For only the fourth time this season, the Philadelphia Flyers are going for two consecutive wins as they take on the Boston Bruins this evening. In what was a wild game vs. Minnesota (I’m not sorry), the Flyers pulled off the win scoring seven goals against one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. They did so against the Wild’s number one goalie and even with Carter Hart not being on his “A” game. Tonight, they play one of the better teams in the the league but sit third in the Atlantic Division due to the absurdity of that division, in the Bruins.
Boston is 26-15-5 with 57 points which puts them just one behind Toronto for second place in the Atlantic. The Bruins have fed off of their goaltending and defense so far this season, placing them second in the NHL in goals allowed. According to hockeyviz, their threat level on the defensive side is a minus six, and oh by the way they still have Tuukka Rask and a much improved Jaroslav Halak. Rask’s save percentage sits at .919 while Halak comes in at a .924. Both goalies have played 24 games which may be surprising, but it seems to be working for them.
In their only meeting so far this season, the Flyers were shutout by Boston, in Boston, for one of the more embarrassing losses of the season. The team showed little to no effort and it’s honestly surprising the score was only 3-0. If the Flyers are going to win tonight, the effort needs to match the Bruins. Boston has a lot of skilled hockey players including the likes of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Torey Krug, and not to mention Patrice Bergeron. But, their effort and how they outwork other teams has paid dividends for them against arguably more talented teams, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs.
1. Keep the Bruins to the outside
The Bruins offense has struggled this season, only 20th in the NHL in goals-for, but their underlying numbers are impressive. They sit just above the Flyers in raw Corsi at a 51.87, and have allowed the fifth fewest shot attempts. Where the Bruins do struggle, and where the Flyers should pin their point of emphasis defensively tonight, is their shot selection. They sit 22nd in the NHL in scoring chances-for, and 21st in high danger chances. And their hockeyviz of shots taken at 5-on-5 is looking a whole lot like the “Dave Hakstol Special.”
Boston is clearly not a team that gets to the high danger areas all that often, so the game plan should be fairly simple for the Flyers to keep them at the point. Where the struggles will come however, is containing the likes of Pastrnak, Marchand, and Bergeron alike. Those are three really good hockey players and Pastrnak has quickly become one of the best players in the entire league. There’s not a whole lot outside of those three players, but it doesn’t mean the Flyers won’t have their hands full tonight on defense.
2. Starter Hart looks to rebound
This may sound strange to say, given Hart did get the win on Monday, but he clearly wasn’t at his best. Hart struggled on all of the goals that he gave up, and although they weren’t all his fault, he absolutely wasn’t spectacular vs. Minnesota. His rebound control was a tad shaky, and his puck tracking seemed to be just a little bit off. He’ll need to be better in those departments against the team that takes the sixth most shots per game in the NHL.
This will be Hart’s fourth consecutive start, the most in a row of his young career. In facing Boston, the rebound control aspect of his game will need to be on point given how many shots the Bruins takes. They’re able to score a lot of greasy goals that way and if Hart can swallow up rebounds and keep Boston from getting those chances, the Flyers should be in the driver’s seat.
3. Can the power play keep it up?
Although the new look power play units only went one for five on Monday, there were a lot of positive signs and the first one is the double screen of James van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds. It was clear the Flyers wanted to use this as much as possible on the power play, and they scored the lone goal on the man advantage via that strategy.
Possibly one of the more surprising positives, was how well Claude Giroux performed in Jakub Voracek’s old spot. With Sean Couturier in Giroux’s spot, the backhand pass to Voracek at the point set up the double screen shot many a times. And, Giroux was able to make the cross ice passes to Couturier that Voracek was unable to do consistently from the same spot. It may prove more ideal to have Giroux and Couturier switch at some point, but I like the way Couturier can disguise the pass to Voracek for the one-timer.
The second unit even showed some flashes, primarily due to Shayne Gostisbehere’s ability to enter the offensive zone. Seemingly every time the second unit entered the zone, it was Ghost leading the way. I would like to see him be even more aggressive and take a shot off that entry, but he’s getting them in the zone, something the second unit has struggled with for a long while.
Flyers Projected Lineup
JVR — Giroux — Konecny
Lindblom — Couturier — Voracek
Laughton — Patrick — Simmonds
Lehtera — Varone — Raffl
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — MacDonald
Hagg — Gudas