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Preview: Guard Bedard

Photo Credit: Heather Barry Images

The Game: 7:30 p.m. EST (TNT)

It has been several days since the Philadelphia Flyers played a hockey game, and it has been even longer since they played one indoors.

Saturday night’s brutal loss against the New Jersey Devils was frustrating for several reasons. First, no one likes the Devils, plain and simple. Second, the Flyers got absolutely bullied from beginning to end, and there was never a true moment of hope. Third, and perhaps most notably, we have become very accustomed to the Flyers putting up a good fight, even if the results don’t fall into place.

Take, for example, last week’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. While the game seemed lopsided through the first period in which the Flyers conceded three goals to Auston Matthews, the second period felt like a completely different game. Sam Ersson found his feet; the defense buckled down; and the offense generated a few chances that could’ve brought the game within reach. Indeed, the Flyers stormed back in the third period and sent us into overtime.

Though the Leafs ultimately grabbed the win, the Flyers hung around just long enough to give themselves an opportunity for two points in the standings. Yet, the Devils game was entirely different. The Philly faithful were excited to watch the Flyers don new uniforms and Rocky sweatsuits to embarrass a team that is both (1) incredibly annoying and (2) so uncreative that its uniform concept was basically a carbon copy of the Flyers 2019 Stadium Series kit. However, the fans’ excitement was quickly quashed.

Why does the loss hurt so much? It hurts because it was unexpected. And why was it unexpected? Because we have arrived at a crucial juncture in the season–i.e. a juncture at which we actually expect this team to win. We no longer turn on the TV with the apathetic mindset of “Well, here goes nothing;” nor do we find ourselves bracing for heartbreak and disappointment. We are beginning to expect greatness from this Flyers team that is, despite all odds, in a decent position for a playoff run.

What does this mean for tonight’s matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks? It means that the Flyers need to win. Yes, the Flyers need to win.

Every hockey team will win a game here and there, and good hockey teams will win a game or two that they probably shouldn’t. Great hockey teams, however, will consistently win games against lower-tier competition in in spite of any temptation to phone it in. Great hockey teams will win games that they are expected to win. Great hockey teams routinely take care of business.

We all know that the Blackhawks are a bad team. They have one win in their last ten games, and they average 3.54 goals allowed per game. But here’s the question: who cares? Tonight, the Flyers need to step on the ice ready to play at a high level. When facing off against a team like the Blackhawks, there are no excuses for a loss. The Flyers are the more talented squad. The roster isn’t depleted by injuries–bar Tyson Foerster and Rasmus Ristolainen. The team has gotten plenty of rest in the last two weeks. And, if anything, Saturday’s gut punch should serve as some added motivation.

Tonight is (or should be) business as usual.

Players to Watch

Owen Tippett
Sure, Owen Tippett is always a player to watch. If it weren’t for the absurd rate at which Travis Konecny puts points on the board, Owen Tippett might be the most impressive member of this team. So what is so special about tonight? Tonight, Tippett makes the Players to Watch list because he has a special way of putting the team on his back when everyone else seems stuck in the mud.

Tippett scored two goals and tallied ten (10!) shots against the Devils. Those numbers are mind boggling when you compare his play to the rest of the group, and we would like to think that he will continue to have a positive influence on his comrades.

Sean Walker
As the trade deadline approaches, rumors begin to swirl. A prominent subject of these rumors has been Sean Walker, who has emerged as a fairly likable player to the fans and a valuable asset on the ice. For now, no one really knows what will happen with Walker. A couple of months ago, Walker was believed to be an influential trade piece in the New Era of Orange, but recent developments suggest that he could remain in Philadelphia.

It is important to recognize that Walker isn’t ignorant of the speculation. In a recent, exclusive interview with BSH’s Ryan Quigley, Walker elaborated on his attempts to put the rumors behind him. He is a human being, after all, and life is far more complex than on-ice performance. We are curious to see how he channels the energy in the coming weeks.

Connor Bedard
Tonight marks the first opportunity for Flyers fans to watch the Blackhawks’ star rookie take the ice. Connor Bedard has been a welcome addition to the NHL this season, leading his team with 39 points. In fact, Bedard doesn’t just lead the team; he is, effectively, the exclusive point-getter. The second and third place scorers are Philipp Kurashev (Bedard’s linemate) and Jason Dickinson, who have 32 and 27 points, respectively.

Even more, Bedard has shown that he never lost a step while out with a jaw injury. Though the 18-year-old missed fourteen games for the Blackhawks in January and February, he has tallied six points in his three games back. Tonight, the Flyers will be hard-pressed to lock him down.

Projected Lineups

Philadelphia Flyers
Owen Tippett – Sean Couturier – Cam Atkinson
Joel Farabee – Morgan Frost – Travis Konecny
Ryan Poehling – Noah Cates – Garnet Hathaway
Nic Deslauriers – Scott Laughton – Olle Lycksell

Cam York – Jamie Drysdale
Nick Seeler – Sean Walker
Egor Zamula – Travis Sanheim

Sam Ersson
(Cal Petersen)

Chicago Blackhawks
Nick Foligno – Connor Bedard – Philipp Kurashev
Anthony Beauvillier – Jason Dickinson – Joey Anderson
Boris Katchouk – Tyler Johnson – Taylor Raddysh
Colin Blackwell – Mackenzie Entwistle – Ryan Donato

Alex Vlasic – Seth Jones
Kevin Korchinski – Jaycob Megna
Jarred Tinordi – Louis Crevier

Arvid Soderblom
(Petr Mrazek)

Gameday Tunes

Stats via Hockey Reference

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