After a commanding win vs. Toronto, the Flyers stay at home to play the Arizona Coyotes, who are off to a great start. Arizona has been one of the bigger surprises this season, largely in part to their outstanding goaltending. Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta have been stellar for the Coyotes so far, having .936 and .924 save percentages respectively. Their play has the team at third best in the NHL in goals allowed with 69 (nice).
Where Arizona struggles, on the other hand, is in scoring goals. They’re the 20th ranked team in goals-for, and are still looking for Phil Kessel to catch fire. Until he does, Nick Schmaltz has been carrying the load so far, with just 20 points in 29 games. Although they’ve kept the puck out of the net effectively this season, it doesn’t mean they’re excelling in shot prevention.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Arizona has allowed the most shot attempts in the entire league, ahead of teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Ottawa Senators. Despite that fact, the job they’ve done at mitigating the quality of said chances has been solid. They sit 17th in the league in expected goals allowed but also 20th in expected goals-for.
Players to watch
Kevin Hayes — Hayes has been spectacular of late, with seven points in his last eight games including four goals. He made a great play vs. Toronto to set up Scott Laughton for a goal, and has been as good as ever on the penalty kill.
Phil Myers — Myers was great vs. Toronto, including that alley-oop pass to James van Riemsdyk for the sixth and final goal. He’ll be back in the lineup along with all seven defensemen on the Flyers roster, as Mikhail Vorobyev will sit out for tonight’s game. Myers will probably split time with Shayne Gostisbehere, and Robert Hagg will receive the other half most likely.
Two big questions
1. Will the offense sputter with just 11 forwards?
It’s an interesting decision to use the 11 forwards, seven defensemen lineup against a team in Arizona that struggles to score goals, but not surprising. AV hasn’t been afraid to use this lineup since he got here, but it typically isn’t an extended deal. Vorobyev will most likely be in vs. Ottawa on Saturday, but it will be curious how the decision pans out tonight.
2. Can Elliott stay sharp?
Brian Elliott was phenomenal vs. Montreal outside of the first goal, and has been a great backup for Carter Hart. He’ll get the start tonight against a struggling to score Arizona team, so hopefully he can put together another strong performance.
Flyers projected lineup
Giroux — Frost — Konecny
Lindblom — Couturier — Voracek
Laughton — Hayes — Farabee
JVR — (whoever double shifts) — Pitlick
Provorov — Niskanen
Sanheim — Braun
Gostisbehere — Myers/Hagg
It’s the first game this season against the Arizona Coyotes, who have quietly become one of the best teams in the Western Conference. So what’s driving this success? Carl Pavlock of Five For Howling gives us some insight into the ‘Yotes and what’s making them go this season.