The Flyers come into today’s game vs. Columbus with the fan base as excited as I think we’ve seen in quite some time. Although it’s only been two games in the Carter Hart era, the 20 year old netminder has stolen the hearts of Flyers faithful and believe it or not, the home crowd is actually starting to get loud. After an incredible win vs. Nashville on Thursday, the Flyers play their last home game before Christmas, and it fittingly comes against a divisional opponent.
Columbus enters today’s game second in the Metro Division just four points behind the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals. Columbus has gone through their fair share of adversities in the early season, with pending free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky and doubts of their return to Columbus. This could be a make or break season for the Jackets, and we’re getting closer and closer to the trade deadline.
In two meetings so far this season between Columbus and Philadelphia, the Flyers have come up short in both games, a6-3 loss in the first meeting, and a 4-3 overtime loss the second time around. With the current momentum the Flyers have cooking with their new coach and new goaltender, this kind of game hopefully seems less daunting than at the beginning of the week. Columbus enters today on a two game win streak of their own however, and will look to rain on our parade in this divisional showdown.
1. Can Carter keep it going?
Carter Hart will start his third consecutive game today before most likely getting a rest vs. New York on Sunday (which is the day of our Festivus party so go to it thanks!). After a relatively easy first NHL start vs. Detroit, the young Flyers netminder put on a show vs. Nashville, coming up huge on extended Predators’ power plays in the second period, and making clutch saves down the stretch in the third to keep the Flyers up one. Hart has been exactly what the Flyers have needed in net, a smooth, calm, cool & collected presence. He doesn’t show his age in the slightest, and has been a breath of fresh air for this hockey team and a fan base that was craving someone to get behind.
This is most likely Hart’s biggest test of his brief tenure as a Flyer; although Nashville possesses a tremendous amount of talent, they were missing a good chunk of it on Thursday. Columbus comes in with a lethal offensive attack and when he’s going, one of the best goalies in the entire league in Sergei Bobrovsky.
2. Offense looks to rebound
After a solid game on Tuesday vs. Detroit, the Flyers offense sputtered vs. Nashville. Although it’s tough to blame them too much, as they spent almost the entire second period killing off penalties and then clinging to the one goal lead in the third, the offense did struggle. Passes weren’t crisp, breakouts were an issue, and getting set up in the offensive zone just didn’t happen.
Something that is clearly noticeable already with a Scott Gordon-led offense is the decrease in low-to-high passes. There seems to be a more concerted effort to keep the puck down low and let the forwards go to work. But when the puck does get to the point, traffic finally is getting to the netmouth, or players are getting into the corners or behind the net to get the puck on a dump-in. Regardless of how they do it, the Flyers absolutely need their offense to show up a bit more in this game, especially vs. a goaltender like Bobrovsky.
Nashville may have dominated the Flyers in chances on Thursday, but overall the Flyers had a great effort of keeping them to the outside. This is something that was a staple of the team the past couple of years, but had seemingly come loose to start this season. Whether it’s the new voice of Rick Wilson, or the players are just finally working out the kinks, the defense is playing a lot better in front of their new goalie and that must continue today.
Panarin, Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson, and Pierre-Luc Dubois, all very talented offensive threats for this Columbus team that the Flyers must keep their eyes on today. They’re by no means the fastest team in the league, but Columbus has a few burners that will give the Flyers trouble if they don’t plan accordingly. It should be interesting to see how the Flyers handle the Columbus attack in hopes for their third straight victory.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Patrick — Konecny
Simmonds — Couturier — Voracek
JVR — Laughton — Raffl
Lindblom — Varone — Weise
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Hagg
MacDonald — Gudas