Friday was the first of 16 games the Flyers will play in the month, and the front end of what will be the first of four back-to-back nights for the team. Given the madness of the month, the Flyers are wise to pickup as many points as they can, which makes Joel Farabee’s late goal last night and the subsequent shootout win so important. It’s also important to take points from bad teams (the Devils are bad), while meatier opponents like Carolina, Toronto, Boston, and Washington await this month.
Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they’re about to get some reinforcements back as they haven’t enjoyed a fast start. Toronto is 6-5-3 (15 points) through 14 games, but has been let down by a poor penalty kill early on (23rd in NHL at 77%) and inconsistency on both offense and defense. Getting captain John Tavares back should help, though, and the center appears close to returning in this very game. Even if Mike Babcock doesn’t get Tavares back, he’ll get the star back sooner rather than later to add to a deep staple of weapons up front.
That deep forward group including the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, and William Nylander among others will be a challenge for a Flyers defense that struggled to contain Taylor Hall a night ago. Iron sharpens iron, and the Flyers have some guys on defense that badly need to get things together fast, and a stiff test could help force them to turn things around in their own zone.
Toronto is also well rested having last playing on November 29th in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Capitals but they’ve won just once in their last five games. The Flyers ended an ugly two-game losing skid with the shootout win over the Devils.
Three players to watch for
The all-everything pivot for the Flyers admitted after the Devils game that he’s playing through something and not 100%. That’s a massive problem for the Flyers for a multitude of reasons. Not only is Coots the Flyers’ best player —and its not close— he’s also driving the most productive line on the team along with Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny.
Couturier wasn’t taking many faceoffs in the Devils game, so perhaps it’s some sort of arm/wrist/hand injury, but the Flyers don’t have much (good) depth at center already, and can’t afford to be missing their train conductor for any length of time.
So Carter Hart got back in the win column, but wasn’t stellar in the Devils game aside from a couple big saves late and in the shootout. Perhaps stoning Hall in the shootout will propel the goaltender into a wave of confidence, but he’ll have to wait to get back in the goal as Elliott gets the second half of this back-to-back.
Elliott wasn’t great last time out against the Penguins, and he’ll face an even better offensive roster tonight. The Flyers are due to give up their fare share of scoring chances in this one and Elliott will need to channel what he did back in the Vegas game if the they’re going to skate away with points against the Leafs.
This guy is hot in more ways than one gang, and I am excited about it. The Swede leads the Flyers in goals with seven and has goals in three of his last five. With Couturier banged up, Lindblom will have to do even more dirty work on that line, and that’s just where the man excels.
Two big questions
Can the Flyers slow down the potent Leafs offense?
It’s no surprise that the Leafs have a top-10 scoring offense at 3.5 goals per game thus far, but that might even be considered at the low end of their true potential. Nobody is firing on all cylinders just yet, with Matthews leading the charge with 11 goals in 14 games. They’ve missed Tavares on the power play and at even strength the last six games, but still could breakout for six or seven goals with ease.
Playing the second end of a back-to-back, the Flyers have to be careful not to get run out of the building early on and a lot of that will depend on how they deal with the Leafs’ forwards to start.
For the love of God figure out the power play.
Okay so not a question but a plea. The Flyers’ power play is 0-for-10 in their last three games and each attempt has seemingly looked worse than the last. Entries have been terrible, possession has been spotty, and the second power play unit has looked miles ahead of a veteran-laden first unit.
Toronto will take their fare share of penalties, so it’s a good chance for the Flyers to take advantage of their extra man opportunities against a team that can fill up the net at the other end.