Good morning all! Have we all weathered the Nor’easter? The Flyers seem to have made it to Florida, and are yucking it up in the warm place while we languish here, which feels pretty rude, if you ask me.
But, hey, the Flyers! They’re playing the Lightning today! Let’s talk about that!
The last we saw our friends in the orange and black, they were in the middle of getting pretty well thrashed by the Hurricanes, and breaking their 12 game point streak in the process. The good news, however, is that they weren’t playing badly before that, and they’re still sitting at second in the Metro, two points ahead of the Penguins, and just one point behind the Capitals. So, despite the tough loss, the other teams at the top of the division having similar tough losses helped them out in the standings.
Not having a tough time, however, are the Lightning, who are 6-4 in their last 10 games, and still sitting comfortably at the top of the Atlantic. This is about the same story as when we last met them. What’s new, though, is that they picked up Ryan McDonagh at the trade deadline, and sent Vladislav Namestnikov—once a mainstay on their powerhouse top line—off to the Rangers. The Lightning may also be without Nikita Kucherov, who’s missed two games after sustaining an upper body injury against the Leafs on Monday. So the Lightning have some gaps that they’re still figuring out how to work around, and this gives the Flyers some space to work with (if they can capitalize).
And if they want to capitalize, they’ll have to do three things...
1. Everything you did on Thursday…
Yeah just don’t do any of that. Throw everything away.
Just kidding. I mean, I’m not totally kidding, but that’s not the real first point. Let’s try this again.
1. Special teams
Towards of the top of the list of things that need shaping back up are the Flyers’ special teams units. The power play has been something of a mixed bag; the first unit has produced some but has been shut down some as well, while the second unit has struggled to get much of anything going. If nothing else, we want to see more from the first unit and Patrick in the Simmonds spot. It’s shown some promise, so better results seem to be the next reasonable step. Let’s go.
On the flip side is Tampa’s power play, now sitting at third in the league and posing a dangerous threat to the Flyers’ just-decent (if that) penalty kill. If they’re able to keep the Lightning off the man-advantage in the first place, that would be the best case scenario, but in the event that this doesn’t quite happen, the PK will need to come up big for them, and find a way to stick with their more aggressive play, get back to what’s been working for them.
It’s redemption time for our pal, Petr. After a less than stellar showing on Thursday against the Hurricanes, which saw him give up four goals and flash a bit of poor positioning, Mrazek will be looking back to get back on track. And we’ll need him to—the Lightning are the top goal-scoring team in league, and don’t need that scoring thing to be made easier for them with a whole lot of open space left to work with. The Flyers’ defense will need to be on their toes, to be sure, but Mrazek will need to come up big, as he’s shown he’s able to already. Now it’s just a test of his ability to bounce back.
3. Matching up
The working title of this section was “if Hakstol matches the Point/Kucherov/whoever it is top line against the Filppula line I will literally light myself on fire.” And while I’m probably not going to actually light myself, and Hakstol probably won’t do this anyway, the sentiment remains.
We had some serious match-up issues in Thursday’s game, and the team suffered for them. The Lightning figure to be a difficult opponent, so it isn’t worth overthinking this one. Match their top line against your top line and see what happens. The Couturier line is very good and will do better against them than the fourth line. Thursday was a case of the Flyers not being given the best chance to succeed from a match-up standpoint, and let’s just hope that it was one-off.
Puck drops at 1:00 today, and you can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below.
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Lindblom - Patrick - Voracek
Leier - Laughton - Raffl
Lehtera - Filppula - Weise
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Hagg - MacDonald
Manning - Gudas