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Preview: Mandela Effect

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You say there’s a Flyers game today? You must be misremembering.

NHL: APR 29 Flyers at Devils Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Allegedly, the Flyers are still playing hockey games against the Devils. Today marks the penultimate meeting of the season between two of the saddest teams in the NHL, and shenanigans are sure to ensue. Who should you watch, what are the storylines, and which song have I picked for today’s jam? All that and more below.

The Flyers

Not much noteworthy news out of the team for the past few days, aside from some more juggling of players on the Taxi Squad and some harsh comments by Alain Vigneault on the role of young players in the collapse of the penalty kill this season. Speaking of that, let’s talk about defensive structure, strategy, and signs that players aren’t comfortable, because that’s the type of stuff that Flyers fans should ultimately be dialing in on at this point. On the PK, Vigneault had this to say:

One thing I will say is we’re trying to work some of our young personnel in and it has been a learning experience. Last year, we had a couple of more veteran players there that had killed a bit in those situations before. This year, we’re working in a couple of guys. Phil Myers, for an example, last year never killed; it was [Matt Niskanen] or [Justin Braun] over the boards. This year, we’re throwing over the boards him and ... I don’t want to get into specific names there, but obviously trying to work in some personnel and it’s made our penalty-killing a little bit more challenging.

So, let me say this: Phil Myers has been an awful member of the penalty kill this season, specifically because he’s been routinely beaten on the same play: a backdoor pass. Myers has displayed an annoying tendency to forget that he can use his reach to cut off a passing lane, frequently bodying up the low man by the net without actually impeding the path the puck is going to take. That’s how he has the second-worst GA/60 at 4v5 of any Flyers defender despite solid analytical numbers and seemingly always appearing to be competitive with the attacker when getting scored on. It’s absentminded and conservative play like that which concerns me when evaluating the penalty kill. Just something to think about as we watch the final few games.

In other news, Egor Zamula was sent back down to the Taxi Squad tonight, while Wyatte Wylie was recalled from the Phantoms to be added to the reserves.

This is likely just the Flyers filling the bare minimum requirements for the Taxi Squad, but what this does tell is us that Cam York is probably a go for the Phantoms tonight. Aside from that, there’s little chance of Wylie hitting NHL ice for the first time.

The Devils

It’s unfair that the Devils have a player as fun as Yegor Sharangovich, who is ridiculously wholesome in addition to his knack for scoring goals.

This team is the same as the last time Philly played them, and will win or lose the same way: driven by speed along the outside. Incompetent special teams, inconsistent goaltending, and maddening defense are staples of Devils hockey in 2021, so there’ll likely be more of that to come. MacKenzie Blackwood (in dire need of a nap or a day off) will likely get the start again for New Jersey.

Three Big Things

  1. It’s all about watching the kids at this point. How do Wade Allison, Jackson Cates, and Egor Zamula (who may or may not play) look? Will Alain Vigneault continue to give heavy minutes to the young Zamula, an indicator of his trust in him, or will something else notable happen? Who can say.
  2. Try comparing clips of last year’s penalty kill to this year’s, and find the split. What’s different, and why do you think that is? Is it a uniform change (indicating a coaching effect) or just based upon individual mistakes? These are the observations worth making in a lost stretch of games.
  3. Limiting Sharangovich seems to be the key to stopping this Devils team. He’s been the biggest threat to finish chances in the entire series, and while there are other scoring options for that roster (Bratt, Hughes, etc), he’s the best one this year. Sharangovich seems content to play on the perimeter if forced there and hasn’t completely blown away the Flyers with his foot speed alone, so playing tight gaps and pivoting effectively will be useful in sealing him into the boards.

Game Day Tunes

Back to jazz. Don’t tell me that listening to this on a summer day with the windows open isn’t idyllic.

Happy game day, and as always, go Flyers.