Tonight at 7 pm, the Flyers will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in their first game of December. The Flyers also enter the game red-hot, having won four in a row and five of their last six games.
Toronto visits Philadelphia for the first time under new head coach Sheldon Keefe and the second time this year. This is the third contest of the season between the clubs, having split the previous games after both went to a shootout. Interesting note, the home team has lost both of these games. The Leafs have won four of their last five games since firing Mike Babcock. Like the Flyers, The Leafs sit in third place in their division.
The Maple Leafs rank fourth in the NHL in total goals scored. They have currently scored 92 goals. The Flyers rank sixth in goals allowed having surrendered 73 goals. On the flip side, the Flyers rank 17th, having scored 82 goals, and the Leafs rank 26th in goals allowed, having given up 90 goals.
The key Matchup will be Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Andreas Johnsson line versus the top defensive pairing of Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen and most likely Sean Couturier’s line. It will be interesting to see how both Keefe and Alain Vigneault game plan these matchups. When asked about what challenges the Leafs bring, Shayne Gostisbehere said the following:
“You know, they’re coming off a coaching change. And, you know, they’ve been playing pretty well since that. So, you know, I think for us, it’s just keeping it simple. You know, they’re really a highly skilled team, so, you know, they feed off turnovers. I think if we just stick to our game, I think we did that against them, then we should be good.”
Scott Laughton echoed Ghost’s statement and knows the Flyers need to play their own style against the Maple Leafs:
“Yeah, well, they’ve been pretty hot as of late and been rolling pretty good. So we know they’re dynamic. I haven’t played them yet but these guys have and they’re a dynamic team that can make plays off the rush and making you pay. So we have to continue the same way. I don’t think we change anything. We’ve had a really good forecheck and been able to press teams and be in their zone for long periods of time. And our goaltending has been great in the month, so I think those are the biggest keys is playing our game and it will take care of itself.”
The Leafs will still be without star forward Mitch Marner as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain. It was also reported this morning that Robert Hagg will sit and that Ghost and Phil Myers will be the third defensive pairing.
This will be the first game the Leafs play against Carter Hart this season. Hart has been spectacular as of late. In the month of November, he was 6-2-2 with a 1.94 GAA and a .927 save percentage.
The Leafs will counter with the massive 6’4″ 230lb, Frederik Andersen. Andersen too has been playing great hockey lately. In November he is 7-3-1 with a .938 save percentage and a 1.97 GAA. He is 1-0-1 against the Flyers this year. It should be a really good goalie battle tonight.
Special Teams Battles
In a game that could easily be determined by the special teams, the Flyers will look to get their 12th ranked powerplay going against a Leafs team that ranks 28th in the penalty kill. Leaf defenders are killing penalties at a 75% clip. The Leafs’ powerplay is ranked 13th, converting 19.5% of their chances. The Flyers’ penalty kill is ranked third, killing off 85.7%.
This game should be a close one as the puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM from the Wells Fargo Center. Follow me on Twitter for live in-game reactions @Delco_dope and also at @PhiladelphiaSN.
Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports