After an entertaining win over the Winnipeg Jets last night, the Flyers are right back at it tonight with their second game after the bye week. They take on their divisional foe in the New York Rangers for the third time this season, having won the first two games vs. New York this season. The first, a Cal Pickard shutout (wow, those were the days), and the second, a shootout win in Madison Square Garden before the Christmas break.
Although it may be too little too late, the Flyers over the past four games have been pretty fun to watch. This team has cleaned up the defensive miscues for the most part that plagued them early on, and the offense is beginning to click more and more. The biggest impact however has clearly been that of Carter Hart. Hart has been as advertised since coming to the Flyers after the firing of Dave Hakstol, He was spectacular again last night, and is giving fans at the very least something to look forward to more often than not.
He most likely won’t receive the start tonight, as Anthony Stolarz is back from injury with the team on the second half of a back-to-back. Stolarz would be making his first start since December 15 against Vancouver, where he left in the first period due to injury. In his nine games this season, Stolarz posted a .880 save percentage. To be fair, this was in the midst of the stretch that would officially cost Dave Hakstol his job, and send the coach packing.
1. Two hot teams, one streak will end
While the Flyers are on a hot streak of their own, so are the Rangers. Having won their last three games, and their last one coming vs. the Bruins, the Rangers have plenty of momentum heading into tonight’s game. They’ve won four out of their last five after a five game losing streak with wins coming vs. the Blackhawks, Hurricanes, Bruins, and their instate rivals in the Islanders.
Again, this season may be a lost cause, but we all know the players aren’t treating it like one nor should they. The Rangers are just three points ahead of the Flyers heading into tonight’s game and with a win the Flyers would tie the Florida Panthers in points, and climb to one point behind the Rangers. Winning may not be the absolute best thing for this team right now, but you gotta admit, it’s nice to have fun watching Flyers games again.
2. Ghost out again
After receiving word right before the game that Shayne Gostisbehere would miss yesterday’s game with a lower body injury, the earliest for the defenseman to return seems to be Thursday vs. the Bruins. This leaves the Flyers shorthanded again tonight which will be tough vs. a quick team like the Rangers. Christian Folin will start for a second straight game alongside Robert Hagg.
The Rangers remain one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL, and one of the worst defending teams. The loss of Gostisbehere absolutely still stings, but missing a game vs. a team like the Rangers isn’t the worst thing that could possibly happen. The best thing now is getting him healthy for Thursday vs. the Bruins, a much tougher test.
3. Keeping the offense going
In the Flyers win streak, the offense has been one of the key factors. They’ve scored 19 goals over their past four games, and have scored more than three each time except for last game vs. the Jets. The defense and the goaltending have been improving more and more with each game, and that was especially on display last night. Winnipeg was kept to the outside with their shot attempts seemingly all night, and when they did get power play opportunities, Hart made the big saves when needed.
The offense however was expected to be great coming into this season, and they simply haven’t been. The past four games have been a great sign for sure, but this needs to continue. The Rangers as previously mentioned are not a great defensive team, but they do have Henrik Lundqvist. If the offense continues to click of late, they should be able to take advantage of the Rangers poor defense regardless of goaltending.
Flyers Projected Lineup
JVR — Giroux — Konecny
Lindblom — Couturier — Voracek
Laughton — Patrick — Simmonds
Varone — Vorobyev — Raffl
Provorov — Sanheim
MacDonald — Gudas
Hagg — Folin