After months of anticipation, jersey reveals, mask reveals, and a new helmet reveal, the Flyers Stadium Series game is finally here. Sure, the points awarded for a win are still the same, and it’s basically just another game in the NHL season, but it’s outdoors. Besides, the Flyers are still looking for their first outdoor game victory, and there would be no better way to do it than to beat up on their in-state rivals in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Bad blood is plentiful between these two teams regardless, but possibly even more so tonight. After their last meeting which featured a botched call, a vicious swing by Evgeni Malkin, and a blowout loss, the Flyers will be looking for revenge. Not only is revenge on the table, but a huge opportunity to remain in semi serious playoff contention. Sitting eight points out of a playoff spot after the 5-1 loss to Montreal on Thursday night, the orange and black can pull to within six with a Flyers victory along with a Carolina loss in Dallas.
This will be the fourth outdoor game the Flyers have participated in, and their second against the Penguins. It began with an overtime loss in the 2010 Winter Classic vs. Boston, followed by a 3-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park in 2012 to their division rivals in the Rangers, then a 4-2 loss at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh just two seasons ago. Fourth time’s a charm? Hopefully so.
There are clear weather concerns for tonight’s game, with rain in the forecast for tomorrow night. It will be interesting to see how the weather plays a factor in the ice conditions for tomorrow, should the game stay at its planned start time.
1. Elliott gets the start
So, this is a bummer. We all wanted to see Carter Hart in net for this kind of game. A game in front of 67,000 fans on national TV, all the spotlight on our new stud goaltender. However, this is for the best given Hart’s recent struggles and his lower body injury that will keep him sidelined for at least 10 days. Also, a strong performance from Elliott tonight could very well help his trade value as we inch closer and closer to the wild and crazy times of the trade deadline.
This could very well be Elliott’s final start in a Flyers jersey, (I know I said this in the observations for the Montreal game, but maybe this time it’ll actually be true, okay?) and it would be nice for him to go out on a high note. He’s been a solid goaltender for this team when healthy, and it’s not his fault he was run into the ground last season by a head coach who had no idea how to manage NHL goalies. Kick butt, Brian.
2. Let’s not be so predictable this time, shall we?
After the most recent Flyers vs. Penguins meeting, Pens defenseman Kris Letang echoed what basically every team in the league should know about the Flyers, and that is they can tend to take too many perimeter shots. The exact quote, from a Josh Yohe article in The Athletic, read “One thing we scouted on them, as soon as they get the puck on the wall, they’ll just shoot it.” So, Letang stated the obvious, maybe it’s time to do something about it?
The Flyers shot quality was generally good vs. Montreal despite the final result. If they can produce the quantity of shot attempts they had in their last game vs. Pittsburgh, and get the quality they had vs. Montreal, the team’s first outdoor victory could come very shortly. Of course, it sounds easy on paper, but much more difficult in actual execution. The Penguins will probably be expecting the Flyers to change up their attack at least a little bit after those comments, and the key will be to not try and do too much and force passes offensively.
3. New look lines
Well, kinda had to see this one coming. After a loss like that, Scott Gordon was bound to change up the lines at least a little bit heading into tonight’s game, and he did just that. Some of the most notable changes include: Nolan Patrick between Travis Konecny and Claude Giroux on line one, and James van Riemsdyk slotted to the fourth line. The former is obviously much more intriguing and exciting than the latter, but let’s dive into this a little deeper.
In brief stints together, Patrick and Konecny have posted some solid results, but not enough to consistently remain together. We know how much chemistry the two have off the ice, but this will be a prime opportunity to showcase what they have on the ice. As for Giroux, it will hopefully help the captain out of his recent funk, having not registered a point in a game since his two point outing vs. Minnesota. Giroux will get a much easier workload on the left wing, which could mean improved results. The second line of Oskar Lindblom with Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek stay the same, then the third line features Michael Raffl with Scott Laughton in the middle and Wayne Simmonds on the right.
This has the makings of a physical yet sneakily skilled third line, but we’ll see how they look come game time. The fourth line is next with JVR on the left, Phil Varone in the middle and Justin Bailey on the right. Bailey and JVR could be fun together, as the newcomer has shown some nice talents since joining the team. That double screen action that JVR and Simmonds can produce on the power play might work with Reemer and Bailey at 5-on-5. As for the defense pairs, I’d imagine they stay the same, especially the Shayne Gostisbehere and Philippe Myers duo who were very impressive against Montreal.
Flyers Projected Lines
Giroux — Patrick — Konecny
Lindblom — Couturier — Voracek
Raffl — Laughton — Simmonds
JVR — Varone — Bailey
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Myers
Hagg — MacDonald