The Flyers take on the Boston Bruins today in the first of the final four games of the regular season. The Bruins have already secured their spot in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Flyers have four games to stay ahead of the Florida Panthers, who are the last team that could push the Flyers or Devils out. Despite it feeling like the Flyers have barely played .500 hockey of late, they have recorded points in seven straight games with four wins and three overtime losses.
In their last game, the Flyers were able to come up with two huge points against the Colorado Avalanche, and this win would almost guarantee a playoff spot. Florida has five games remaining and sit at 86 points; if the Flyers win today they’ll be at 94 points, forcing the Panthers to either win four out of their last five or win out. The first of four vital games starts here with Boston.
Speaking of the Panthers, the Bruins are coming off of a 5-1 win vs. Florida and have won four out of their last five. They’ve leapfrogged the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Atlantic and look to be on their way to being the top team in the Eastern Conference heading into the playoffs. It does appear that the Flyers will catch a break today however, as Anton Khudobin should start for Boston. Khudobin has had a very productive season for the Bruins, but this definitely tops facing Tuukka Rask.
Tuukka Rask in goal today for #Bruins. Anton Khudobin to start Sunday in Philly. Cassidy said Rask will probably start Tuesday at Tampa and Thursday at Florida. Cassidy unsure if Rask will play in final 2 games next weekend with Bruins likely to open playoffs the next Thursday.— Bill Doyle (@BillDoyle15) March 31, 2018
For the Flyers, well, who the hell knows who’s playing goalie anymore? Michal Neuvirth is still listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury so Alex Lyon and Petr Mrazek serve as your goalie tandem at the moment. I’d be extremely surprised if Neuvirth is actually DTD and the Flyers aren’t just taking advantage of the emergency recall use on Lyon.
Three Keys to the Game
1. Get to Khudobin early
The Flyers have only scored two goals across their two games vs. Boston so far this season; granted, those two games were against Rask. If the Flyers can get another two-goal lead heading into the second period (or better, better would be nice), I kinda sorta maybe have the confidence they can hold that lead? This team seems to be able to pull these performances out once in a while and the Colorado game was a perfect example of that. Boston is second in the league in goals-for, so this one could end up being a shootout.
2. Puck clearing needs to improve
I don’t know how much longer I can watch this team fail to clear the puck for 30 seconds then give up a goal as a direct result. This has been an issue all year for this team, but lately it’s only been magnified. Against a team like Boston they need to improve on this and get it out when necessary. Boston has way too many weapons for the Flyers to fail on clears. It’s also going to be important that the Flyers simply don’t ice it with these clears. That seems like the logical thinking there, but for some reason this team has struggled with that as well. For a team that loves to flip the puck up high to try to enter the zone, you’d think this would never be a problem?
3. Couturier vs. Bergeron
It’s almost a given that Sean Couturier and Patrice Bergeron will be going at it heavily in today’s game. Bergeron recently returned from a broken foot and since then, has been on a tear. He’s recorded six points in four games including a three point night vs. the Lightning. If Couturier is not only able to shut Bergeron down, but score against his line as well, the Flyers will be in excellent shape in this one.
Flyers Projected Lines
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Lindblom - Patrick - Voracek
Weal - Filppula - Simmonds
Lehtera - Laughton - Read
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Sanheim - MacDonald
Manning - Gudas
Goalie (lol who knows)
Stats courtesy of hockey-reference