We’ve reached the end of the round robin, for the Flyers at least, and they’ve got a big game ahead of them as they face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flyers are cruising pretty nicely through the round robin, as they’ve picked up decisive wins over the Bruins and Capitals in their first two games. But the Lightning are playing some good hockey, themselves, and have collected wins (in regulation over the Bruins and in a shootout against the Capitals) in their first two games. They also have the edge in the regular season series against the Flyers, as they won both of those two meetings. This is all just to say that the Lightning figure to be a formidable opponent, but the Flyers are also playing really well right now, so who knows what will happen.
Three players to watch
1. Shayne Gostisbehere
At long last! Gostisbehere is back in the lineup for a meaningful game! After a strong showing in the exhibition game against the Penguins, Gostisbehere was shuffled back out of the lineup in favor of Robert Hagg, but he’s finally getting another chance to earn himself a spot for the playoffs. He seems a good fit for a matchup against the Lightning, but where we really expect to see him making an impact is on the power play, which looked pretty dreadful in their game against the Capitals. Gostisbehere has a real chance to help push things to the next level, and while we don’t want to put too much pressure on a single game showing, we’re excited to see what he’s able to bring.
2. James van Riemsdyk
Also coming back into the lineup after being scratched for Thursday’s game in van Riemsdyk. Jake Voracek isn’t available for this game, so Joel Farabee will move up to his spot on the top line, and van Riemsdyk will slide into his old spot on the third line. Alain Vigneault noted earlier in the week that he wants to see more from van Riemsdyk, and it does feel that there’s more for him to give, so here’s hoping today we’ll see him hit that next gear and look a bit more dynamic, as we head into the playoffs. He, like Gostisbehere, should also give the power play a boost, which is much needed. All in all, maybe a single game scratch will send its message, but it will be good to have him back in the lineup.
3. Carter Hart
He’s back, and he’s got probably his tougher assignment of the round robin ahead of him. We know the Lightning have a ton of offensive firepower, and they’re playing well in the round robin already, so this doesn’t figure to be an easy start for Hart. But, that said, it is an important one—it’s his last chance to work himself back to full game speed and really get himself ready for the playoffs. He looked good in the first round robin game, but not perfect, and we’re hoping he can look a bit more settled in this one.
Two big questions
1. Can the power play do... something...?
The power play seems to be taking steps backwards as we head deeper into the round robin, but the Flyers have brought two players, in van Riemsdyk and Gostisbehere, back into the lineup who should be able to help get the power play back on track. This is really the one thing that still isn’t clicking, and they need to see more from them. Maybe we don’t need to see them playing absolutely lights out, but we do need to see something from the power play, something to tell us that they’re trending back in the right direction.
2. What seed will the Flyers end up with?
Yes, we do just generally want to see the Flyers playing well and looking like they’re getting all of their details taken smoothed out as we head into the playoffs, but we’re really thinking mostly about seeding right now. This game decides whether the Flyers will end up with the first or second seed in the East, and that’s an exciting thing. Can the Flyers complete their run from fourth seed to first? We’ll find out!
Puck drops at 8:00, and you can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below.
Giroux - Couturier - Farabee
Laughton - Hayes - Konecny
van Riemsdyk - Grant - Aube-Kubel
Bunnaman - Thompson - Pitlick
Provorov - Niskanen
Sanheim - Myers
Gostisbehere - Braun
Geo Fitz of Raw Charge took us inside the Lightning post-restart, giving us a little idea of how the Flyers might be able to run away with this thing.