Though their recent five-game winning streak is over, the Flyers are in prime position to start another streak right back up.
The Flyers welcome the Senators to the Wells Fargo Center to cap a three-game home stand this week. They’ll look to avenge a 2-1 loss back on November 15th to the Senators, one of their more puzzling performances in what ended up being a strong month overall.
It took a stellar night in net from Anders Nilsson to disrupt the Flyers that night, and they watch Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper turn in an even better performance to end the Flyers modest winning streak two nights ago.
Another reason the Flyers saw their streak end was a lopsided defeat in the special teams battle with the Coyotes. The Flyers went 0-for-3 on the power play and watched Arizona breakthrough their top-five penalty kill with two goals on four chances. No matter what you do at even strength, anytime you lose the special teams battle that decisively you’re probably going to lose a hockey game.
What could get them back on track in a hurry is a generally bad Senators club. They don’t score a lot (26th in the league in scoring), allow a ton of goals (12th most), and have a power play operating less than 10% thus far. Their penalty kill is 14th overall, which might not help a Flyers man-advantage that has fallen down to 17th with another drought spanning their last three games.
Though goaltending was far from an issue in the loss to the Coyotes, perhaps the return of Carter Hart to the cage will give the Flyers a boost after they couldn’t deliver in front of Brian Elliott the other night. Hart hasn’t lost in any of his last three starts, posting an immaculate .952 save percentage in that span.
If they’re to start another streak, they’ll do so without Michael Raffl, who has suffered a broken finger and will be out several weeks. The do-it-all forward’s absence caused the Flyers to roll with 11 forwards and seven defenseman against the Coyotes, producing a forward group that might have run out of steam. Look for the Flyers to roll with a more conventional lineup against Ottawa with one of Robert Hagg, Philippe Myers, or Shayne Gostisbehere sitting out.
Three players to watch
Red hot of late, the Flyers turn to Hart to start another winning streak against one of the NHL’s worst clubs. While Elliott was great against the Coyotes, Hart was the difference against the Maple Leafs two games ago and no doubt stole two points in that game with massive first and second periods.
Though the Sens aren’t on the same level as the Leafs, Hart will need to be good as the Flyers have struggled early in games this season and will be dealing with a 1pm puck drop from the Wells Fargo Center.
Arizona held Hayes off the scoresheet for the first time in four games, but the puck possession monster has points in seven of his last nine games after a 10-game pointless skid before that. The man runs hot and cold in the scoring department, but we’ll ride the wave here for a bit and we’ll jump off the second he doesn’t produce in back-to-back games, which hasn’t happened in nearly a month.
James van Riemsdyk
JVR has really struggled this season with just six goals and six helpers in 29 games thus far. The problem is that it’s not like he hasn’t had scoring chances, and has been getting to the paint and making himself available for teammates. The results just haven’t been there, but he does have a couple goals in his last five and could benefit from a re-worked power play setup that the Flyers have been calling for.
If the Flyers can finally get JVR rolling they’ll have more than enough offense night-in and night-out, and that’d go a long way in helping out that slumping power play as well.
Two big questions
Will a new (old) power play setup spark things?
The Flyers’ power play setup seems to be a weekly pressure point: from Claude Giroux being on the wrong side of the ice to the man at the point changing game to game, there’s almost always been something.
A recent practice change has the units looking more like they’ve looked when the Flyers have had success in the past, and that’s exciting. Something’s got to give, though, because there is too much talent on this team to struggle to a below average power play.
How will they rebound from the loss and an early puck drop?
The Flyers have never seemed to fare well during early start times, spawning during those infamous “Dry Island” days. Not only are the Flyers coming off a frustrating loss to the Coyotes, they’ll be starting at 1pm and against a team that gets overlooked a ton due to their semi-tanking strategy.
Ottawa isn’t a good hockey team, but they do play hard under first-year coach DJ Smith, and the Flyers don’t want to be caught trying to sleepwalk through this one or they’ll look back at another loss opportunity in the standings.
Flyers’ projected lineup
Giroux — Frost — Konecny
Lindblom — Couturier — Voracek
Laughton — Hayes — Farabee
JVR — Vorobyev— Pitlick
Provorov — Niskanen
Sanheim — Braun
Gostisbehere — Myers/Hagg
The Ottawa Senators have been actively bad since the Flyers last played them back in mid-November, but that game ended 2-1 in favor of the Senators, so how do the Flyers end up with a different result? Nate from Silver Seven Sens joins us to fill us in on how the Sens have been playing heading into tonight’s game.