It feels like just last week that we saw the Toronto Maple Leafs... wait... what’s this now... I’m being told that it was indeed last week that we saw the Leafs. In case you forgot, it was a fast, back and forth game—as these meetings always seem to be—that ultimately ended in the Flyers losing in a shootout. But they’re up in Toronto tonight, and they’re looking to steal a win on the road.
The Flyers are on a two-game winning streak, and it’s helped them climb into fifth place in the division, just a point behind the third and fourth place Penguins and Hurricanes. They’ve been picking up some steam and are working well to string together wins and pull themselves up in the standings.
And, well, it’s kind of the same story for the Leafs. They won their two games during the week (also in regulation on Tuesday and in overtime on Thursday, coincidentally), and are hanging out at second in the Atlantic, at present. They’s also a better team on paper than the one we saw last weekend, and both John Tavares and Jake Muzzin made their returns to the lineup this week. The Leafs are a talented team that gave the Flyers some trouble, and they just got a bit more dangerous, still.
Three players to watch
1. Sean Couturier
Perhaps one of our absolute coldest takes would be that Couturier is playing some very good hockey, of late, even while he’s presumably working through something of a nagging injury. He’s scored goals in each of his last two games, and his line with Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny continues to look sharp. Likely to be matched against either Auston Matthews’s or John Tavares’s line tonight, he’ll have his work cut out for him on the defensive side, but given how he’s playing, we feel pretty good about how things will go, regardless of the matchup. And if he picks up a goal in a third consecutive game? Well, that would just be an added bonus.
2. Andy Andreoff
We’ve got another new face, folks! The Flyers announced yesterday that they’d sent Mikhail Vorobyev back down to the Phantoms and recalled Andreoff. He’s been off to a very good start to the season with Lehigh Valley, and they’re hoping that he might end up being the answer to their fourth line struggles. But top minutes and power play time in the AHL is a very different role than what will be asked of him with the Flyers, and as we’ve seen, it’s not an easy thing to adjust to. Will he be able to do it? We’ll see!
3. Brian Elliott
He’s had the week off as Carter Hart got the start in Tuesday and Thursday’s games, which means it’s Brian Elliott time everybody! He was playing well, for the most part, during the stretch where Hart was working through whatever he needed to work through, even while getting more starts and work than many of us expected he would prior to the start of the season. He shouldn’t have to knock off too much rust tonight, but he will have some serious shooting talent to defend against. Toronto has been taking more point shots this season than we’re used to seeing from them, but they still have a lot of talented players that don’t figure to take it easy on Elliott, just as they didn’t last weekend. So he’ll have his work cut out for him.
Two big questions
1. Will the power play bounce back?
The Flyers got a lot of chances in the power play on Thursday against Montreal—six in total—but they were held off the board on each of those attempts. We’ve seen the power play look sharp, with crisp passing and a number of high danger chances generated. But they looked out of sorts and struggled with their entries and to complete too many passes in succession. It was messy, and they’re going to need to work to get themselves back on track.
Toronto’s penalty kill has been struggling a bit of late, and the Flyers may get some help from that, but they’ll need to keep to their own details and tighten up.
2. Can the Flyers keep pace?
The Flyers, we’ve seen so far this season, are a team that can play fast and keep up with fast teams when they want to, but they also haven’t been the most consistent in this area. Tonight is going to be a test of if they can be on from the get-go, and if they can hang with one of the faster teams in the league. Because we also know how badly things can go against a team like this when you let off the gas for too long. They’ll need to come out with some jump and make sure that their passes are clean and connecting, and avoid too many mistakes that will have them chasing in the other direction.
Puck drops at 7:00 tonight, and you can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below.
Van Riemsdyk — Giroux — Farabee
Lindblom — Couturier — Konecny
Twarynski — Hayes — Voracek
Andreoff — Raffl — Pitlick
Provorov — Niskanen
Gostisbehere — Braun
Sanheim — Myers