First off, Happy New Year! The Flyers are not playing in the NHL Winter Classic but do ring in the new year later tonight with a meeting vs. the Nashville Predators. Coming off an embarrassing loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Flyers will attempt to get back on track tonight and end their three game losing streak. Nashville meanwhile, defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions last night (and year haha get it ok I’ll stop), with a win over the Washington Capitals.
All-time, the Flyers are 4-1-2-1 with their last New Year’s day win coming in 1983 when they defeated the St. Louis Blues 4-1 behind 24 saves from the late great Pelle Lindbergh. They’ve lost their last two games on the first day of the new year with the 2010 loss to Boston in the Winter Classic, and an OT loss at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks in 2017.
Michal Neuvirth will most likely get the call in net for the Flyers, even with having played the majority of the game last night. Neuvy was strong in relief vs. Carolina, stopping all 23 shots that came his way, but this is a different beast in facing Nashville. The Flyers did win their first matchup with Nashville earlier this season, a 2-1 win that featured Carter Hart standing on his head and the penalty kill turning in a “this is sparta” like performance. It was pretty wild, folks!
Despite their win yesterday, Nashville is 4-5-1 in their last ten games, and before their win vs. Washington were on a six game losing streak. After beginning the year 7-1-0, Nashville has struggled to keep the good times rolling and look for a turnaround of their own as 2019 gets underway. Although this is a struggling hockey team, the Flyers are one in their own right and need to bring a much better effort to the table tonight.
1. Let’s hope they didn’t party too hard
Because oh boy was that effort pitiful last night. The Flyers looked like they started the New Year’s Eve festivities a bit early because they sure looked half asleep during their game. If they want to win tonight and put a quick end to the losing streak, and probably avoid getting some guys traded, they need to come out with better intensity. There are analytical steps we can point to that the Flyers did not do well in yesterday, but the main aspect was simply they looked like they didn’t want to be there.
That kind of effort is not going to work against a team like Nashville, who is going to be down their throats all night with the prototypical Peter Laviolette forechecking system. They need to match Nashville’s intensity because after all they’re on the second half of a back-to-back as well albeit their game was much earlier in the day.
2. Shot quality needs to be better
No excuses, the Flyers need to get to the high percentage areas more in tonight’s game. Last night was a replica of when Dave Hakstol was head coach with how the team settled for point shots and shots from the outside in general. Those kind of shots can work given the right factors, and specifically with enough traffic in front of the opposing goalie, but are not to be relied upon. The Predators are a solid team defensively, and the Flyers will have their work cut out for them as they try to get to those areas, but it needs to be done.
We know how creative Claude Giroux can be offensively, but he can’t be the only one. Travis Konecny, James van Riemsdyk, and especially Jakub Voracek need to help carry the load at times. Voracek, although he did score last night, was nowhere to be seen offensively for much of the night. Actually scratch that he was very noticeable offensively, given he was turning the puck over almost each time he received the puck.
3. Breakouts will be key
Nashville is a very good forechecking hockey team when they’re on their game. They’re a nightmare to play against when their aggressive style is working to its fullest potential and the Flyers need to be ready for that. If they’re able to make quick passes in their own zone and get the puck out and attack the Predators with speed and finesse, they should be able to beat this team. What the Flyers don’t want to do is fall into their default which is dumping the puck in and go digging in the corners for over half of their shift. They did this all too much against Carolina and suffered because of it.
The dump and chase can be effective given the right scenario, but should not be the default way of getting the puck into the offensive zone. Although, if the defense struggles to even break the puck out of their own zone effectively, it really won’t make all that much of a difference tonight.
Flyers Projected Lineup
JVR — Giroux — Konecny
Raffl — Couturier — Voracek
Laughton — Weal — Simmonds
Lindblom — Varone — Weise
Provorov — Sanheim
Hagg — Gostisbehere
MacDonald — Gudas