Well, we’re finally at that part of the season where any game could be our last.
It felt this way once before. In January, when we were the very last team in the league, there was something comical about it, something comforting. We knew the season was lost. No one was thinking playoffs, no one was thinking “contender.” Although the fan base was nowhere near calm (this was Dave Hakstol’s final few days, and if you recall, it was calamity), we all felt united in the sense that we knew where the team stood and we could just chuckle to ourselves fondly when they played poorly. For once, we all agreed on something: the Flyers were bad, and we could only laugh about it.
Then, something had to happen to divide us. They had to go for a damn playoff push. The nerve of these guys.
Some people wanted a tank. Some people wanted playoffs. All wars have a beginning—the spark, the catalyst, the conflict. Thankfully, all wars have an end, too. That could finally happen tonight.
The Toronto Maple Leafs could end the season for the Flyers with a regulation win. It’s as simple as that. This could be the end, and what a journey it has been.
You may remember the Leafs from our last meeting against them, that completely bonkers 7-6 loss. The offensive firepower on that team is some of the best in the league. Between players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares, save mentioning more recognizable names through the lineup, if there is one thing the Leafs are good at, it’s scoring goals. The more goals you score the more hockey games you win. It’s true.
The Flyers are now coming off two losses against division rivals, and they probably have nothing left in the tank for this game. I anticipate another loss, if I’m being purely realistic and logical, but I also think it is just like the Flyers to play stupidly well and make us hang on for a little while longer for the mathematical elimination.
STEP ONE: Solve the goaltender
Frederik Andersen has been pretty solid for the Leafs all season, and I have no doubt tonight will be no exception. The Flyers have not been aggressive with their offense lately, allowing other teams to rack up shots while they hang back passively, and if they want to make us suffer for just one more game, they need to get shots to Andersen and make ‘em count. The offense has just looked anemic lately. They cannot hope to win if they refuse to wear out the opposing goaltender.
STEP TWO: Suffocate Mitch Marner
I don’t mean literally. He seems like a nice boy. Don’t attempt to kill Mitch Marner, but do keep a close eye on him. He will need to be stifled any way possible, as the guy is just absolutely insane. He’s not much of a goal-scorer—not that he can’t do it, but it’s not where his strengths are. He is smart with the puck, a true play-maker, creating offense out of thin air sometimes. The Flyers will need to cover him completely and do their best to keep him from making those plays.
Scott Gordon will surely have someone in mind to stay on Marner most of the night, and I hope he chooses correctly. Or I don’t. I just want the season to be over, but also I want to see the Flyers happy. What is a mother to do?
STEP THREE: Just have fun out there guys
No matter what happens, I love you very much, and all I care about is that you try your best and have a good time.
Flyers Projected Lineup:
Lindblom — Couturier — Giroux
JVR — Patrick — Voracek
Hartman — Laughton — Konecny
Raffl — Knight — Bailey
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Myers
Hagg — Gudas