While the Flyers have far from played their best hockey in their first five games to start the 2020-21 season, a win in the backend of their two-game set in Boston would leave them at 4-1-1 through their first six games.
Their 5-4 shootout loss to these same Bruins was a marker in that less-than-ideal start as the Flyers blew two separate leads in the eventual loss — despite earning a loser point in the process. But worse that blowing two separate leads is the fact that the Flyers blew both in the third period, something that has to be cleaned up sooner rather than later.
With injuries already setting in with Sean Couturier still out and now Philippe Myers and Morgan Frost joining the injured list, the Flyers’ depth is front and center earlier than perhaps expected and help won’t arrive in the form of Shayne Gostisbehere until the Flyers get back to the local area following their second tilt with the Bruins.
Despite racking up seven points and sitting behind the Capitals in the East Division, the Flyers have spent most of the time being killed at 5-on-5 and being propped up by their surprisingly excellent power play and a team shooting percentage more than 5% above the league rate per Hockey Reference.
Getting back to winning the battle at even strength will be critical in this one as the Bruins continue to be a play driving team though they’ve ran into trouble putting the puck in the net thus far, scoring under two goals per game despite a Corsi-For percentage of 58% (per NaturalStatTrick) to lead the league. While the Flyers’ shooting percentage (15.2% sits well above the league average of 9.8%, the Bruins’ lags well behind at just 5.2% despite 135 shots through four games.
If the Bruins continue to win the puck war, the law of averages tells us that they’re bound to start finding the back of the net more — and the Flyers would much rather that take place following tonight’s action.
The man tasked with keeping the Bruins at bay is Carter Hart, who gets the call again after allowing four goals on 43 shots on Thursday night. Flyers coach Alain Vigneault will no doubt be looking for a stronger team effort in front of Hart despite good goal support thus far to the tune of league’s fifth-best scoring offense (3.80 goals per game). Another help should be having six defenseman for the entirety of the game, as Myers’ replacement Mark Friedman played just over five minutes due to an injury suffered to hamper the Flyers’ already undermanned defense.
Two big questions
1. Can the Flyers keep up the pace at 5-on-5?
As we noted above, the Bruins have been driving the crap out of the pace and the Flyers are at the opposite end of the spectrum puck possession wise. That’s a problem because the Bruins are bound to see an uptick in their shooting luck sooner rather than later, and the Flyers can’t afford to give them a myriad of chances again in this one or they’ll be headed home with a pair of L’s from Beantown.
2. Can Travis Konecny and JVR stay hot?
As we detailed on this website last year, James van Riemsdyk is a scorer and scorers are almost always streaky. After potting two goals on Thursday, JVR is feeling good and the Flyers can hopefully ride that hot hand in this one and moving forward. If the Bruins carry puck possession as they’ve proved they are more than capable of, the Flyers are going to need to make the most out of their scoring chances and that includes those of JVR. Konecny has goals in back-to-back games and continues to pace the offense and has been a difference maker on the power play early on.
Flyers’ projected lineup (lines subject to change)
Giroux - Hayes - Farabee
JVR - Patrick - Voracek
Lindblom - Laughton - Konecny
Raffl - Bunnaman - NAK
Provorov - Braun
Sanheim - Friedman
Hagg - Gustafsson