There is nothing like an opportunity to pile on a fan base’s sadness and misery. Just when they think it could not get any worse, your favorite team comes to town as the underdogs and just pummels them into re-thinking their entire purpose as a fan of a team. That is what we are hoping is going to happen tonight, as the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While a 4-4-2 start to the season isn’t terrible, add in the sprinkle of context of not getting out of the first round since 2004, the pressure of your big players on massive contracts, and the overall feeling of self-importance that that fan base oozes; the Leafs are in panic mode for everyone that pays attention to them on the outside. Also, just to add to the dispair, they have lost their last four games on a western swing of a road trip. Losing to the Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks. Just a hilarious group of teams to fall apart in front of.
Now, it’s up to the Flyers to squash them like a bug in their return home and make it all seem so much worse.
They should not be losing to this Philadelphia team no matter the context. It is a half-roster full of players that are trying to reach their potential, going up against the supposed offensive powerhouse that has one of the best centers to play the game in the modern era in Auston Matthews. On paper, it’s a mismatch, but the paper does not take into account the Leaf-i-ness of it all.
Projected Flyers lineup:
Joel Farabee — Kevin Hayes — Travis Konecny
Noah Cates — Scott Laughton — Owen Tippett
Kieffer Bellows — Morgan Frost — Zack MacEwen
Nic Deslauriers — Lukas Sedlak — Wade Allison
Ivan Provorov — Tony DeAngelo
Travis Sanheim — Rasmus Ristolainen
Nick Seeler — Justin Braun
With Carter Hart playing out of his mind against the New York Rangers last night, it makes sense that Tortorella will opt to have Felix Sandstrom make this start. That lessens the Flyers’ chances of taking this one tonight, but maybe the bounces can just go in our way.
This lineup is still missing some key players — that might never, ever return or touch ice again — but it is not without some scorers. Kevin Hayes is good again, having earned 10 points in the eight games he played and his linemate Travis Konecny leads the team in goals with four. It might not be led by a star player, but having seven players playing tonight that have at least two goals this season is a nice little treat. Defense is another story, but we all know what’s up with that.
Projected Maple Leafs lineup:
Michael Bunting — Auston Matthews — Mitch Marner
Alex Kerfoot — John Tavares — William Nylander
Pierre Engvall — Pontus Holmberg — Calle Jarnkrok
Zach Aston-Reese — David Kampf — Denis Malgin
Morgan Rielly — Victor Mete
T.J. Brodie — Justin Holl
Mark Giordano — Rasmus Sandin
Ilya Samsonov, who is the only good goalie for Toronto right now, is projected to be in the crease tonight. The Russian netminder that was signed by the Leafs as a free agent this summer is single handedly not making this team look like trash, with a .920 save percentage and 2.35 goals against average.
It is the same old story with the Toronto lineup though. You have your top-six that is anchored with two top-tier duos, the tertiary player on each line just trying to create some magic and not be a total waste of space, and then a bottom-six that might not even be good enough for a team that is at the bottom of the standings. If the Flyers can just somehow stifle and rattle their Big Four, then they have a fighting chance.
On the blue line, Victor Mete has somehow found his way on the top pairing next to Morgan Rielly, despite the pairing with the Leafs’ top defenseman and T.J. Brodie posting some of the best underlying numbers in terms of shot attempts and expected goals. Maybe this is just an attempt to spread the talent, and not have elderly Mark Giordano play too much on the second pairing, but Rielly is certainly one player that needs a stable partner and a player that was just on waivers might not be it.
Either way, these two teams are clashing, and we are just praying for a good result for our Flyers tonight. Even if it means disrupting any sort of tank we want. The content from the en masse panic is going to taste so sweet. We need it. It would be hilarious.
Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.