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Flyers look to take series lead in Game 3

I’ll take another stressful overtime win.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Islanders at Philadelphia Flyers Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

After spending two days to focus on more important issues, the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders return to action today for Game 3 of their series. With the day of Game 3 being pushed from Wednesday to today the Orange and Black gain the benefit of starting a rested Carter Hart rather than worrying about the 22-year-old going back-to-back days like he did in the first round against the Montreal Canadiens. Regardless of whether this tilt was played Wednesday, today, or next year the Flyers will have their hands full with an Isles’ club that seems to be clicking on all cylinders.

Three players to watch

1. Claude Giroux

Since Drew talked about Travis Konecny before Game 2 I’ll talk about Giroux ahead of Game 3. A credible talking point over the last few games has been the Flyers’ top goal scorers from the regular season failing to find the back of the net since the season has resumed. Kevin Hayes potted a pair yesterday to give him three since teams entered #TheBubble and Sean Couturier finally found the back of the net in the overtime win to do their part when it comes to top-six production. Although the goals from Hayes and Couturier should shift focus from the top six’s inability to score in the first 10 games of the tournament as being the team’s ‘biggest’ or ‘lone’ issue at the moment it’s still fair to ask the skaters with the most and fourth-most goals from the regular season to chip in.

2. Sean Couturier

Speaking of the top six, Couturier is another forward to watch today. He got back in the goal column on Wednesday and perhaps all he needed to regain his scoring touch inside the bubble was to take Nick Leddy for a long, embarrassing walk across the Islanders’ defensive zone. We saw Hayes produce three to four quality scoring chances get turned away in Game 5 of the series against the Habs before he ended his 11-game goal drought dating back to the regular season in the first period of Game 6 and went onto have a two-goal game in Game 2 on Wednesday. Couturier snapped his 12-game dry spell earlier this week and if two of the regular goal suppliers from the 2019-20 campaign start to put some in the back of the cage New York may find themselves tied or trailing in games they’d otherwise smother one-goal leads to victory with defensive pressure.

3. Derek Grant

Scott Laughton finally sat in Game 2 after a string of performances that featured a handful of egregious defensive-zone turnovers that somehow avoided finding the back of Hart’s net each time. With the bottom-six still being shuffled around quite a bit it might be Grant who could be scratched next among the forwards. Nate Thompson seems locked in as the fourth-line center and it’s not that big of an ask for Laughton or Michael Raffl to slide from the wing to the pivot to see if that’ll fix some of the issues the bottom half of the forward crew have been experiencing. Alain Vigneault has already moved Grant off the middle spot of the third line in favor of Giroux in the Montreal series and there’s no reason why he wouldn’t try somebody else there again. In Game 2 the former Anaheim Duck’s line with James van Riemsdyk and Nicolas Aube-Kubel posted a 15.92 Expected Goals-for percentage with New York registering 11 of the 16 shots that took place while this trio was out there in 9:46 of 5-on-5 time. On top of that Grant’s play in the offensive zone led to the rush that resulted in Anthony Beauvillier’s goal.

Two big questions

1. Can the bottom six drive play?

After the third and fourth lines successfully broke even on the scoreboard and spent most of the time in the offensive zone at 5-on-5 in Game 1 they failed to repeat that effort on Wednesday. Along with the aforementioned performance of the third line, the fourth line of Raffl-Thompson-Tyler Pitlick saw 11 unblocked shot attempts at 5-on-5 with only three belonging to Philly when the line was out there at 5-on-5 and posted a 33.58 xGF%. If the forwards can combine the play driving from Game 1 with the production of Game 2 this team might be onto something.

2. Will the Flyers play a full 60 minutes?

Similar to the puck possession numbers from the first two games, the Flyers consistency in this department has fluctuated. The Orange and Black showed up for some of the second period in defeat during Game 1 before showing up for about 15 minutes of the first and overtime in Game 2. In both cases we saw that New York will eventually capitalize on stretches of lackadaisical play and blips in concentration. Philly nearly avoided confrontation on hump day, but similar to the bottom six’s ability to drive play if the club can combine their offensive pressure from the second period of Game 1 and their success in attacking the Isles’ defense on the rush in Game 2 then we might have something here.

*Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick