Remember last year, when the Flyers went on that ten game skid? And then they went to Western Canada and snapped the skid, and after that got themselves back on track for an incredibly productive month of December? Well all of that started with a win over the Calgary Flames, who, well would you look at that, the Flyers are playing tonight. And they’re hoping to replicate some of that good fortune.
We’ll be straight about it, they could really use it. They’re coming off a blowout loss in Winnipeg on Sunday, and they’re currently hanging out at second to last in the conference, ahead of just the Devils, and have only won three of their last ten games.
The bad news is these are not the Calgary Flames of yesteryear, not even close. Picking up our old Metro division pals in Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin in the offseason has seemed to work out pretty well for them, but on the whole the Flames have been putting it all together so far this season. They’re first in the Pacific division and have won seven of their last ten games. On paper, this is a decidedly tough matchup, and the Flyers are going to have to play a tight, complete game if they want to pull out a win here. We might even say… three things…
Okay we’ll stop trying to force a segue and get on with it.
1. Goaltending, please
We don’t really have to tell you that goaltending has been an issue for the Flyers. They’ve posted a -15 goal differential so far this season, good for second worst in the division. Anthony Stolarz has been pretty solid for them in his showings, and they’re going to need him to come up big for them (assuming he gets the start) against this high-powered Flames offense. They’re fourth in the league in goals scored, with 107, and a good bit of this has come from the members of their top line. The trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm have totaled for 46 goals in 31 games so far this season, and these three don’t show any signs of slowing down. But the Flames haven’t been wanting for depth scoring, either (for example, Matthew Tkachuk has 13 goals so far this season). So they can score goals, is what we’re getting at. And the Flyers haven’t been particularly good at preventing them. And they’ll need to be better, particularly in this matchup. Good talk.
2. Kill those penalties
Another piece working against the Flyers is the strength of the Flames’ power play. They’re tied for 11th in the league and will be squaring off against a Flyers penalty kill that’s still dead last in the league. Part of the success that those four forwards listed above comes from their ability to convert on the power play, as well, and they’ve been threating opponents all season.
Are we getting too doom and gloom, here? A bit of good news might be that, before they gave up three power play goals against the Jets, the Flyers’ PK actually looked like it was turning a corner. They were playing more aggressively, more directly challenging entries and the puck carrier when in the defensive zone, and they were getting better results. Maybe they can get back to that in Calgary? Here’s hoping.
3. New looks
If you’ve already peeked at the end of this thing and gotten a look a the lines for this evening, let me assure you, we haven’t slipped through some tear in the space-time continuum and returned to a weird alternate version of 2016—the top line really has been broken up and the lines continue to be shuffled. And, on paper, this could work? You imagine that, as much as they can, the Flyers are going to try to send out Sean Couturier’s line against the Monahan line, try to use that as a shutdown line, and then give the Claude Giroux centered top line some space to work. Of course, Calgary having last change complicates that a little, but you can see some thought going on there. Is it going to work? Who knows. But they seem invested in this “move Giroux back to center” thing. It worked in Buffalo, we’ll see if that continues.
Puck drops at 8:30 tonight, and you can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below.
van Riemsdyk - Giroux - Konecny
Raffl - Couturier - Voracek
Laughton - Patrick - Simmonds
Lindblom - Varone - Weise
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Hagg - MacDonald
Sanheim - Gudas