teams in Anaheim and Los Angeles. Even San Jose has struggled a bit out of the gate, and the Flyers managed to blow a third period lead and lose in overtime in that one. The final tilt was a solid win over these same Coyotes, who have been a surprise with a 7-6 record in the early going.
Arizona does a few things really well, and a couple other things that they really don’t do well at all. They’re allowing just 2.23 goals per game —good for third-best in the league— but are the 25th-ranked scoring team at just 2.77 goals per game. Then there are special teams, where Arizona has the NHL’s best penalty kill at 90.2%, but are 23rd overall on the power play. There’s a lot going on there and their 5-on-5 numbers don’t help much either as they’re about middle of the pack in terms of possession (52% Corsi For) and scoring (51.22% Goals For).
The Flyers did put a halt to the Coyotes’ five-game winning streak on Monday, but the numbers suggested that Arizona deserved a far better fate. The Coyotes controlled 5-on-5 play (63.11% Corsi For) everywhere but the scoreboard, with the Flyers taking advantage of a few generous bounces going their way along with some superb goaltending from Calvin Pickard.
To make it two-straight against the Coyotes, the Flyers will need more solid goaltending, with Pickard likely going again with Brian Elliott a little banged up. They will, however, need a better effort at 5-on-5 with goals against Arizona’s top-ranked penalty kill coming at a premium. There’s also no guarantee the Flyers get those favorable bounces they got at Gila River Arena a few nights ago.
Here are three keys ahead of tonight’s matchup with the Coyotes.
Get to Kuemper early
Arizona thought they were getting back their No. 1 netminder in Raata back, but instead he’s on IR and it’s Kuemper’s show for the time being. The 28-year-old has played well in four games this season, allowing just eight goals —including the four he allowed last time out against these same Flyers.
The Flyers got to him by getting bodies to the net, with Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Sean Couturier all scoring with traffic in front of Kuemper. Though they might not be able to count on Michael Grabner taking out his goalie again in this one, getting traffic to the front of the cage is never a bad idea.
Energy might be low after the week-long road trip, but getting a puck or two past Kuemper early could be the difference as the Coyotes don’t exactly light up the scoreboard.
Break the streak, for the love of God
Alex Galchenyuk’s power play goal on Monday made it eight-straight games the Flyers had allowed a power play goal. In two of those games, they allowed more than one. Their penalty kill sits at 69.1% on the season, which is in fact: not nice.
At some point, having the NHL’s second-worst penalty kill is going to catch up with them like it has in the past. The difference is that the Flyers’ power play hasn’t been very good either and they’re basically treading water at even strength in the meantime. At some point something has to give, and given the talent on the power play, bet on that unit turning things around sooner rather than later.
As for the penalty kill, the Flyers need to get more aggressive, and stay aggressive throughout the kill. We’ve seen opposing teams frustrate the Flyers’ own power play with aggressive penalty kill strategies and puck pressure, so why not give it a shot.
Protect home ice
The fans have seen just two home wins in six tries this season, and have sat through some real bad games and efforts. They’ve seen a matinee shutout to Vegas, a drubbing by the Avalanche, and the Islanders somehow racking up six goals.
Sometimes fans gripe too much, but with the efforts they’ve seen at the Wells Fargo Center so far this year you really can’t blame them. I almost forgot about the eight goals the Sharks dropped in the freaking home opener, good lord win a damn home game, the Flyers.
Giroux’s three-point night on Monday gives him 15 points (7G, 8A) in 15 games against Arizona...Cal Pickard is 3-2 with a .939 save percentage and a 1.87 goals-against average in five starts vs. Arizona...The Flyers are 47-28-2-3 all-time against the Coyotes franchise...Alex Lyon and Tyrell Goulbourne were sent down to Lehigh Valley on Wednesday with Brian Elliott over his practice injury scare and Goulbourne a press box regular.
Flyers’ projected lineup:
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Lindblom - Patrick - Voracek
Weise - Weal - Simmonds
Laughton - Lehtera - Aube-Kubel
Provorov - Hagg
Gostisbehere - Folin
Sanheim - Gudas