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Preview: Flyers visit Long Island for MLK Day bout

Philly will hope to avoid an eighth straight loss in their first matchup of the season with the Islanders.

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NHL: Preseason-New York Islanders at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers will travel to Long Island to face a surprise last-place New York Islanders team in the first match-up of the season between the two teams.

In 2012, Adam Gold, a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri, presented a system for determining draft order in professional sports leagues that would attempt to remove any form of tanking from the games. Basically, teams would “declare” themselves ineligible for the playoffs and all the points they begin accumulating from that point on would begin counting towards their draft position. The team with the most “Gold Points” by the end of the season would draft first, and on and on from there. The idea is an interesting one, and much has been debated about it (here and here and here, for instance). Whether or not you think it should be implemented, you might agree that if the 2021-22 NHL season were following these rules, it would be wise for the Philadelphia Flyers to declare at this point.

Oddsmakers across the spectrum have basically ruled the Flyers out of any kind of contention at this point. Fanduel has them at 100/1 to win the Stanley Cup, ahead of nine teams; Dom at The Athletic’s most recent projections have them at 100% to miss the playoffs; Money Puck is slightly more optimistic, giving them a .8% chance to make it; and, according to DraftKings, the only teams less likely to win the Eastern Conference than Philly are Montreal, Ottawa, and Buffalo.

The Flyers have already banked a 10-game losing streak this season, and they’re staring down the barrel of another—currently at eight games with a home-and-home against a team they’ve struggled against in recent years. The Flyers are 5-2-5 against the Islanders during the Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz administration, which is not even counting the seven-game series in the bubble that sent the Islanders to the conference finals and the Flyers into a tailspin that they haven’t been able to pull out of.

This year, though, looks slightly different for the Islanders. They’re technically in last place in the Metropolitan Division, but that is in part thanks to the largest number of games postponed this season. In the 30 games they’ve played this year, they’re 11-13-6, which is good for a .467 points percentage. For reference, the Flyers have gone 13-17-7 in 37 games for a .446 points percentage.

Both of these teams had high expectations for the 2021-22 season, and both have largely failed to live up to them. The Islanders may still hold out a little more hope, having been ravaged by player absences due to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols at various points during this season and still sitting with so many games in hand compared to other teams contending for playoff spots, but for the most part, it’s a bottom-of-the-barrel matchup. The Flyers, it appears, will look to steal one with their backup, with Martin Jones confirmed in net for Philly and Ilya Sorokin projected for New York.

Projected Flyers lines:

Joel Farabee—Claude Giroux—Cam Atkinson
Oskar Lindblom—Scott Laughton—Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk—Kevin Hayes—Gerald Mayhew
Morgan Frost—Connor Bunnaman—Zack MacEwen

Ivan Provorov—Travis Sanheim
Cam York—Justin Braun
Keith Yandle—Rasmus Ristolainen

Martin Jones
(Carter Hart)

Projected Islanders lines:

Andres Lee—Mathew Barzal—Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier—Brock Nelson—Keiffer Bellows
Zach Parise—Jean-Gabriel Pageau—Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin—Casey Cizikas—Cal Clutterbuck

Adam Pelech—Scott Mayfield
Zdeno Chara—Noah Dobson
Robin Salo—Andy Greene

Ilya Sorokin
(Semyon Varlamov)

Keep an eye on:

  • Cam York, who has officially made the case to stay in the NHL indefinitely after successfully slotting into Ivan Provorov’s role in his absence and even scoring his first career goal two days ago against the Rangers. York has played 108 minutes in his 5 games and the Flyers have attempted 10 more shots than they’ve allowed during that time.
  • Mathew Barzal, who leads the Islanders with 22 points in 27 games, and who will be the fastest player on the ice tonight, as he’s one of the five or six fastest skaters in the NHL.
  • Claude Giroux, who is putting together a fine statistical campaign despite all the issues with the team as a whole. Giroux leads the Flyers with 29 points, and, along with the currently-injured Sean Couturier, is driving play at even strength better than any other Flyer: 54.20 Corsi for percentage, 53.47 Fenwick for percentage, and 53.11 shots for percentage.
  • Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara, who are in their first season with the Islanders after long careers with their former teams. For Parise, it was nine years in Minnesota, which ended with a buyout of a contract that would have taken him through the 2024-25 season. For Chara, it was 14 years in Boston before Lamoriello brought him back to the team that drafted him in 1996. I had basically forgotten that these two were on Long Island this season, likely in part because we’re like three months into the season and these teams haven’t played once. Parise is playing third-line minutes for the Islanders on a league minimum contract and has scored 1 goal and 7 assists, while Chara is on the second pair with just 2 assists on the season.
  • Oskar Lindblom, who seemed to have some nice chemistry with Travis Konecny against the Rangers, and has now scored points in three of his last four games and has 10 in his last 15. Lindblom has finally been given an extended chance away further up the lineup than the fourth line and it feels like he’s settling in and earning his keep up there.
  • The start time—a pesky half-hour later than usual. Usually when this happens, I prepare dinner to be ready at precisely 7:00 so I can sit and eat and watch the game and then I realize that it doesn’t start until 7:30 and have to eat in silence or find something else to watch as the food slowly cools down.

Stray stats:

  • The Flyers are 142-96-26-17 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the New York Islanders and 57-57-15-6 on Long Island, but this will be their first ever game at UBS Arena since it opened in November of last year. The Flyers were 3-4-0-1 in games played in Brooklyn.
  • The Islanders only have a single lineup regular who is breaking even in shot attempts—Barzal, who has been on the ice for 394 for and 393 against.
  • Flyers games have largely been decided by whichever teams scores first this season, a trend that held true on Saturday against the Rangers, where, despite a Flyers’ lead in the third period, New York scored first and won the game. The Flyers are 11-2-5 when scoring first and 2-15-2 when the other team scores first.
  • There were 20 years, 6 months, and 7 days in between New York Islanders games with Zdeno Chara in the lineup; the last in 2001 was a loss to the Bruins and the first in 2021 a loss to the Hurricanes. The gap between these two games was far longer than the entire careers of every other player who will step on the ice tonight for either team, with the closest being Parise, whose career began when Chara was in his final year of three with his second team, the Ottawa Senators.
  • The Flyers have the worst high danger chance ratio in the league. According to Natural Stat Trick’s count, they have created 287 high danger chances and have allowed 390 for a 42.39% share. They’ve allowed more than 31 teams, the exception being the Detroit Red Wings, who have allowed 405, but have created 40 more than the Flyers. The Islanders are closer to the middle of the pack in that respect, with a 47.48 high danger chances for percentage.
  • Only two Islanders have played in every game this season: Scott Mayfield and Cal Clutterbuck. The two have 11 points scored between them.

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