After a strong pair of shutouts over the Sabres this weekend, the Flyers are right back at it tonight, and they’re set to face off against the Penguins for the next three games in a row. How fun!
The Flyers are just about back to full strength for the first time in what feels like months, with Travis Konecny having come off of the COVID protocol list this weekend and being available to play in tonight’s game, and their strong play against the Sabres has them finally looking like they’re getting themselves back on track. And, with a win tonight (depending on the outcome of the other games happening around the division), the Flyers have a chance to jump the Bruins and the Islanders and move into second place in the division.
The Penguins are hanging out right behind them in the standings, two points behind them (though having played two more games). They’re coming off of a split against the Islanders and are looking to find a bit more consistency and get some momentum going. It’s also the first they’re seeing the Flyers since getting swept in the season opening series, so they’re probably also looking to exact some revenge, if we want to get really dramatic about it. They will, however, be without Sidney Crosby in this one, so do with that what you will.
Let’s get comfortable, gang, because we’re going to be seeing a lot of these guys this week.
Players to watch
1. Travis Konecny
He’s back, at long last! Konecny was the last remaining Flyer to be activated from the COVID protocol list, and he’s likely to get back into the lineup tonight. The first few games back have been generally kind to the players who have already come off the list, and we’re hopeful that Konecny can tap into some of that same magic and make a real statement in his return to the lineup. We’re trying to keep our expectations reasonable, though, as it is still true that he hasn’t played a game in just about three weeks, so it he needs a game to get fully back up to speed, that’s understandable. But having Konecny back certainly gives the Flyers a boost, even if he does have a bit of rust to shake off.
2. Sean Couturier
Another key piece of this Flyers offense that really seems to be hitting its stride is Couturier, who’s just been on another level since he returned from injury early last month. He had a three point game in his return, then the Flyers had their pause, but he’s picked up seven points in his last five games since they resumed play. His line with James van Riemsdyk and Joel Farabee has looked pretty lethal since they’ve been put together, and we’re hoping that they can bring that same jump into this next matchup.
Two big questions
1. Can the power play break through?
The Flyers’ power play was looking pretty sharp in last week’s game against the Rangers, as they picked up two goals in that game, but they cooled off this weekend against the Sabres. But despite the fact that they were held off the board in those two games, they did still get a few good chances, so there’s reason for optimism that they’ll be able to find some success sooner or later. They seem to be trending in the right direction, so here’s hoping that the results to match the improving process start to come for them tonight.
2. Will the Flyers continue their dominance at 5-on-5?
What was perhaps most encouraging to see from the Flyers this weekend was how they were able to pretty thoroughly dominate play from a possession standpoint against the Sabres at 5-on-5. That’s been a real weak point for the Flyers so far this season, but they did some really solid work in against the Sabres, and they’re going to need to keep that rolling into these games against the Penguins. The Sabres might not be the most formidable opponent, but we got a real taste this weekend of how lethal the Flyers can look when they’re playing a solid process and getting results from it. Let’s do some more of that, yeah?
Puck drops tonight at 7:00, and you can check out the projected lineup below.
van Riemsdyk - Couturier - Farabee
Giroux - Hayes - Patrick
Lindblom - Laughton - Voracek
Raffl - Bunnaman - Konecny
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Sanheim - Myers
Hagg - Braun
Tuesday marks the start of a three-game stint in Pittsburgh, the first time the Flyers have met up with their hated rivals since the first two games of the season. Since *extreme Flyperbole voice* it’s been a while, Jim Rixner of Pensburgh is back to give us the lowdown on the Penguins’ season thus far.