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Flyers vs. Kings Preview: All aboard cloud nine

Can this team seriously do it again?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Never thought I’d be saying this, especially after how this season was going, but the Philadelphia Flyers are going for their ninth straight win tonight. They look to do this against the Los Angeles Kings who, oh boy have they fallen from grace. The Kings are the third worst team in the entire NHL and I’m still having a little trouble believing it to be quite honest!

The Kings were a dynasty in this league not that long ago, and have fallen off a cliff this season. I certainly understand why the Kings are now not a good team, but it’s one of those things that you’re just used to and when it’s not like that anymore, it’s a little weird. Speaking of weird, the Flyers have won eight straight games in a season where they fired their head coach and general manager.

The roll this team has been on of late has been incredible, and for an explanation look no further than Carter Hart. He’s been one of the best goalies in the league since his call-up, and especially of late. Last week he was the NHL’s second star, and this week he very well may be their first star. Hart is coming off of arguably his best start of his short career with a spectacular performance vs. Vancouver, including his otherworldly save on Nikolay Goldobin.

In their first and only meeting so far this season, the Flyers beat the Kings 5-2 with goals coming from five different Flyers. The Kings have slightly improved since then, with new head coach Willie Desjardins leading them to a 18-19-3 record under his reign. They’ve won two in a row over two Metro division teams in the Rangers and the Devils, and will look to win three out of their four straight games vs. Metro teams.

All stats courtesy of hockeyviz, Natural Stat Trick, and hockey-reference

1. The Kings don’t score a whole lot, let’s keep it that way

The Los Angeles Kings are one of the worst offensive teams in the entire league, with the second fewest goals at 125. The Flyers for reference, are 18th in the NHL with 153 goals for. Not only do the Kings not score a whole lot, they don’t generate a ton of positive outcomes. According to their hockeyviz model at 5-on-5, the Kings are a minus 11 percent threat level, and according to Natural Stat Trick, are the ninth worst team in Corsi-for percentage.

What I’m trying to say is, the Kings are pretty freakin’ awful offensively. The Flyers have been giving up a lot of chances as of late, and losing the Corsi battle more often than not, but what they are doing is limiting quality. According to hockeyviz, they’re a minus nine percent threat level defensively, which should mean they’ll be able to dominate the Kings defensively. The main task for the Flyers defensively tonight, will be containing the few stars they still have from their cup runs in the mid 2010’s. Anze Kopitar is still one of the better players in the league, Jeff Carter still has that wicked wrister, and Drew Doughty is well ... Drew Doughty.

2. Take advantage of their depleted defense

As many of you I’m sure know by now, the Kings traded Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs, making their already shaky defense even worse in the short term. Outside of Doughty, the Kings defense consists of Alec Martinez, Derek Forbort, Dion Phaneuf, Sean Walker, Paul Ladue, and Oscar Fantenberg. I’m not even sure the last two are real people to be honest, just like Danton Heinen (not real).

The Flyers offense has been on a tear lately, and this should be a team that they continue the trend against. The Kings defense is absolutely a lot better than their offense from a statistics vantage point, but not enough that the Flyers should really have trouble scoring against them. What has also hurt them is their goaltending, specifically Jonathan Quick.

Jack Campbell has been stellar in a backup role posting a .933 save percentage. Campbell started their last game vs. New Jersey, so it should be interesting to see if he gets the start again, or if L.A goes back to Quick. For the Flyers, it appears Anthony Stolarz will receive his second start since returning from injury, after his first resulted in a shutout of the Rangers.

3. Dominate this game, it’s been awhile

The Flyers win streak of course has been unbelievable to watch, and they’ve done it with fantastic efforts. It would be nice however, for them to utterly dominate this team tonight. They’ve gotten beat in the Corsi department a lot of times in this win streak, and while that gets lost in winning as it typically does, it would be nice to see the Flyers put together a complete performance. The Kings are not a good hockey team, and with the way the Flyers are playing right now they should come out of the gates strong, and keep it going all night long.

I still believe that although they’ve lost the overall shot attempts battle more often than not in their win streak, they haven’t been as lucky as the numbers suggest. They’re keeping teams to the outside fairly well for the most part, and that, along with getting some saves, are why they’re winning games. It would just be nice to see a full 60 minute effort result in strong metrics, and an easy win.

Flyers Projected Lineup

Forwards

JVR — Giroux — Konecny

Lindblom — Couturier — Voracek

Laughton — Patrick — Simmonds

Varone — Vorobyev — Raffl

Defense

Provorov — Sanheim

Gostisbehere — MacDonald

Hagg — Gudas

Goalie

Stolarz

(Hart)

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