After a dominating win over the New York Islanders on Saturday, the Philadelphia Flyers return to the Wells Fargo Center to take on the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The Ottawa Senators have had quite a bumpy ride this season, and it reflects in their standing in the East. Despite this, they do have some young talent that could give the Flyers fits if they don’t take this team seriously. Thomas Chabot has been of the biggest surprises in the NHL and Brady Tkachuk has had an impressive rookie campaign after being drafted last June.
The losses of Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and many others have put the Sens in full rebuild mode as many expected. Coming into tonight’s game, they have lost 10 out of their last 11 games including a seven game losing streak prior to their win over the Panthers on the third. The Flyers meanwhile, are trending in the opposite direction.
Over the past few weeks, the trend with this team has been win two in a row, lose one, win two in a row. If that trend continues, this should be a win tonight for the orange and black, and then a loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday which sounds about right if we’re being honest. But, knowing this team, they’ll lose tonight then beat Washington, because nothing this team does actually makes sense.
1. Watch Chabot
Ottawa is a very bad hockey team in many facets of the game. But they have seemingly found a solid replacement for Erik Karlsson in Thomas Chabot. The 22 year old blueliner has been spectacular for the Sens this season with 48 points in 61 games. He has cooled down considerably from his point per game pace through the first 38 matchups, but he still appears to be a much needed bright spot for this team.
His speed is the main thing the Flyers will need to watch for. He’s an aggressive offensively minded blueliner and with his speed, he can close gaps in a hurry and help create controlled zone entries. If the Flyers control Chabot, it takes away the only true threat on the Senators back end.
2. Don’t let Tkachuk get under your skin
Brady Tkachuk has been a solid player for the Sens, well on his way to a 20 goal, 20 assist campaign with having already reached the latter, and four goals away from a 20 goal season. Out of the 19 year old’s 36 points this season, 28 of them have come from 5-on-5 play including all but two of his goals. Not only is the rookie producing at 5-on-5, he’s driving play as well. Granted, he’s not too far over the break even point at 50 percent, but his 50.50 Corsi for percentage is solid for a rookie. Especially when his offensive zone start percentage is only 48.29.
His shot quality metrics are also extremely impressive, with a 53.93 scoring chances-for percentage, and a whopping 58.77 high danger chances-for percentage. While his stats are quite good for a rookie, what the Flyers need to make sure of is not letting him antagonize them. He, like his brother Matthew, plays a very physical brand of hockey and will try to get under the opposing team’s skin. The Flyers can’t afford to let that happen, and continue to play a disciplined game.
3. They’re a bad team, just don’t overlook them
Look, everyone and anyone knows the Ottawa Senators are not a very good hockey team. That doesn’t mean they’re not capable of beating the Flyers. They did so earlier this season in late November, with a 4-3 victory. What the Flyers must make sure they accomplish tonight is taking Ottawa seriously, and showing up in a similar fashion to which they did vs. the Islanders on Saturday.
If they do these three things, this should be money in the bank for the orange and black.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Lindblom — Couturier — Giroux
JVR — Patrick — Konecny
Raffl — Laughton — Hartman
Varone — Knight — (probably no one because 7D)
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Myers
Hagg — Gudas
All data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and hockey-reference