Finally, for the first time since he was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Philadelphia Flyers for Anthony Stolarz, Cam Talbot will make his debut in orange and black. He’ll do so against the divisional rival New Jersey Devils, as the Flyers attempt to win the second half of their Metro Division back-to-back. New Jersey is coming in having lost their last game this past Wednesday to the Calgary Flames.
This Devils season has certainly been a case of coming back down to earth. Last season, they were the surprise team out of the Eastern Conference, making the playoffs albeit losing in the first round to the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did so behind a MVP season from Taylor Hall, and good enough goaltending. This season however, Hall has been injured, and their depth and goaltending haven’t bailed them out. Keith Kinkaid struggled before being dealt to the Blue Jackets, posting just a .891 save percentage in 41 games. Cory Schneider is going through another injury-plagued season, and when he’s been healthy, he’s underperformed. They’ve found some solace in young MacKenzie Blackwood, but not enough to lift them up the standings.
Meanwhile, the Flyers will be looking to close the gap on the Carolina Hurricanes for the last wild card spot in the East. The Canes play tonight vs. the red hot St. Louis Blues, and Pittsburgh, with the same number of points as the Canes, play the Buffalo Sabres. This is without a doubt a “should-win” kind of game for the Flyers, so losing tonight combined with a win from Pittsburgh, Carolina, or both, could prove devastating for their playoff chances. They can only control one of these outcomes, and that is their game vs. New Jersey. So please just take care of business here, boys.
1. The debut of Cam
Cam Talbot has had a miserable season to this point with the Edmonton Oilers. He was playing for a team that is one of the most dysfunctional organizations in sports, and his numbers suffered as a result. Sure, the Flyers aren’t exactly world beaters, but going from Edmonton to Philly is absolutely an upgrade for Talbot. His numbers before being dealt were ... well ... not good. He posted a .893 save percentage in 31 games with the Oilers, and had a GSAA of minus-13.96.
If Talbot is able to perform down the stretch, starting with tonight, he most likely can earn a spot on the Flyers roster next season in a backup role to Carter Hart. With a rejuvenated Talbot, and Carter Hart being the best boy that he is, the Flyers have probably the best goalie combination since Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky in 2011-12.
2. Increase the quality, keep the quantity
The biggest issue last night for the Flyers was their shot quality from an offensive standpoint. Against New Jersey, a team that has allowed the fifth most goals in the entire league, the Flyers need to take advantage and get to the high danger areas. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Devils actually are a solid team in keeping teams to the outside, with the fourth fewest high danger chances allowed, and the 10th fewest scoring chances allowed.
If the Flyers stay to the outside tonight, and fall into a similar trap they did vs. Columbus, they rely on another below-average goaltending performance from the Devils. While this could very well happen given the trend of their season, it would not be the most ideal strategy for the Flyers to employ as they look to get back in the win column. Taking advantage of the mediocre Devils defense core will be key for picking up the win tonight.
3. Can the top six rebound?
The top two lines for the Flyers simply didn’t have it last night. The second line more so than the first, but when that second line isn’t clicking it really hurts the Flyers and what they can do with their lines. It puts more and more pressure on the top line and although we know Claude Giroux will be up to the task, Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny are still two very young players. If the line of Oskar Lindblom, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek can rebound tonight and play how they have been over the past few games, this should be a much better performance from the Flyers forward core.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Patrick — Konecny
Lindblom — Couturier — Voracek
JVR — Laughton — Hartman
Raffl — Knight — Varone
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Myers
Hagg — Gudas
All data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick