To say that the Flyers’ annual post-Christas Western road trip hasn’t started well would be an understatement.
They started the trip by losing 6-1 in San Jose, squeaked by the Ducks in overtime, and have then lost games to both the lowly Kings and the Golden Knights. A visit to Carolina remains as the last stop after a game in Arizona tonight to face the resurgent Coyotes.
Rick Tocchet’s Coyotes find themselves in the thick of the race for the Pacific Division this season, having enjoyed the top of the division until a recent surge from Vegas. Recognizing their playoff chances, management went out and acquired Taylor Hall from the Devils in order to try and secure a playoff berth come spring.
Hall has five points in eight games since the trade, but the Coyotes will count on all the scoring they can get from the former MVP as they’re near the bottom of the league in terms of goal scoring.
As for the Flyers, they could badly use more scoring of their own of late, but the bigger issues have been in defense and in the crease. They’ve given up at least five goals in the three loses on the trip, and the defense has looked overmatched. Combine that with Carter Hart’s road struggles, and the Flyers are suddenly finding it impossible to grab any points at all away from the Wells Fargo Center.
Despite the post-Christmas swoon, the Flyers remain armed with a wild card spot at the moment, though hanging by a thread.
Though Arizona remains a tough team to breakdown, the Flyers have gotten the offense going in recent games and have a red-hot Claude Giroux on their hands going in. The Coyotes have the NHL’s 23rd-ranked offense, and perhaps the Flyers can score enough to at least find their way to overtime to grab a point to stop the bleeding here before a trip to Carolina to close this thing out.
Players to watch
The captain has points in five-straight and is starting to heat up right as he challenges for a spot in the All-Star game via the fan vote. Perhaps another trip to the weekend festivities is driving the veteran, or maybe his positioning on the power play has sparked his production. Either way, the Flyers need all the scoring they can get right now, and the man is providing his fare share.
Against a working-class Coyotes team that really grinds on you, this smells like a Hayes type of game. Hayes had chances in his last two games, but came away scoreless against the Kings and Knights. Depth scoring is always key, and the Flyers need it from guys other than Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny.
Coach Alain Vigneault looks to be going back to Hart after the netminder settled down in the loss to Vegas after allowing four first period goals. He came up with some big saves to keep the Flyers around later on, but he needs to be stout early against the Coyotes so the Flyers don’t fall behind a team that knows how to play with a lead.
Special teams unit to watch
The Flyers’ penalty kill was a welcome strength early in the season, but has fallen to 14th after being a top-five unit for a long time. Part of that can be blamed on the every-changing bottom-six, which has done them any favors, but the Flyers need to get back to executing when down a man. They’ve given up four power play goals in the past two games, and have been costly given they’ve lost those games by a total of three goals.
Flyers’ projected lineup vs. Coyotes
Giroux - Couturier - Voracek
Van Riemsdyk - Hayes - Konecny
Farabee - Laughton - Pitlick
Raffl - Vorobyev - Aube-Kubel
Provorov - Niskanen
Gostisbehere - Braun
The Arizona Coyotes can’t win at home. The Flyers can’t win on the road. So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Richie Flores of Fox Sports 910 fills us in on what’s new with the ‘Yotes since the Flyers lost to them at home a month ago.