We’re back at it again already, folks! The Flyers delivered just an absolutely brutal 9-0 loss to the Rangers last night, but they have a chance to pick up the pieces, put that behind them, and put up a much stronger game in response tonight. They’ll be facing off against the Islanders for the first of three games against them between now and Monday, and that’s sure to be, if nothing else, an interesting series. The Islanders are currently sitting at second in the East, but they’re coming off of a loss on Tuesday to the Capitals, and they’re going to be without Anders Lee (out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL), which is certainly a massive loss for them.
A win tonight would help the Flyers to pull themselves closer to getting back into the playoff picture—as it stands, they’re sitting at fifth in the East, three points behind the Bruins. It’s not going to be an easy climb to get back into the mix, but them taking the first step tonight would be, it goes without saying, massive.
Players to watch
As our pal Charlie so astutely noted on this week’s BSH Radio, so far this season Farabee is holding on to the honors of “player that no one really seems to be mad at right now,” which feels like no small feat, indeed. Farabee certainly had his own struggles in last night’s game, but he’s been one of the Flyers’ most productive and most engaged players, even when things are going poorly, so we can expect that he’ll be one of the players leading the charge as the team tries to put up a solid response to last night’s game. His line with James van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier has been little short of stellar for as long as they’ve been together, and the Flyers sure are going to need them to be back on their game in this one.
On the flip side, it has not been the cleanest or smoothest of weeks for Sanheim. Granted, it hasn’t really been the cleanest or smoothest of weeks for anybody, and it feels a little unfair to single him out. But he’s been, throughout the season, one of the Flyers’ more consistent defenders, and his performance has been a bit lacking of late. The good news, of course, is that we’ve seen him break out of slumps in a big way before, and pretty quickly get himself back on track, so we’re optimistic that this down period won’t last for much longer. And it goes without saying that if the Flyers as a whole want to right the ship, Sanheim bringing a more positive performance is going to be a huge part of that. So it tonight the night all of that falls into place? Well, here’s hoping.
Two big questions
1. What is the response going to look like?
That’s really the question of the hour. The Flyers looked flat out terrible last night, and they need to come out for this game looking better. There’s always a lot of talk about response after any tough loss, but this is just a whole other level, and the Flyers, perhaps for themselves more than for us even, need to at least take a step forward in tonight’s showing to keep things from going even more off the tracks.
Is this a sure thing that they respond well? Certainly, it doesn’t really seem possible that things could get much worse, but we have seen this team get caught in a downward spiral that sees bad things compounding more bad things, and them not really being able to shake that. We’re hopeful that we get a much better game, but a marginally better but still pretty flat follow-up to a blowout loss certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented.
2. How will special teams fare?
Both the power play and the penalty kill have struggled in stretches throughout the season, and at present, there really hasn’t been much in the way of signs of that turning around. The power play has been streaky, but they were productive on Monday, picking up two goals against the Rangers, but then the personnel was switched (Shayne Gostisbehere came out of the lineup) and they looked flat again last night. Like we said in our last section, we’re not really expecting perfection from the Flyers tonight, especially against an Islanders team that’s given them a lot of trouble in the past, but what we are hoping for is a minor improvement, a step towards things stabilizing a little bit. The ask is pretty low at this point, but these units are something we’re keeping an eye on, all the same.