Because the Flyers are the incredibly frustrating team that they are, they followed a disaster of a road trip by beating the Washington Capitals Wednesday night in a huge win. The Caps still hold the top spot in the Metro by a sizeable margin over the Pittsburgh Penguins, but at the end of the day one extending losing streak tightens this division in a big way. Even with the Capitals 13 points ahead of the Flyers, the orange and black are only five points behind the Islanders for the third spot, and seven behind the Pens for second.
The tough tests don’t stop any time soon, as the Flyers face the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning tonight in South Philly. The Bolts have won nine consecutive games, erasing any doubts in that team after a less than stellar start to the season. Tampa finds themselves second in the Atlantic now just seven points behind the Boston Bruins. Now if the past has told us anything about Flyers vs. Lightning games, is that we’re going to see a wild hockey game tonight.
Last season, the Flyers lost all three games to the Lightning in the season series, but that doesn’t really tell the full story. In the last game, they got their asses handed to them in a 5-2 defeat. But the previous two games that followed were essentially the epitome of how stupid the Hakstol era Flyers were. The Lightning last season seemed like an unstoppable force, and a team such as the Flyers so unbelievably dysfunctional last year should have stood no chance. Instead, the final two games in the season series both ended 6-5 in overtime.
Now, that’s already ridiculous enough given what we know about these two teams, but then factor in the fact the Flyers came back down three goals to force OT in the second game, and FOUR goals down in the first game just makes this ludicrous. Listen, if we’re going to have another high scoring, overtime needing game, at least make it more of a back-and-forth affair maybe? Or better yet, confuse us even more and beat the brakes off the Bolts.
Players to watch for
Sean Couturier — The Flyers first line center has been on an absolute roll of late. He’s on a four game point streak in which he’s scored six points over said four games. After a brief stretch where Couturier struggled just a bit, he’s back to his old self racking up the points and playing incredible defensive hockey. Getting the stars going will be huge for this team snapping out of the funk from the road trip, and this is a good start.
David Kase — After yet another demotion for Mikhail Vorobyev, David Kase returns to the Flyers looking to stay with the big club this time. In his first go-around, Kase played five games and scored his first NHL goal in the process. He showed some promise and I think it’s safe to say a lot of us are excited to see what he can bring to the team.
Two big questions
1. Can the Flyers slow down the Tampa power play?
Second to only the Edmonton Oilers, the Lightning power play is a lethal force. They’re at an astounding 29 percent on the season, and possess some of the league’s best weapons in Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point. This will be no small task for the Flyers penalty kill, but they have to be feeling some big time momentum after a great showing vs. the Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin.
2. Can the defense hold it together?
This is a rough stretch for the Flyers already, and it was made worse by the loss of Shayne Gostisbehere and Justin Braun. With the third pairing tonight looking like it will be Robert Hagg and Mark Friedman, it should be interesting to see how they can hold their own, or if they can, vs. a dangerous Lightning team.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Couturier — Konecny
JVR — Hayes — NAK
Voracek — Raffl — Pitlick
Kase — Laughton — Farabee
Provorov — Niskanen
Sanheim — Myers
Hagg — Friedman
The Lighting are a pretty good team, folks! Matthew Esteves joins to talk about some of the reasons behind the Lightning’s slow start, and how and when they snapped out of that. Tampa’s also been dealing with some injuries to their blueline, including one to Ryan McDonagh.