The Flyers are suddenly one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, but they’ll get a test from the hottest on Sunday night.
That’s right, the New York Islanders are scorching hot and winners of six straight heading into a date with the Flyers, who are winners of three straight in their own right.
Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, and Jakub Voracek paced the Flyers to a 7-4 comeback win over the Blue Jackets on Saturday night from the Wells Fargo Center. Five Flyers posted multi-point nights in the win as they used five third period goals to end Columbus’ own three-game winning streak.
The Islanders raced past the Senators, 4-2, on Friday night, getting two goals and an assist from Nick Leddy to improve their record to 7-3-0 in the early season. Their 14 points give them third place in the Metropolitan Division and Barry Trotz has them rolling again even as new pieces litter the roster.
After riding Brian Elliott to three-straight wins, the cracks started to show as Elliott allowed four goals on 26 shots in the win over Columbus. It’s Carter Hart’s turn between the pipes for this one as the youngster looks to right the ship after back-to-back subpar starts against the Oilers and Stars last week.
Three players to watch:
1. Carter Hart
The Flyers have enjoyed a little streak here thanks in large part to some stellar goaltending aiding a burgeoning offensive explosion. Elliott was phenomenal against the Golden Knights and Blackhawks, but wasn’t as stellar in the win over the BJ’s.
Hart struggled out west against the Oilers and then back at home against the Stars (seven goals on 29 shots across the two games), but needs to be reliable as the Flyers cannot rely on the 34-year-old Elliott for the bulk of the season. Hart has bounced back from poor outings in his NHL career before, so it won’t be a shock to see him turn in a solid showing against the Islanders tonight.
2. James van Riemsdyk
We said in this space just yesterday morning that JVR is a streaky scorer and he backed up his first of the season against Chicago with two against the BJ’s last night. He’s working in his office with a couple goals right on the edge of the crease, and that’s great news for the Flyers.
If the Flyers can keep JVR, Travis Konecny, Jakub Voracek, and Kevin Hayes rolling offensively, they’re going to be racking up the points regardless of what happens elsewhere on the ice.
3. Shayne Gostisbehere
Like JVR thrives off watching the puck go in the net, Ghost thrives on confidence. After a slow start to the season, Ghost notched his first goal of the season with a howitzer in the third on a perfect setup from Claude Giroux. He added an assist earlier in the second on the power play and appears to be getting some swagger back, and that’s a scary thought for opposing clubs.
Two big questions:
1. Will Carter Hart return to form?
It’s a fair question after Elliott has supported the team so well in his past three starts, but the reality is the Flyers are only going to go as far as Hart takes them in 2019-20. Elliott can’t be relied upon to work No. 1 minutes at this stage of his career, and Hart has the ability to carry a team for long stretches.
Nobody was more disappointed in his last two games than Hart, and nobody will work harder on his game in order to right himself. He’s a good bet to steal the net right back from Elliott and that starts by keeping the Flyers in this one on the second half of a tough back-to-back.
2. Can the penalty kill keep the momentum going?
The Flyers killed off all nine power plays they faced against the Hawks and BJ’s after surrendering them in three-straight games against the Oilers, Stars, and Golden Knights. Kevin Hayes has been a stud on the penalty kill, and picked up a shorty last night with an awesome individual effort.
New York has one of the better power play units in the league to start the season, and it will provide a nice challenge as the Flyers’ penalty kill looks to keep things rolling here of late.
Flyers’ projected lineup vs. Islanders
James van Riemsdyk - Claude Giroux - Jake Voracek
Oskar Lindblom - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton - Kevin Hayes - Joel Farabee
Michael Raffl - Mikhail Vorobyev - Chris Stewart
Ivan Provorov - Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim -Justin Braun
Robert Hägg - Shayne Gostisbehere