There ain’t no rest for the wicked, and none for the Flyers from the harsh reality of the ultra-competitive East Division.
Following Thursday’s 5-3 setback to the Washington Capitals, the Flyers will stare down those very same Caps tonight. Washington is headed towards the top of the East Division while the Flyers have sandwiched a come-from-behind shootout win against the lowly Sabres between disappointing results in Pittsburgh against the Penguins and then Thursday against the Caps.
Players to watch
James van Riemsdyk
Just a lone goal in his last five games, JVR has cooled a bit — as most steady scorers do — but is prime to get hot again here soon and no better time for the Flyers than in this important matchup. Washington is a lot of things, but discipled they are not, and that should give JVR a few chances in his office to do some damage.
Will the real Ivan Provorov please stand up, please stand up? We’re gonna have a problem here if the Flyers’ de-facto No. 1 defenseman can’t pull things together — because Matt Niskanen ain’t walking through that door. Look for Provy to rack up big, important minutes again tonight, but the question will be how he looks over the course of them.
The leader of the ‘mustache line’ is the hottest Flyer offensively with points in four of five (two goals, three assists) and came up with a big goal back on Thursday against these same Capitals. The Flyers desperately need depth scoring and Laughton’s energy can be contagious — keep an eye on No. 21 tonight.
Two big questions
Can the Flyers avoid losing the special teams battle?
Collectively the Capitals boast the NHL’s ninth-best power play and 11th ranked penalty kill. That’s good. The Flyers, on the other hand, have the 21st ranked power play and the 27th ranked penalty kill. That’s bad.
Though the Flyers continue to push play at a largely average rate at 5-on-5 for the most part, they’re getting flat-out killed on special teams night-in and night-out. Doing that tonight against the Caps will send the Flyers home losers again and put a ton of stress on those games.
Can the defense pull their collective heads out of their collective asses?
As detailed above, Ivan Provorov has been a mess recently — but you could apply that to just about every defenseman that has suited up in the last few weeks. Erik Gustafsson has been quite possibly the worst “defenseman” I’ve ever seen and Shayne Gostisbehere has had the yips of late. Philippe Myers was a healthy scratch (why?), Travis Sanheim has been lukewarm and Robert Hagg mystifyingly has added a new level of negative value to the equation. At least Justin Braun’s been better since contracting COVID-19!
Seriously, pull it together.
(Mattias Ekholm, hello)
Flyers’ projected (and subject to change) lineup:
van Riemsdyk - Couturier - Farabee
Laughton - Hayes - Konecny
Lindblom - Giroux - Voracek
Andreoff - Patrick - Aube-Kubel
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Sanheim - Braun
Hagg - Myers