The Philadelphia Flyers are red-hot, fuego, lava, torch, streaking.
However you want to call it, if it’s a super damn warm adjective the Flyers are probably it.
And not only are the hot as the surface of the sun and winners of six-straight, they get the only team they’re chasing ahead of them in the Metropolitan this evening in the Washington Capitals.
A 15-4-1 run over their last 20 games has vaulted the Flyers all the way to second in the Metro, and just three points behind the Capitals as of this writing. They can draw even closer with what would be a seventh-straight win tonight, though they’ll have to do so on the road.
Though dominant at home this season (23-5-4), the Flyers have been markedly average on the road thus far (15-15-3). Good news is that the Caps have been better away from their home ice this season, giving the Flyers a nice chance to pounce on a team not playing that great overall and in front of fans quickly forgetting that the team won the Stanley Cup less than two years ago.
Should be a fun one from D.C. with plenty of star power to choose from in the form of Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny, and some guy who just scored his 700th NHL goal. That’s Alex Ovechkin, and he’s lit up the Flyers to the tune of 34 goals in 56 career games.
Let’s get into some players to watch along with a key matchup to look out for as the Flyers and Caps clash in a playoff-type matchup.
Players to watch
The Flyers’ veteran backstop draws in for the front end of the back-to-back with Carter Hart highly likely to see the Carolina Hurricanes back at the Wells Fargo Center tomorrow night.
But that’s tomorrow and this is tonight and the Flyers need Elliott to continue to do what he’s done for the bulk of the season: give them a chance to win. He hasn’t seen the ice since February 20th in a 3-1 win at Columbus (28 saves on 31 shots), but does have a recent win over these same Capitals in D.C. almost a month ago.
Elliott was very strong in that game, a 7-2 Flyers win going away, but will likely see a motivated Caps team in this one that needs to start to get going at some point or watch their division lead (and home-ice advantage) slip away.
James van Riemsdyk
Just one goal in his last six after four in five games before that for JVR/Pigeon, but him being streaky isn’t a surprise given most goal scorers are. The rub here for the Flyers is that they could really use more depth scoring here and with the Caps top heavy and attracting Sean Couturier’s attention, it might be tough for him to get his offense going as we’re accustomed to.
Enter JVR, who hasn’t stayed cold for long when he’s been on ice this season, and it’s looking like about that time for JVR to put together another quick stretch of solid production here.
The Flyers’ ice time leader won’t get any breaks in this one, and he’ll be way up over the 20-minute mark with ease. He’ll have a nice challenge ahead of him, too, with a potent Capitals attack that requires much attention to detail against Ovechkin, the meticulous Nicklas Backstrom and the emerging Jakub Vrana.
Matt Niskanen’s addition to the lineup has unlocked another gear in Provorov’s game, and the stability the veteran has provided has take him to new heights. The Flyers will need both of them to be excellent in this one, but Provorov’s game-breaking ability at both ends gives him the nod here.
Key matchup to watch
Flyers power play vs. Capitals penalty kill
Some recent tinkering (or re-tinkering?) has led to the Flyers’ recent surge on the power play that has included goals in seven of their last eight games culminating with a three-goal outburst in New York against the Rangers on Sunday afternoon.
It’s almost like putting guys who ran a top-10 power play for nearly a decade in those same spots was a good idea. Weird. Well anyways the Flyers’ power play is rolling and meets the Capitals’ fourth-ranked penalty kill in this one.
Special teams battles become amplified come playoff time, and this game wreaks of a playoff atmosphere, so this matchup could end up being the key to the whole dang thing.
Flyers’ projected lineup
Giroux - Couturier - Voracek
JvR - Hayes - Konecny
Laughton - Grant - Pitlick
Raffl - Thompson - Aube-Kubel
Provorov - Niskanen
Sanheim - Myers
Hagg - Braun
Have you heard? The Flyers are only three points out of first. Exciting times indeed! Greg Young from Japers’ Rink lets us know what is going well, and what is not, with the Washington Capitals right now.