After losing nine of 10 games from Late December through early January, the Flyers have rebounded by winning six of their last seven games. Streaky would be an understatement for the 2018-2019 Flyers, for sure.
After their bye week and All-Star break, the Flyers dispatched the Jets and Rangers thanks in large part to some spectacular goaltending. Carter Hart made 31 saves in the 3-1 win over Winnipeg and Anthony Stolarz was even better in stopping all 38 pucks he faced in a 1-0 shutout of the Rangers on Tuesday. It goes to show just how valuable good goaltending can be as the Flyers were largely outplayed in both games, but saw the netminders be the great equalizer in the end.
They’ll need more superb goaltending on the road against the Bruins, though the B’s have lost three of their last four. Boston got the Jets after the Flyers took them down on Monday, but fell in a shootout. The Bruins currently hold the first Wild Card slot, but the Canadiens and Maple Leafs are both within two points inside the Atlantic Division.
Boston is lethal on the power play, carrying the league’s second-best unit this season operating at 27.3%. Their penalty kill hasn’t been as good, though, falling down at 16th overall. The Bruins have been a high play driving team for essentially the last decade and this year is no different with the B’s ranking fifth with a Corsi-For of 52.60% per NaturalStatTrick.
And while the Flyers have gotten spectacular goaltending from Carter Hart, who is 4-2 with a .932 save percentage in his last five starts, the Bruins boast a tandem in goal that has buoyed them all season. With Tuukka Rask limited to 26 games due to injury and various circumstances, Jaroslav Halak has been strong in his stead. Halak is 13-9-3 with a 2.49 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage after signing to backup Rask in the offseason. Rask, who has been out with a concussion, will go tonight in net for the Bruins.
For the love of God, help out the goalies
The Flyers were badly out-shot against the Rangers (38-19) and continued a trend of being on the wrong side of the possession battle during the win streak. Despite winning five-straight, they’ve posted a Corsi-For of 39.2% in those games and have gotten wins largely due to incredible goaltending.
The Bruins are another possession juggernaut and have the offensive firepower and depth to make it a tough night. Since pumping in seven goals against the Wild to start the streak, they’ve scored just 13 times in their last four. They’re gonna need more scoring if they want to win in Boston.
Figure out the power play
No Shayne Gostisbehere again for the Flyers, and that’s bad news for a power play that hasn’t scored in its last three games after finding tallies against both the Wild and back against these same Bruins.
Not having Ghost leaves the Flyers without a threat from the point, with Ivan Provorov not capable and Travis Sanheim barely seeing second unit minutes. Ghost is a game-changer on the man-advantage and the Flyers will need to rely more on Claude Giroux and the forwards to create from inside of the point. It didn’t work in their last two games, but perhaps Boston’s average penalty kill will help the Flyers break some of their struggles.
Flyers interim coach Scott Gordon originally said that Ghost could be available on Saturday but has now ruled out the defenseman for that one as the power play is on their own in the meantime in Boston and could surely use the extra offense to help out their goaltender.
Boston’s power play is flat-out lethal, and the Flyers have allowed 18 power plays to opponents during the five-game run. That might be okay against average power plays like the Rangers, Canadiens, and Wild, but not against one of the best the league has to offer.
Much like the above two things, the Flyers really need to start making life easier on their goaltenders, and an easy way to help out is to stay out of the box. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but at least cutting out the dumb and unnecessary penalties would be a start.
Flyers’ projected lineup
JVR — Giroux — Konecny
Lindblom — Couturier — Voracek
Laughton — Patrick — Simmonds
Varone — Vorobyev — Raffl
Provorov — Sanheim
MacDonald — Gudas
Hagg — Folin