The Philadelphia Flyers fired former head coach Alain Vigneault before facing off against the Colorado Avalanche a little over a week ago. Their second opponent was the New Jersey Devils, and that’s who they will be playing again six days later. They got shut out by goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, and with two wins in a row against the Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes on back-to-back nights, they’re looking to keep the train rolling forward.
Not much has changed since the last time the Flyers saw the Devils. They lost a one-goal game to the Nashville Predators and then again to the New York Islanders. Once again, they’re looking to break the chain of losing against Philadelphia like they did last time by breaking a five-game winless streak.
One of the biggest things that has changed is the comfort level of star player Jack Hughes. He’s getting back into his groove with three points (1G, 2A) in his last three games. The speed he is playing with has also seen a jump, and whenever a player like Hughes can return to game speed quickly, it benefits the team greatly. He is viewed as their primary source of offense, and not having him in the lineup for an extended period hurt. His passing abilities, paired with his possession entries and exits, make for a lethal combination that the Devils have been missing.
Jesper Bratt has taken the reins as the leader in team points with 24 points in 26 games. The gap to the next player behind him (Andreas Johnsson) is five points. Bratt has been a big standout in Hughes’ absence essentially because he plays the same kind of game. Bratt carries the puck through the neutral zone well, and he can make some very creative passes through the offensive zone. He’s no slouch defensively either. The Devils needed Bratt to be one of their best players in 2021-22 with or without Hughes, and he’s done just that.
The Devils have threats like Dawson Mercer, Pavel Zacha, Dougie Hamilton, and Tomas Tatar. Even though their record may not be the most pleasing to the eyes (10-11-5 for 25 points, which is sixth in the Metropolitan Divison), they can run you over.
It’s time for some revenge. The Flyers have yet to beat the Devils this season, and now that they could have a bit of momentum, it seems like the perfect time. Winning games can do wonders for a team’s confidence, especially after a skid like the one that just happened. It’s a rivalry game, and if that doesn’t get them fired up either, there are some significant issues. Who doesn’t love beating the Devils at home, right?
With a record of 10-12-4, the Flyers are slowly crawling back to .500, but there’s still a way to go. A win against the Devils gets them closer. The players that will be leading the charge are the same guys that have been all season. It starts with captain Claude Giroux, who I can’t say more good things about. He has six points in his last six games and leads the team with 23 points in 26 games. He has three goals in his previous five games, but Travis Konecny is the player leading in points and assists in that time. The Flyers would be much better off if he could slowly start climbing up the points ranking.
Another player leading the charge is goaltender Carter Hart, who will be in net for his 18th start of the season. He has been one of the top goalies in the NHL up to this point. He’s one of the reason why the Flyers have any hope of actually crawling back into the playoff picture. Despite some horrendous defense in front of him, he’s doing everything he can to keep the team in games.
With interim head coach Mike Yeo getting his feet under him behind the bench, this will be a big game. Everyone knows of the rivalry, and considering this is the only matchup in the Flyers’ barn, he will want to make sure his guys are going to come out firing on all cylinders. It will be a big test for his team and his fitness to coach them.
Scott Laughton - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny
Morgan Frost - Claude Giroux - Cam Atkinson
James van Riemsdyk - Kevin Hayes - Max Willman
Oskar Lindblom - Patrick Brown - Zack MacEwen
Ivan Provorov - Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim - Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle - Kevin Connauton
One Thing to Watch
Continuing the streak would be nice, and considering how the Flyers have played in their two previous matchups with the Devils, a change of pace is always good. However, the one thing to watch for this game is how the Flyers defend Hughes. It is well documented that the Flyers defense has been abhorrent in 2021-22, and considering how well he tears up opposing teams, it will be a big test. He appears to be up to speed, and that’s a problem for any team that lines up across from him. Defensive matchups are going to be essential in tonight’s tilt. Lindy Ruff has the Devils playing some pretty high octane hockey, and the leaders of the pack (Hughes and Bratt) will want to take advantage of a Flyers team that wants to congest the neutral zone. It will be interesting to see how Philadelphia reads and reacts to the speed and intensity that this Devils lineup brings.
That’s all from me, everyone. Go Flyers!