Yes folks, it finally happened, Wayne Simmonds is no longer a Philadelphia Flyer. This will be the first game the Flyers play without Simmonds, and it comes against a team they are battling with for a playoff spot. Buffalo sits one point ahead of Philadelphia, and six points out of the final wild card spot in the East, compared to the Flyers at seven points back. A win tonight would be relatively big for the orange and black, given Buffalo is one of their main competitors in this stretch drive. It may be a seemingly impossible stretch drive, but one nonetheless.
The Flyers are 1-1-0 vs. the Sabres this season, with their loss coming in an embarrassing 5-2 fashion in the midst of a four game losing streak. Their win however was an impressive one, a 6-2 domination of Buffalo in response to their first outing. In the rubber match, much more is at stake. Their first two meetings came in late November and early December, but now we are in late February with both teams still clinging to playoff hopes.
In a puzzling decision, Brian Elliott will yet again start tonight for the Flyers. Granted, he performed generally well in the Stadium Series game, and got the win. However, what in the world is the point of playing him at this rate? Cam Talbot has been here for a few days now, and it’s interesting that he’s not getting the start tonight. He’s projected to make his Flyers debut in their upcoming back-to-back against Columbus and New Jersey, but needless to say I think we all just want to see what we have in Talbot sooner rather than later.
A new toy that will be on display in this game however, will certainly be Ryan Hartman. Hartman was acquired in the Simmonds deal, and will make his Flyers debut tonight. In 64 games this season, the 24 year old winger has 20 points with 10 goals and assists. He’ll most likely slot in on the third or fourth lines, and will hopefully help bolster the depth of this team.
1. Will Phil Myers play?
Radko Gudas returns from his suspension tonight, and there is much debate as to whether Phil Myers should stay in the lineup. In his two games, Myers performed well in both, and especially in the game vs. Montreal. He and Gostisbehere were really the two lone positives from that game, and he’s looked fully capable of handling the pressure at the NHL level. I am of the belief Myers should stay in the lineup, as I’m sure the most of you are, but it will come down to Scott Gordon and if he wants to pull Andrew MacDonald out of the lineup.
Speaking of young defenseman who could/should be playing tonight, big Sammy has returned, and no we’re not talking about Carchidi. Samuel Morin was recalled yesterday after a brief conditioning stint with the Phantoms, and although there seem to be no signs pointing to him making his season debut tonight, he should receive game action shortly. At this stage, he needs to get games at the NHL level so we can finally have at least somewhat of an understanding of what we have in him. I want Sam Morin to be good so badly, because of how long we’ve waited, and we’re never going to know unless he plays. It’s tough given the Flyers are still somewhat in a playoff push, but he needs to play.
2. How will Hartman look, which line should he play on?
Going to get the latter portion out of the way first, Jake brought up in the BSH chat yesterday that a JVR — Laughton — Hartman line would be fun, and I am here for this. The decision to put James van Riemsdyk on the fourth line is one I understood, but I completely disagree with. Putting him with a Laughton and Hartman I believe could make for a nice mix of speed, skill, and energy on the third line. All of Hartman’s points this season have come at 5-on-5, which bodes well for a third liner.
We don’t need him to come in and be an offensive dynamo and score at a second line player pace, we just need him to either continue his level of production at 5-on-5, or possibly improve on it.
3. Can they slow down Buffalo’s high end skill?
Buffalo is lead by a trio of high power offensive talents. Those include captain Jack Eichel, center Sam Reinhart, and winger Jeff Skinner. Eichel’s 68 points leads the Sabres, followed closely behind by Reinhart and Skinner. Most dangerous to the Flyers could be the likes of Skinner, given his incredible goal scoring pace this season. His 36 goals are tied for fourth in the NHL with Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point, and behind only Alexander Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, and Leon Draisaitl.
Despite those three highly talented offensive players, the Sabres sit just 22nd in the NHL in goals-for. If the Flyers can contain the likes of Eichel, Skinner, and Reinhart, they should be well on their way to a victory tonight, making it two in a row.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Patrick — Konecny
Lindblom — Couturier — Voracek
JVR — Laughton — Hartman
Raffl — Varone — Knight
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Myers
Hagg — Gudas