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Preview: Flyers looking to hand Maple Leafs another loss in Wayne Simmonds’ return

The Maple Leafs are fresh off a tough loss at home, and the Flyers are hoping to keep them out of the win column as Wayne Simmonds returns to Philly for the first time in a blue and white sweater.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

The Flyers are coming off an impressive 2-1 win over their division rival Washington Capitals, and now they have a chance to build on it against a wildly unpredictable Toronto Maple Leafs team Wednesday night.

Going into Monday, the Maple Leafs were one of the hottest teams in the NHL after embarking on a five-game winning streak. But Toronto ended up falling to the Los Angeles Kings Monday night by a score of 5-1, and it’s hard to tell which Leafs team will show up against the Flyers — the good Leafs or the incompetent Leafs?

No matter which Leafs team shows up, it’s fair to assume Toronto will get at least some form of production out of its core four. Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander have combined for 35 points since October 27. After the quartet struggled out of the gate, it appears they’re pretty much back to being the fearsome group of scorers that make the Leafs such a compelling squad.

The Flyers won’t make things easy on them, though. Despite being the worst defensive team in the NHL last season, the Flyers’ defense has done a complete 180 to start the 2021-22 season. They’re allowing the fifth-fewest goals against per game in the league thus far, and they’ve done this without first-pair defenseman Ryan Ellis in the lineup for much of the season’s early going. Goaltenders Carter Hart and Martin Jones have been stellar as well. Hart, who has an admirable .926 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average on the season, will be the starter in net Wednesday night. Hart has appeared in two games against the Leafs in his career, and he won both of them. His last outing against Toronto was a solid 28-save performance on December 3, 2019. The Flyers won that tilt by a score of 6-1.

Flyers’ projected lines:

Claude Giroux — Sean Couturier — Travis Konecny
Joel Farabee — Derick Brassard — Cam Atkinson
Oskar Lindblom — Scott Laughton — James van Riemsdyk
Zack McEwen — Nate Thompson — Patrick Brown

Ivan Provorov — Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim — Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle — Nick Seeler

Carter Hart
(Martin Jones)

Keep an eye on:

  • Wayne Simmonds! Simmonds will be making his return to Philly for the first time as a member of the Leafs. He played against the Flyers several times as a member of the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres during the 2019-20 season, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Leafs being placed in the Canadian Division for the 2020-21 season, the Flyers still have yet to see Simmonds dressed in blue. Simmonds posted 203 goals and 378 total points in 584 games as a Flyer from 2011 to 2019.
  • Claude Giroux. The captain has recorded at least one point in all but one of the Flyers’ games to start the season (the 4-0 shutout loss to the Calgary Flames). Impressively, only three of Giroux’s 12 points have come on the power play thus far. He’s been outstanding at 5-on-5 through the Flyers’ first 10 games, and he’ll of course be a key generator of offense when the puck drops against Toronto.
  • Auston Matthews. Matthews’ start to the season hasn’t been what many expected, but he already has eight points under his belt in 10 games. The reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner is a threat every time the puck touches his stick, and after being held off the scoresheet against the Kings, Matthews will probably be itching to find the back of the net as soon as possible.
  • The Flyers’ penalty kill. The Flyers haven’t allowed a power-play goal since their loss to the Flames on October 30. Granted, they haven’t taken many penalties since then either — the penalty kill has only seen action five times in the last three games. Still, the Flyers’ penalty kill was impressive against Alex Ovechkin’s Capitals on Saturday, and the PK will need to be just as good against the star-studded Maple Leafs power play.

Stray stats:

  • The Flyers are 100-59-22-5 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Maple Leafs, but they’ve been particularly strong against Toronto at home, winning 58 of their 93 matchups while averaging 3.65 goals per game. The Flyers haven’t lost to the Leafs since November 2, 2019, when they lost 4-3 to Toronto in an 11-round shootout.
  • James van Riemsdyk spent six years playing for the Leafs, and he’s been pretty good against them since rejoining the Flyers in 2018. He’s logged four goals and an assist in six games against his former club, including a hat trick in Toronto on March 15, 2019.
  • Faceoff wins are a bit of an overrated stat, but it should be noted that the Flyers lead the entire NHL in faceoff win percentage. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering Sean Couturier is one of the best faceoff men in hockey, winning 57.66 percent of his draws to start the season. Meanwhile, Giroux, who does still take faceoffs from time to time, is winning 63.5 percent of his draws.