After the letdown that was game number three of this series, the Flyers look to even the series at two games a piece tonight vs. Pittsburgh. Each game of this series has been essentially a blowout, with the lowest margin of victory being four goals. Despite a strong first period from the orange and black in Game 3, the wheels fell off soon thereafter and the Pens took the series lead. It’s cliche, and blatantly obvious, but the Flyers have to win this hockey game tonight. If they are able to pull off the win tonight, the series becomes a best of three and if they would miraculously win game five as well, all of a sudden the Flyers have a chance to clinch the series on home ice. Needless to say, this game could very well define the season.
If you missed yesterday’s updates for game four, here’s a quick rundown of the probable changes.
- Jordan Weal most likely will replace Oskar Lindblom in the lineup, slotting in on the third line with Valtteri Filppula and Michael Raffl
- The return of the Giroux/Couturier/Voracek line seems imminent
- Travis Konecny is free of the sloth of a third line, moves up with Patrick and Simmonds
- Fourth line ... well it’s still the same
- Patric Hornqvist is out for Pittsburgh
Something that could throw all of these lineup changes for a loop however, is the possible injury to Sean Couturier. Yesterday in practice, Radko Gudas and Couturier accidentally collided and Couturier would then have to be helped off the ice. Now while Patrick moved up to the first line in practice once Couturier went down, I find it extremely hard to believe that is how Dave Hakstol would adjust for the actual game. ICYMI, here is the video of the incident..
#BREAKING Our @6abc video of @NHLFlyers star Sean Couturier going DOWN at practice today after colliding with Radko Gudas. He limps off with the trainer. Claude Giroux told me "it didn't look good." So far no update from the #Flyers #NHLPlayoffs2018 #EarnTomorrow pic.twitter.com/SlfplFKjUd— Jamie Apody (@JamieApody) April 17, 2018
It doesn’t look good, folks.
To be fair, we still don’t know the extent of the injury if there even is one to report. When asked about it yesterday GM Ron Hextall had no updates, so for the moment I guess expect Couturier in the lineup? Things change so fast with this team with so little explanation that I truly have no idea at this rate.
With all of the negatives out of the way, let’s take a look at how the Flyers can even this series tonight, and put some pressure on the two time defending champions:
- The Flyers need to start finishing their scoring chances. They really haven’t done all that horrible a job creating offense in this series; they’ve had their opportunities but simply failed to capitalize on too many of them. Against a team like Pittsburgh who you just know is going to capitalize nine times out of ten, only creating chances is not good enough and that was clear in Game 3. The Flyers dominated the first period of that game with a 66.52 adjusted team CF% according to Natural Stat Trick, but trailed 1-0 heading to the second. I’m as big of a proponent of advanced stats as there is, but this is one of those times where you absolutely need to finish, no excuses.
- Clear the damn puck. This is something I feel like we’ve been screaming from the mountain top all season long but hey, here we are! There are really only three good puck moving defensemen on this team and after them...it’s not the best! All season, one of the Flyers’ strategies to get offense going has been to flip the puck up as high as they can and try to let the center win it to a streaking winger, so it really confuses me why they struggle with this. If the Flyers can move the puck out of their zone tonight at an effective rate, we know they can put goals up against their defense. Just get by those pesky forecheckers first and let the star power do its thing.
- Speaking of forechecking, do it, A LOT. Even the most homer of Penguins fans will probably tell you that their defense is...well...not the best. A big reason why the Flyers won game two was the pressure they put on Penguins defenders on the breakout, and it’s why they had a strong first period in game three. If the Flyers can put a lot of pressure on the Pens defense they (in theory) limit the amount of time Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, etc, have with the puck. They cannot let up on the forechecking in this game, if they do they don’t have the defense to shut down the Penguins offense. Looking at you Dave.
This game could very well decide the Flyers fate, let’s hope it doesn’t. GO FLYERS
Flyers Projected Lines
Giroux - Couturier - Voracek
Konecny - Patrick - Simmonds
Weal - Filppula - Raffl
Laughton - Lehtera - Read
Provorov - Gostisbehere
MacDonald - Sanheim
Manning - Gudas