It’s finally time, folks! The post-season is here, and the round robin is beginning, and the Flyers are kicking it off this afternoon with a game against the Boston Bruins. As a quick recap, the last time we saw the Flyers, they picked up an exciting overtime win over the Penguins in their first exhibition game, and looked to be settling back into a rhythm as the game went on. The same can’t really be said of the Bruins, who looked a little shaky in their exhibition game on Thursday, dropping it 4-1 to the Blue Jackets. The Flyers have played the Bruins tough in the regular season, and this figures to be an exciting start to the round robin. We’re officially back!
Three players to watch
1. Carter Hart
We’ve got Starter Hart: Playoff Edition happening today, and that’s something to be excited about. Hart’s also making his playoff debut, and understandably this means that a lot of eyes are going to be trained on him to see just how he does. He looked okay in his two periods in the exhibition game, not lights out, but like he was getting back to form, which is just about what we were hoping to see from him in his first start. The Bruins obviously have more than their fair share of offensive weapons, and Hart’s going to have his work cut out for him if the Flyers expect to keep them quiet. We’ve seen him do it before, and now we just need to see him do it again.
2. Kevin Hayes
Hayes was one of the standouts from Tuesday’s exhibition game, and seemed to be one of the Flyers who just seemed to be the most “on” already, if you will. He looked solid at 5-on-5 and was a real force on the penalty kill, and really, he did just about everything in that game that we might have expected from him on any given regular season night. He’s likely going to have a tough matchup today, facing off against one of the Bruins’ top two lines, and the ask is going to be that he helps shut them down, while also contributing some offensively. It is a big ask, but it’s one that we feel good about him being able to deliver on. He was gaining some momentum to his game on Tuesday, now he just needs to keep it rolling.
3. Tuukka Rask
We don’t have a huge breakdown here, but this is something to keep an eye on. Rask was slated to start this game, but Bruce Cassidy noted yesterday that Rask wasn’t feeling well, and he was going to be something of a game time decision. Jaroslav Halak has still proven himself to be a formidable backup, but Rask could be a game changer and not facing him could be big for the Flyers. So we’ll be keeping a close eye out to see what happens with their goaltending situation.
Two big questions
1. How quickly can we establish a rhythm?
I know it’s the playoffs and this is when we expect that absolute best in terms of the on-ice product, but it’s also still important to remember that these teams have only played one proper game since the beginning of March. The Flyers started to get their legs under them as their exhibition game went on, but still didn’t look to be all the way back. The Bruins looked out of sync in their exhibition game. It’s possible that, despite the talent these two teams have, we still don’t get the prettiest on-ice product. But we’re still looking to see the Flyers take a step forward and look closer to their regular selves. Will we get that today? Here’s hoping.
2. Can special teams keep rolling?
We did just say that the Flyers weren’t quite looking their sharpest in Tuesday’s game, but it is still worth noting that both of their special teams units looked pretty sharp. Their penalty kill was perfect, killing of all of their penalties and looking like they really hadn’t missed a beat, and while they weren’t able to convert on either of their two power plays, that did get some good looks and puck movement going, which was something. It was a strong start, and we’d like to see the Flyers be able to carry that momentum into today’s contest.
Puck drops at 3:00 this afternoon, and you can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below.
Giroux - Couturier - Voracek
Laughton - Hayes - Konecny
van Riemsdyk - Grant - Aube-Kubel
Raffl - Thompson - Pitlick
Provorov - Niskanen
Myers - Sanheim
Hagg - Braun