For once, playing back-to-back might actually be an advantage for the Flyers.
After playing a lackluster game a night ago against one of the NHL’s worst in the Senators, the Flyers can wash the bad taste right out of their mouth by welcoming the Islanders to the Wells Fargo Center this evening.
A fast start in Ottawa faded fast as the Flyers couldn’t make a first period Tyler Pitlick goal stand up as they watched the Senators score twice in the second and skate away with a 2-1 win. The loss ended the Flyers’ streak of securing a point in seven-straight, and was their second-straight loss after a shootout setback to the Capitals on Wednesday night.
Seeing as how the Flyers couldn’t get their act together against a bad team, perhaps the Metropolitan’s second-best team will wake them up. Barry Trotz’ club is fuego, winning 12 of their last 13 games coming in, with the lone loss being in overtime.
As was the case a year ago, the Isles are getting spectacular netminding with a team .928 save percentage from holdover Thomas Greiss and free agent signing Semyon Varlamov. Greiss, in particular, has been spectacular with a .948 save percentage and a 7-1 record. The goaltending has buoyed the club thus far, as they aren’t scoring at the same rate as they were a year ago thus far.
Still, the Islanders have some offensive stars like Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, and Anders Lee, which should prove to be a challenge for Brian Elliott in net for the Flyers. Elliott gets the call after watching Carter Hart find his form after a slow start.
Should be a fun one from the WFC as the Flyers get another tough test, but also get a chance to put their ugly loss to the Senators in the past.
Three players to watch for
1. Brian Elliott
Hart wasn’t the issue a night ago, despite a leaky goal to Tyler Ennis, and Elliott will be expected to keep up his stellar early season work against a tough Islanders team. Elliott carries a 3.01 GSAA (goals saved above average) thus far per hockeyreference, which is pretty solid.
2. Kevin Hayes
Hayes has been invisible on the scoresheet in his last nine games, and the Flyers simply need more production from their No. 2 center. Hayes’ production needs to ramp up as opposing clubs focus extra attention on the excellent line of Sean Couturier, Oskar Lindblom, and Travis Konecny. Alain Vigneault juggled his lines a ton against the Senators and Capitals, and mostly because Hayes isn’t giving him much of anything at the moment.
3. Shayne Gostisbehere
Much like Hayes, the Flyers simply need more from the Ghost. He’s got just one goal and five assists in 19 games, and has had issues controlling the puck on his stick all season long. C’mon Ghost, pull it together man.
Two big questions
1. How will the Flyers respond early?
The first 10 minutes will be interesting to see how the Flyers respond following the brutal performance in Ottawa 24 hours ago. The Islanders are a good hockey club and really limit the space a lot like the Caps and Sens have done to the Flyers in their last two games, so it could be another long night if the Flyers don’t bring their skating legs and ready to win puck battles.
2. Can they breakthrough the stingy Islanders defense?
Ottawa’s defense isn’t exactly a shutdown unit, and the Flyers had issues breaking them down all night. So how will they deal with an Islanders defense that is a true strength? It wasn’t pretty a night ago, so the only direction to go is up from here.