Tonight, the Flyers attempt to end the seemingly never-ending losing streak against the Dallas Stars. After their loss to Washington on Tuesday, this hockey team is two losses away from having 10 game losing streaks in back-to-back seasons. Their loss to Washington, along with a win by the Ottawa Senators last night, has put them dead last in the entire NHL. We’ve officially hit rock bottom ladies and gentlemen, and I don’t think we can call this a stealth tank any longer.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars are third place in the Pacific Division and are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. It really doesn’t matter at this point who the Flyers play, because it looks like any team is capable of beating them, but it doesn’t help that the Stars are as good as they are. They’re lead by stars (haha get it) Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and a strong defense and goalie combination that sits fourth in the league in goals allowed.
The Flyers on the other hand, are 23rd in the NHL in goals, and an even more embarrassing 29th in goals against. We’ve reached dark times here, folks, and it doesn’t look like it’s getting better any time soon. However, there have been some positives of late with some of the younger players. Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim have been a really good top pair, and Shayne Gostisbehere seems to be playing better as of late as well. If Nolan Patrick can stay healthy and return to his second half form last season, and generally the young players perform well, that’s really all that matters. This team is not going to make the playoffs, so please just let the youngins play well.
1. Speaking of those kids ... hello Carter
After Mike McKenna made his Flyers debut on Tuesday, and it went just about as well as anyone expected it to go. Carter Hart will most likely be back between the pipes tonight, and once again the hope that the young players perform is there. If the Flyers lose 2-1 tonight but Hart looks sharp? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m considering that a win. Hart is the future for the Flyers and right now, the present as well. There’s really not a whole lot to be excited about with this team, but Hart is one of those few things.
He’s coming off of a solid start vs. St. Louis where he only allowed two goals on 36 shots, and has rebounded after that rough start vs. Carolina to get his save percentage to .909. If the Flyers are going to win tonight however, Hart will have to be a major factor in it with the firepower on the Stars offense. Alex Radulov, Jason Spezza, and super rookie Miro Heiskanen all provide an offensive threat to go along with Benn and Seguin.
2. Defense, help him out a little would you please?
The defense shining for the Flyers is also something that would help Carter’s case. We’ve already seen Provorov, Sanheim, and Gostisbehere pick up their play, but now it’s time for the depth to do so as well. Specifically, it would be great to see Robert Hagg have a great second half of the season, and turn into an actually good defensive defenseman.
Despite the Stars offensive capabilities, they have struggled at 5-on-5 to generate a whole lot of offensive chances. According to Micah Blake McCurdy’s hockeyviz, the Stars are a minus four percent threat at 5-on-5, a shock for a team with as much talent as the Stars possess. If the Flyers can continue this trend tonight, they could be in the driver’s seat for breaking the losing streak. The problem however is, the Flyers offensive is ... how do I put this ... bad.
3. Might be a low-scoring affair tonight fam
Dallas has received incredible goaltending so far this season and although their defense has some cracks in their underlying numbers, great goalie play makes up for a lot of that. Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin have been spectacular for Dallas, with .923 and .924 save percentages respectively. New head coach Jim Montgomery has walked into a fantastic position from this perspective, with the goaltending situation about as good as it can be. Although their underlying numbers may not be as impressive on defense, Dallas still has John Klingberg, the aforementioned Heiskanen, and young Esa Lindell for a solid top three.
If the Flyers are going to win this game they need to exploit Dallas’ deficiencies on defense, and catch Bishop/Khudobin on an off night. The former might actually be harder than the latter surprisingly, but this offense has been so putrid of late that it really isn’t a shock at all. Let’s hope for the best, shall we.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Couturier — Konecny
Lindblom — Patrick — Voracek
JVR — Weal — Simmonds
Raffl — Laughton — Weise
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Gudas
Hagg — MacDonald