In an effort to halt a five-game losing streak, the Flyers take on the red hot Calgary Flames today in a Saturday matinee. After winning in New York in the game prior to the holiday break, they have since lost to Carolina twice, Nashville, Tampa Bay, and Florida. The good will that followed the firing of Dave Hakstol and the call up of Carter Hart has dissipated as quickly as it arrived. The team is tied for last in the entire NHL with a team that traded Erik Karlsson and the Los Angeles Kings, who are a literal dumpster fire. Fun times!
Calgary is coming off of a 6-4 loss at the hands of the Boston Bruins, but in their two prior games they defeated Detroit and the San Jose Sharks. The Flames lead the Pacific division by two points over the Vegas Golden Knights, and possess one of the most lethal offensive attacks in the NHL with their Western Conference-leading 150 goals.
While it is of course not to the extent of the Flyers, the Flames goaltending can be a bit of a bugaboo. Mike Smith has simply not worked out with his .886 save percentage. Their saving grace to this point has been 26 year old David Rittich, whose .920 save percentage has helped the Flames stay atop the Pacific and among the better teams in the NHL.
Speaking of goaltending, the Flyers will once again, for seemingly the millionth time in his tenure as a Flyer, be without Michal Neuvirth, who has sustained a lower body injury. Although Neuvirth is only listed as day-to-day, one would assume that with Anthony Stolarz potentially set to return in the coming week, he could very well overtake Neuvirth on the depth chart.
1. Starter Hart returns
After getting some time off after being pulled vs. Carolina in the New Year’s Eve game, Carter Hart is back in net for the Flyers. Hart will get his first look at a true juggernaut of an offense, and a shot to erase the memories of his previous start. At this rate, with the Flyers chances of making a run at the postseason as slim as can be, Hart just needs to have a strong game, regardless of getting a win.
With the not-so-stealth tank seemingly engaged, the Flyers just need their young players to perform well, but come up just short in the end. Hart allowing two goals in a shutout loss or one goal loss would essentially be the most ideal situation. We’ve reached very dark times, haven’t we?
2. Please, please stop shooting from the point
If the Flyers were to win today however, they’re going to need to not do what they did vs. Carolina offensively. Although they controlled possession for most of the game and performed well at 5-on-5, the quality of their shots was abysmal at best. There was an abundance of passes at the perimeter and when they finally did make an attempt to get the puck to the slot area, it was typically a blind pass to no one in particular.
If this team wants to win today, especially against an explosive team such as Calgary, they’re going to need to get high quality scoring chances. Passing lanes are clogged? Lot of players guarding the blue line on zone entries? Get creative. This is something this team seems to find absolutely impossible so they simply resort to dump and chase hockey. Play like you have nothing to play for, it might actually work.
3. Just make it exciting, would you?
And no, I don’t mean the kind of exciting where you wait until the very end of the game to finally show up. This has been such a frustrating season and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better anytime soon, so I believe we’ve reached the stage where just hanging close all game and making the game fun is the only request. If the Flyers can do that, I’ll be satisfied with that. Seeing a consistent effort throughout 60 minutes is the key with how the team has played, and failed to give those kind of efforts.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Couturier — Lindblom
Raffl — Laughton — Voracek
JVR — Weal — Simmonds
Weise — Varone — Konecny
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Gudas
Hagg — Folin