While the Flyers haven’t been eliminated from playoff contention just yet, they are inching closer and closer.
And Tuesday’s clunker at home against Montreal did a boatload of damage. The Flyers never got rolling and always seemed a step behind in the 3-1 loss that dropped them to a full six points behind Columbus for the second and final wild card spot. Carolina occupies the first wild card spot, but has a three point cushion on the Blue Jackets with a game in hand. That figures to leave the final wild card spot for either the Blue Jackets, Canadiens, or Flyers.
The Flyers know what a blown opportunity it was at home on Tuesday, but they can’t go back now and must turn forward to a road test against a Chicago team also still in the playoff hunt. The Blackhawks have had a frustrating season with roster turnover, injuries, and an in-season coaching change, but are still just four points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with a game in hand on Arizona, who holds that final play spot.
One would figure with both teams in full desperation mode it would create a playoff-like atmosphere inside the United Center, but the same could have been said of Tuesday’s game in which the Flyers treated like an overseas preseason game. Perhaps the flu going around the locker room in recent days has sapped energy or it could just be a team running out of gas, but the Flyers badly need a regulation win in this one or else their playoff hopes will continue to trend towards life support.
Maybe don’t play from behind for once?
The Flyers dug themselves a 2-0 hole against the Canadiens and couldn’t battle all the way back like they did in Pittsburgh last Sunday. On the season, the Flyers are being outscored by a whopping 19 goals in the first period and 14-26-3 overall when allowing the first goal.
Enter the Blackhawks, who can score with the best of them to the tune of the NHL’s eighth-best offense with 3.35 goals per game. Weapons like Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, and Jonathan Toews each have amassed 30 or more goals and can put the Flyers behind the eight ball early.
Get to the high-danger scoring areas
Part of the reason that the Blackhawks can’t make their high-scoring attack generate more wins is that their defense leave much to be desired. They’re allowing the second-most shots per game this season along with the second-most goals per game (Ottawa is last in both).
The Flyers didn’t have issues peppering Carey Price with shots on Tuesday, but the 33 attempts came mostly from the outside as Montreal’s defense prevented many high-danger chances as NaturalStatTrick had the Flyers with just five of the high-danger sort all night.
Shot quality will be huge against the Hawks, as those range attempts won’t get it done again no matter if Price isn’t in goal this time around.
Good news is that the Hawks’ defense should be easier for the Flyers to generate pressure against and thus make getting to the better scoring areas easier. What the Flyers do —or don’t do— with those chances could go a long way in picking up a win in this one.
Time for Carter to steal one
Now would be a great time for the Flyers rookie netminder to flat-out win a game they have no business of winning. And yes, he kind of did that already in Pittsburgh, but it’s already time for another one after his guys left him out to dry against Montreal.
No it’s not fair to expect Hart to bail out the entire team again, but given the effort level in front of him on Tuesday, it might be the only way they win here.
Flyers’ projected lineup
Lindblom — Couturier — Voracek
JVR — Patrick — Giroux
Raffl — Laughton — Konecny
Varone — Knight — Hartman
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Myers
Hagg — Gudas