The Flyers won’t have much time to ponder their latest loss —a 5-2 setback to the Penguins on Wednesday— before getting thrown right back in the gauntlet with a visit to Boston to face the red-hot Bruins on Thursday night.
After watching the Penguins score four unanswered goals to send the Flyers to a fourth-straight loss to open March, the Flyers are suddenly stuck in third in the Metropolitan Division (79 points) with New Jersey hot on their heels sitting just three points back.
Up next are the Bruins, winners of four-straight and seven of their last 10. They’re without top pivot Patrice Bergeron, out with a broken foot, but have plenty of firepower to make life miserable for opposing teams. The Flyers will have their work cut out for them in this one as the Bruins are the NHL’s best 5-on-5 team and have a top 10 power play and penalty kill to boot.
Couple those things with a rested Boston team against a Flyers club that just dueled with their most bitter rival a night earlier and we could be in for a long night. But the Flyers do have a habit of winning games we don’t expect them too, and this would be a huge one in the midst of a grueling stretch of games against contending teams.
Don’t get in a track meet
The Flyers can’t afford to get into a shootout with the Bruins in this one. Boston is fourth in the league in scoring at 3.31 per game and is third in the league in goals allowed at 2.52 per. So to recap you’re not going to score a lot and on the flip side you’re getting one of the most potent offenses.
Given that the Flyers, outside of a six-goal outburst against Tampa Bay, have logged just two actual goals in three of their last four, a high-scoring affair in Boston will almost certainly end badly. That’s easier said than done, of course, and it doesn’t help that Boston drives play with a league-best Corsi-For of 54.16%.
So how in the heck do the Flyers have a chance in this one you say? Well actually I have no idea. The Flyers are going to need to grind out a win on the road, get pucks to the net and hopefully have puck luck on their side. In the second of a back-to-back against contending clubs like the Penguins and Bruins, grinding out a point would probably be considered a win.
After a ridiculous stretch of three games from Feb. 18 through Feb 20 in which the Flyers didn’t take a single penalty, they’ve been less disciplined as of late. In a 4-1 laugher in Florida the Flyers afforded the Panthers five power plays. In their last six games they’ve been shorthanded 13 times, which doesn’t seem like a ton, but does when you factor in the Flyers’ third-worst penalty kill into the mix.
With the power play in a rut with just one goal in their last 19 chances, and goal scoring down, the Flyers need to keep their God-awful penalty kill off the ice as much as humanly possible. Some good news is that the Bruins aren’t elite at drawing penalties, sitting at 16th overall this season.
If the Flyers can avoid the needless penalties the Bruins don’t play a game that will result in a ton of man-advantage opportunities. That would at least somewhat neutralize the Flyers’ penalty kill, which is far from a bad thing.
Team defense and goaltending
The Flyers’ defense did not have a strong game against the Panthers and left their gaps far too wide to expose the middle. The result was a bunch of breakaways or near breakaways for Florida. The Flyers can’t afford that again here against a team that can stretch defenses with the pass as well. Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Rick Nash will have a field day if the Flyers defense doesn’t keep their gaps under control.
As for the man between the pipes, the Bruins will be a tall test for whoever coach Dave Hakstol decides to start in goal. Boston is a high-scoring club with skill guys like Marchand, Pastrnak, and David Krejci. They shoot early and often and have guys who do shoot a high percentage as well, which puts a ton of strain on goaltenders.
Flyers Projected Lines
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Lindblom - Patrick - Voracek
Weal - Filppula - Simmonds
Lehtera - Laughton - Raffl
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Hagg - MacDonald
Manning - Gudas