The Flyers are, for better or worse, still playing hockey games. Tonight they’ll face off against the Washington Capitals who are coming off of an... interesting game. Who are the players to watch, what are the storylines, and why should you tune in? All of this and more below.
Washington comes into tonight having just played the Rangers. What exactly happened in that game? Well, for those who don’t pay much attention to news around the league, the Blueshirts and boys from D.C. scrapped quite a bit at the beginning of the Wednesday night affair, with an NHL record six fights in the first five minutes. Hundreds of penalty minutes and one Pavel Buchnevich suspension later (due to a high stick/crosscheck to Anthony Mantha’s face) and we arrive at the present day. What triggered all of this? Tom Wilson did a thing, and the league responded by throwing up their hands and saying “well, boys will be boys.”
Tom Wilson gets a 10-minute misconduct for punching Buchnevich in the head on the ground and body slamming Panarin pic.twitter.com/fg2HRej8yD— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) May 4, 2021
The above sequence commanded a $5,000 fine and no suspension, as opposed to the two games Shayne Gostisbehere has to sit out for his dirty hit on Mark Friedman. While two wrongs don’t make a right, it’s ridiculous that the league gave someone with Wilson’s track record and clear lack of remorse yet another free pass for this kind of sneaky bullshit.
Anyways, enough about that storyline; what’s more important is that Caps forward T.J. Oshie is coming off of an incredible performance where he scored a hat-trick a day after losing his father to Alzheimer's. The Caps are looking to snatch the first seed from the Penguins with a strong finish to the year, so you can imagine the combination of motivating factors here will be powerful.
What exactly are the weaknesses of this team? It’s difficult to pinpoint, but goaltending is a glaring concern. Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov have both been fine, if inconsistent, and the roster’s success ebbs and flows behind their hot stretches. Both are talented, with Samsonov in particular flashing the promise that had him touted as the best goaltending prospect in the world as recently as two years ago. Still, neither of them have been objectively elite, ranking 67th and 63rd in GSAx respectively. If the Flyers want to play spoiler, it’s going to be all about challenging the goalies early before they find a rhythm.
Welp, it’s certainly been a season for this team. The positives have been few and far between as most of the young talent has seen massive regression, with the veterans being unable to carry the load. The only solace in this barren wasteland lately has been the play of Wade Allison, and even then he’s not been lighting the scoresheet on fire as much as he’s just been a really solid middle six forward.
What’s that you say? There’s something legitimately intriguing about tonight’s game?
That’s right people. Cam York is finally here, performing for you. If you know the words, you can join in too. The former 14th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, York is a foundational piece of the future Chuck Fletcher envisions for the franchise. After a strong sophomore season at Michigan where he was 5th on a loaded team in scoring and led all defenders in points, a brief stint in the AHL gave us all glimpses of what York is capable of. It seems that the Flyers plan on the young defender playing a role in the NHL product next year, potentially as a full-time starter from day one; his debut tonight is arguably the most can’t-miss event of the season.
With York, you’re not going to see anything flashy. The fundamentals are rock solid, the skating and skill are well above average but not mind-blowing, etc etc; his game is all about decision making and controlling pace. Against an experienced roster full of skilled players and elite finishing talent like Washington, I’ll be keen to see how he adapts to the superior speed and physicality of the new competition. My (and many people’s) biggest concern with York is his lack of concise and aggressive decision making when it’s absolutely necessary, especially under a heavy forecheck executed by bigger and faster players. The optimistic part of me still thinks he’s a year away from being an effective NHLer, but he’ll hopefully prove otherwise.
Three Big Things
- It’s all about the young guns at this point, but keep an eye on some of the middle six players who are more established. With the emergence of Allison, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone in that group gets moved, whether via the expansion draft or a trade. Evaluate who stands out in a positive and negative light as if you were a GM.
- Philly needs a hero in net tonight if they want to win, and while I doubt Brian Elliott will be up to the task stranger things have happened. If the Moose is locked in tonight, root hard for him; there’s a slightly higher than zero percent chance that this is his final start.
- York will be paired up with Justin Braun, who’s been solid as a bottom pair guy. Pay attention to how those two mesh, and savor the humor of the duo; Braun made his NHL debut when York was just nine years old.
Game Day Tunes
With that title, what else could I pick?
Happy game day, apologies for the late upload on this preview, and as always, go Flyers.