Tonight the Flyers continue their Western Canada road trip with the first game of a back-to-back with the Calgary Flames. Tomorrow, the team will take on the other Alberta team in the Edmonton Oilers. After coming off a 3-2 shootout loss at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, the Flyers will look to get back in the win column.
They’ll look to do so against the Flames who are off to a surprisingly slow 2-3-1 start. Last season, they won the Pacific division before being bounced in five games by the Colorado Avalanche. This is a very talented offensive team with the likes of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and of course, Milan Lucic. Wait, hold on, sources are telling me Milan Lucic is actually not good anymore.
Early on for Calgary, they’re slumping in goal scoring and goal prevention alike. They’re 18th in the league in goals-for, and 19th in goals against, which truly looked like more of a stat line for the Flyers in recent years. Of course, small sample size and all that, but the goal scoring issues are a bit surprising.
Coming into this road trip, I think the consensus among the fanbase was that to win two out of these three games would be a success. While losing in a shootout softens the blow of the Vancouver loss, it would be extremely ideal to take these games in Alberta and get five out of the possible six points.
A win tonight would be huge with the Oilers looming tomorrow, who are off to a surprisingly hot start lead by The Real Deal James Neal. If they’re going to secure that win, the Flyers will have to start better than they did vs. Vancouver. In both the Chicago and New Jersey games, the Flyers started strong and carried that momentum throughout the game. If they do that, and get more high percentage chances than they did vs. Vancouver, they have a good shot of winning this game.
Brian Elliott makes his first start of the young season tonight vs. his former team, essentially giving Carter Hart the second half tomorrow vs. Edmonton. I think I would have rather seen Hart start vs. the better team in Calgary, but it does give them a much better chance of locking up a win in Edmonton for sure.
Players to watch for
The entire top line — Cheating a bit here, but the early season struggles for the top line are already being talked about. Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, and Jakub Voracek have just two points combined over three games. For reference, Travis Konecny alone has six. It’s three games, and actually panicking over this lack of production so far is ah, not suggested. However, it would be nice to see the line really gel tonight and pot a goal or two.
Voracek saw his ice time cut vs. Vancouver because Alain Vigneault didn’t like what he was seeing, so if I had to key on one player I’d be interested to see how Voracek responds to that.
Shayne Gostisbehere — With no points in his first three games, Gostisbehere is still looking to get off on the right foot this season. He struggled immensely last season and a hot start is huge for him this time around. Despite the early success of the power play, Ghost hasn’t been the one generating most of the offense. Part of this could possibly be attributed to his lack of a skilled partner in the first three contests, but at some point he has to get it going.
The fourth line — Again cheating, but outside of Tyler Pitlick, the fourth line has struggled quite a bit in the early going. Michael Raffl has had his moments but Connor Bunnaman has struggled immensely so far to start the season. The Bunn Man just hasn’t made enough of a difference, and with Chris Stewart apparently about to be signed we could be seeing one of the final games with him in the lineup consistently. If he wants to stay in this lineup, he might need to start producing tonight.
Two big questions
1. Can they start strong?
The start in Vancouver wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either. They got away with it because despite improving a bit in the offseason, Vancouver still isn’t a great hockey team. Calgary on the other hand won’t be so forgiving. The Flyers have to get off to a better start tonight if they’re going to get the win.
2. Will they get back to shooting from the high percentage areas?
Against Vancouver, we saw a few too many point shots from a team that really avoided that in the first two meetings. While the Flyers generally kept the Canucks to the outside in that game, their shot generation wasn’t up to snuff but will need to be tonight. The Flames are too good of an offensive team to get into a defensive battle with, and they’ll get theirs eventually.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Hayes — Voracek
Lindblom — Couturier — Konecny
JVR — Laughton — Twarynski
Bunnaman — Raffl — Pitlick
Provorov — Braun
Gostisbehere — Hagg
Sanheim — Niskanen