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Preview: It’s baseball season

At this point it’s malpractice for us to encourage watching this team.

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Flyers and the Devils will play their third consecutive game against one another today, continuing the Week From Hell. What are the storylines, who are the players to watch, and which tune will be at the end of the preview today? All that and more below.

The Flyers

The big news of the day for Philly is something everyone knew was coming. Carter Hart has officially been shut down for the remainder of the season with an MCL sprain, mercifully removing him from the starting rotation of goalies in a set of meaningless games. Hart had an awful year from every conceivable angle, but there’s reason for hope that he’ll turn things around next season; the young goaltender had a run of games at the beginning of April that reminded fans of what he’s capable of. It’s possible that Hart was battling through injuries, and with that compounded with the insane March schedule this team endured, things falling apart is understandable.

Aside from that, there’s not a ton that’s happened. Egor Zamula was sent back down to the taxi squad after a solid NHL debut where he racked up a surprising amount of ice time (19:19) and had a strong analytical profile, even when adjusting for flurries. Again, tonight is going to be all about focusing on Wade Allison, who hasn’t produced a point since his first NHL goal. With the way this series has gone, finding a goal wouldn’t be out of the ordinary; the two sides have combined for 17 goals in the past two meetings.

The Devils

The story remains the same for New Jersey: fun and speedy offensively, inconsistent goaltending, shoddy defense, and putrid special teams. MacKenzie Blackwood will again get the start in goal for the Devils, barring a surprise. The netminder often compared to Carter Hart has been frustrating in his third NHL season, but when he’s on he’s among the hardest goalies in the league to fool. Lindy Ruff’s squad is led by Jack Hughes and his cohorts Jesper Bratt and Yegor Sharangovich, with Nico Hischier bringing up the rear in an abbreviated season thanks to injury.

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils
Rookie Yegor Sharangovich has been an unexpected treat for Devils fans.
Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images

The Devils aren’t very good, but it could be argued that they’re well positioned to make drastic improvements in the next two seasons. The offensive core of this team has proven to be legitimately effective, and with the most projected cap space of any team in the league heading into the 2021 offseason, Tom Fitzgerald and company have the ability to make upgrades to depth and the defense. New Jersey has arguably the most valuable group of players under 23 in the league; they’re a team to keep an eye on.

Three Big Things

  1. Appreciate the play of Claude Giroux. As an aging player who’s suffered a multitude of injuries that arguably should have destroyed much of his effectiveness, Giroux’s ability to adapt and improve his game is remarkable. Wrist injuries robbed him of his fantastic shot, so he’s become an extremely successful pass-heavy winger to compensate. His offense was slowly in decline, so he worked hard to improve his defense to elite levels for his position. On a team where everything has fallen to shit, he continues to play like a man who wants to win, surrounded by people who aren’t capable of supporting him. Giroux is starting to become a tragic hero, but we need to enjoy him while he’s still here.
  2. Gauge the difference in quality of play when Egor Zamula is missing from the lineup, and attempt to analyze what about his debut created that positive or negative difference. Think like Chuck Fletcher is (hopefully): in terms of future value, where does Zamula fit in this team’s plans? Is he redundant with the types of prospects on their way up, IE replaceable, or will he be critical to replenishing the roster? These are the types of nuggets Flyers fans need to search for in awful games.
  3. Sam Morin has stunk lately, even among the flaming bag of dog crap that is the Philly defense. While we’re all rooting for the kid to succeed and be an NHL player, he needs to prove he belongs and stop chasing for hits like a mid-level AHL player. This is a Devils team that exploits Morin’s weaknesses (anticipation and pivot speed), so if he can show something against them it’ll be worthy of serious praise. Right now? Not feeling too proud of his play.

Game Day Tunes

There’s nothing like listening to old, jazzy music with the windows open to let the summer breeze in.

Happy game day, and as always, go Flyers.