While the east coast rings in the New Year with whatever crappy countdown show you please, the Flyers will be in the middle of a battle with the Kings as they essentially close out their 2019 calendar year while begging their 2020 year against the once-proud Kings.
Puck drop is set for 9pm from the Staples Center, with the final horn very likely taking place sometime after the ball drops a couple time zones over in Philadelphia. That’s weird, sure, but for a team that played in four different time zones in their first four games? Maybe not so much.
Good news is that the Kings are far less formidable this season than they’ve been previously this decade. The two-time Stanley Cup champions in the 2010’s have fallen on hard times thanks to an aging roster and a barren wasteland of draft capital to the NHL’s third-worst team in 2019-20 thus far. Though their prospect cupboard is filling up once again, the Kings still have an old team under first-year coach Todd McLellan, and frankly one that’s not very good —or deep.
They don’t score a ton (fifth-worst in terms of goals scored), and haven’t gotten very good goaltending from the over-the-hill Jonathan Quick. The former All-Star has struggled, and the Kings carry just an .893 save percentage as a team. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are still stars, but there isn’t much else for the Kings, and potentially even less as Tyler Toffoli’s name has been rampant in the trade mill.
The Flyers were reeling a bit in a 6-1 loss to start their season-long six-game road trip on Saturday night, but bounced back with a 2-1 win over the Ducks in overtime thanks to Kevin Hayes. That was a huge goal for the Flyers as they look to survive potentially their most grueling road trip of the season.
With three playoff contenders on the horizon —Vegas, Arizona, Carolina— the Flyers would be well-served to grab two points from a bad Kings teams in this one. Here’s a couple key players in the Hollywood spotlight as they look to put another back in the win column.
Players to watch for
The Flyers’ pesky winger leads the team in points and was named to his very first NHL All-Star team on Monday afternoon. TK’s personality is a perfect fit for the weekend and no doubt he’ll be chipping up the stars around the league. With established veterans like Alex Ovechkin skipping the festivities, it’s up to young up-and-coming stars like TK to generate fan interest.
As for the Kings, look for TK to have a jump in his game after getting the nod, thus his inclusion here. He also hasn’t scored in six games so he’s due.
Hayes had the game-winner against the Ducks and has six points in his last five games, including four goals. He’s been every bit the quality center behind Sean Couturier that the Flyers hoped for and he feasts on teams that don’t have the depth down the middle as their shutdown guy gets Couturier and Hayes goes to work.
The Kings have literally no depth behind Kopitar, who isn’t even the same player he once was defensively. Hayes is easy money on New Year’s Eve.
The Kings posses the NHL’s second-worst penalty kill, and the Flyers badly need to keep their power play on track. They came up empty against the Ducks after finding the back of the net in their previous four games. Look for the captain to get the ball rolling if the Flyers are indeed headed to the power play against the Kings.
Robyn Pennington of Jewels From The Crown joined us for a special pregame crossover episode in which we talk about this game from both sides: why the Kings are so bad despite good underlying numbers, what the identity of this Flyers team is, and which players on each team opposing fans might want to watch out for.