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Preview: Time to take a nap

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Is this a euphemism for knocking somebody out, or is it a suggestion that you (the reader) take a nap during this game? Guess what, it’s both.

NHL: MAR 06 Flyers at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the second game of post-Silly Season shenanigans, the Flyers will take on the Penguins in the sixth class between the two teams of the season. Who are the players to watch, what are the storylines, and what’s the theme song for today? All that and more below.

The Penguins

Pittsburgh is an odd team. On one hand, they’re undoubtedly a playoff-caliber roster with championship aspirations, but on the other hand they seem to be running on fumes. Looking up and down the lineup, the names surrounding the core pieces we all know and hate look like they’re straight out of year 10 in an NHL 20 franchise mode. Look at the fourth line and tell me that Radio Zohorna and Colton Sceviour aren’t computer generated names, and I’ll call you a liar.

Obviously, the headliner coming into this game is former Flyer and noted sniper Jeff Carter (an ironic title considering how much fans seemed to hate him when he was in Philly). The veteran center brings decent enough impact, but he’s far from the player he once was; Carter’s skating has fallen off, and he’s become more of a volume shooter than anything (79th in iCF, 175th in goals). The big fella will likely suit up between Jason Zucker and Jared McCann as a stand-in for Evgenii Malkin for the time being.

In net for the Pens will be Tristan Jarry, who hasn’t exactly replicated his success from last year. The Pittsburgh netminder ranks 60th in GSAx and 41st in GSAA, both well below league average. Jarry has performed this way despite facing the 15th-fewest unblocked shots in the league; the Flyers ought to shower him in a deluge of shots, even if they’re a bit low-danger.

The Flyers

What’s left to say about this group? Change has to happen in the offseason, that much is certain. With the expansion draft looming and the impending shakeup to this roster, this team has nothing left to play for except pride, and after Tuesday’s beating against the Capitals even that seems like a stretch. Aside from Tanner Laczynski and Claude Giroux, just about every player on the team looked like they wanted to get off the ice as fast as possible. Not an ideal preface to a game against a rival, but an apt one nevertheless.

The Penguins are one of the deadlier rush offenses in the league, so the Flyers will need to improve their coverage and anticipation in the neutral zone before anything else. Philly isn’t a very good team when it comes to preventing controlled entries, so restraining the Pens before they hit the blue line is in their best interest. That and a heavy forecheck will be the keys to winning this game.

Also key will be Carter Hart’s performance. The young goalie has been far better recently, but he’s still run a bit hot and cold. He’ll need to be on his toes against a Penguins roster that will probably test him the entire game, especially when he attempts to play the puck. Crafty players like Crosby, Zucker and Carter will know how to take advantage of poor decision making behind the net, so Hart needs to be conservative with his passing at all times.

Three Big Things

  1. Nicolas Aube-Kubel has been rancid this year and needs to show something in this final stretch of games. Boneheaded penalties and turnovers in the middle of the ice have supplanted the manic forechecking and restrained, yet effective physicality that were hallmarks of his game last year. As the Chairman of the NAKGB, I say this out of love: get your head on straight, Nic, or you’ll be back in Lehigh Valley soon enough.
  2. Scott Laughton had a rather lackluster first game under his new contract, but he’s had a knack for making things happen against the Penguins in key moments, even when the team’s been poor around him. I’ll go out on a limb and say that he’ll manage a point tonight.
  3. Will Phil Myers get time in the lineup, or will Sam Morin once again get the nod? This is an important saga to follow for the offseason implications alone; if Myers is continually scratched, that suggests that Fletcher is willing to move on from the towering defender. With names like Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Ellis becoming vaguely available (it’s unknown whether they’ll actually be moved, but it’s not impossible), Myers getting swapped in a major trade isn’t out of the question. Keep a keen eye on this situation.

Game Day Tunes

Folks, it’s time to take a load off your shoulders. I’m seeing a lot of anger in the comments lately. I get it, this season has been disappointing and you want the team to succeed. But ask yourself: is it worth it? In a pandemic-fraught world full of stressors, don’t let the Flyers add to the crushing feeling hovering over you. Summer is coming soon, the vaccine is rolling out, and life is a hell of a lot better now than it was this time last year, at least on a global scale. You’ll have a whole offseason to be angry; for now, try to find some enjoyment in these final games. I know it’s hard, but try. Let some of that weight off of your shoulders.

Happy game day, and as always, go Flyers.