In the last Flyers game of 2018, the boys will face a new opponent in the 2018-19 season in the Carolina Hurricanes. Yes, it’s the final day of December and for some reason only now the Flyers are facing a divisional team; gotta love NHL scheduling am I right?
After a painful loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers on Saturday, the Flyers hope to head into 2019 on a high note with a win that would leapfrog them over Carolina in the standings. This will be the first of two meetings in three games for the Flyers vs. Carolina, as they take on the Nashville Predators in the first game of the new year and then come back home to Philadelphia to play the Canes yet again.
Carolina continues to be that “what if” team in the Eastern Conference. They’re seemingly always at or around the top of the NHL in Corsi — as they are yet again this year with a 56.47 percent — but struggle to get the goal scoring or goaltending required to reach the postseason. They missed on Scott Darling last season, as the former Stanley Cup Champion has struggled since being traded to Raleigh and is now with the Canes AHL squad in the Charlotte Checkers. Curtis McElhinney has been a nice add since claimed off waivers from Toronto, posting a .922 save percentage in 13 games for Carolina this season. He’ll most likely be the one who starts tonight for the Canes, but if he doesn’t, they’ll see a familiar face in Petr Mrazek who’s time here was about as enjoyable as being a Minnesota Vikings fan (go Birds).
1. Help your goalie out a little bit
Carter Hart was spectacular vs. Florida on Saturday, but lost at the end of the day due to colossal defensive breakdowns in the third period. The Canes are a team that struggles greatly to score goals — they sit second to last in the entire league in goals-for — so one would imagine the Flyers would be able to continue their struggles. What is a concern however, is the amount of offense the Canes truly generate.
The Hurricanes are a plus 29 threat percentage and if that doesn’t make sense it’s okay because all the red directly in front of the net speaks for itself. This team is one of the most confusing franchises in recent memory with how they are able to dominate in terms of possession and shot attempts but fail tremendously to finish their chances. For instance, the Flyers are just a plus one percent threat offensively. If the Flyers are able to limit Carolina’s chances offensively tonight, they should be alright with the lack of finishing ability on this Hurricanes team. Keeping the likes of second overall pick Andrei Svechnikov and star Sebastian Aho — two of their top three goal scorers — in check will be key for this team tonight.
2. Put Saturday in the rear view mirror
This was discussed in the BSH slack chat, but on Saturday it felt like the first time since Dave Hakstol was fired that the team felt like it was coached by Hak. They’ve looked a lot better since Scott Gordon came in, and they still did a good amount of things correctly on Saturday night, but the old tendencies seemed to rear their ugly heads. Tonight, they’ll look to get back on track and halt the two straight losses. Way too many point shots, and the defensive breakdowns that were going to take miraculous save of the year worthy saves to stop.
After a hot start, the Canes have lost four out of their last five games and have lost seven out of their last ten games. While the Flyers have still only gone 3-2-1 in their last six games, they’ve played much better of late and it’s clear the players know that themselves. Their play still needs to be better, and more consistent, but if they continue to build on their strong play the wins will come.
3. Can the depth shine again?
One of the bright spots from the Florida game was the performance of Jordan Weal and the third line. Weal assisted on the only goal with a drop pass to Shayne Gostisbehere who sniped it by Reimer. The third line was the Flyers best in regards to Corsi on Saturday, each posting a Corsi of over 65 percent. If the third line can contribute like that again, and the top six can finish more of their chances and get more quality scoring chances, the Flyers should be in business tonight.
The depth might be even more needed if the second line of Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek continue to struggle. We all love Wayne Simmonds, but at this point he is dragging down Couturier and even Voracek who admittedly hasn’t been all that great either. He needs to come out of the top six and it would be ideal if Oskar Lindblom could take his place, but we’ll see what Scott Gordon has in mind if the line continues to struggle.
Flyers Projected Lineup
JVR — Giroux — Konecny
Simmonds — Couturier — Voracek
Laughton — Weal — Raffl
Lindblom — Varone — Weise
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Hagg
MacDonald — Gudas
Stats courtesy of Hockeyviz and Natural Stat Trick