The Flyers have been picking up the pieces this week after a tumultuous road trip — play-wise and news-wise — just seven days ago.
Oskar Lindblom’s Ewing’s Sarcoma diagnosis was as deflating as news comes, and came in the middle of a span in which the Flyers had nearly more AHL call ups active than everyday NHL roster players. The results of the news and injury report led to a three-game skid on the road with the Flyers just begging to get back home and to the Wells Fargo Center.
The home cooking did the trick as the Flyers put a world of hurt on the Ducks and Sabres to the tune of outscoring them a combined 10-2 to secure four points ahead of road trip to Ottawa to face the Senators. While the Flyers got back on track at home, they won’t be short of energy on the road as they look to avenge Mark Borowiecki’s late hit on Travis Konecny from the two teams’ last meeting in Philadelphia two weeks ago.
Borowiecki’s open-ice hit sent Konecny to the injury list with a concussion and led to absolutely zero supplemental discipline from NHL’s Department of Player Safety, though Joel Farabee received three games for a similar hit.
Nevertheless, the Flyers will look to exact their revenge on the scoreboard this time around, though Chris Stewart figures to draw in the lineup in order to take the Sens’ defender to task at some point.
As for the rest of things, the Senators are bad and the Flyers should take full advantage of a chance to secure two more points in a crowded Metropolitan Division and larger Eastern Conference playoff picture. Let’s get into how they can do just that.
Three players to watch for
James van Riemsdyk
Don’t look now but JVR has goals in three of his past five, and appears to be heating up so much so that the Sabres were putting the puck in their own net when he was around the other night. Even with a fully healthy roster the Flyers were counting on JVR to produce at the clip he was a year ago when he was on 30+ goal pace over a full season.
One of the streakier scorers we’ve ever seen, the net is starting to look bigger and bigger for JVR of late, and that’s a really good thing for the Flyers —and perfect timing.
The captain hasn’t been silent of late, but he has been quieter on the scoresheet in his last 20 games, notching 12 points in that span. His totals coincide with the Flyers’ power play struggles in that span, but things could be looking up as they buried three goals on five chances with a man up against the Sabres. They’ve connected on four of their last eight power play chances overall, and it’s only a matter of time before Giroux starts heating up right along with it.
Playing so very close to his hometown of Hearst, Ontario, expect another big homecoming game from the Claudefather.
The former top prospect might finally be turning a corner for the hapless Sens as he’s got 20 goals in 36 games this season. A John Tortorella favorite, Duclair burned the Flyers twice last time out and has been giving opposing teams fits with his end-to-end speed of late. The Flyers’ defense needs to keep their eyes peeled at all times when No. 10 is on the ice.
Two big questions
Can the power play keep the momentum going against a solid Senators penalty kill?
Ottawa isn’t a good hockey club, but they compete hard under first-year coach DJ Smith and that work ethic shows on the penalty kill, where they boast the NHL’s 12th-best unit operating at 82%. While 12th might not seem historic, the Sens’ power play is historically bad at 11.4% as of this writing.
Can the Flyers have their cake and eat it too?
In terms of dealing with Borowiecki, the Flyers would probably love to exact some sort of personal revenge in the form of fisticuffs as well as on the scoreboard. The key is to find the balance where you can do both without having the personal part effect the team function too much. The Flyers likely want both, but don’t want to put themselves in a bad position in terms of securing two points. They also don’t want TK fighting his own fight on this one, either.
My guess; send Stewart out there and let Borowiecki know that it’s going down early and that’ll be the end of it.
Flyers’ projected lineup
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
JVR - Hayes - NAK
Andreoff - Frost - Voracek
Stewart - Vorobyev - Pitlick
Provorov - Niskanen
Sanheim - Braun
Hagg - Ghost