Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers vs Tampa Bay Lightning

This past Wednesday, the Philadelphia Flyers earned their biggest victory of the season at home. They rallied on a shorthanded goal by Kevin Hayes to win against the Washington Capitals, 3-2. Tonight, the Flyers are back at the Wells Fargo Center to host the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sitting fifth in the Metropolitan Division, Philadelphia attempts to continue their home-ice dominance. The Lightning look to stay in second place in the Atlantic Division, distancing themselves from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In the next six days, the Philadelphia Flyers play four games. Currently, on a five-game winning streak at home, the Flyers still have the best winning percentage at home in the NHL at 80%. They host the hottest team in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won nine in a row. This is the first time these two teams have played each other this season. Philadelphia needs this victory against the Lightning as they were unable to defeat Tampa Bay at all last season.

Carter Hart gets the nod tonight to start in the net for the Philadelphia Flyers. Across the ice, he will go head-to-head with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. Over the last ten games between the two franchises, the Lightning own a 7-3 record. Three of the last four games between Tampa Bay and the Flyers have gone beyond regulation. On the injury report, the Lightning list Ryan McDonagh with an upper-body injury.

Tampa Bay Lightning – Skaters

Offensively, the player to key in on tonight for the Tampa Bay Lightning is Nikita Kucherov. He leads the team in scoring with 49 points. Kucherov is just as lethal on the powerplay as he is during even-strength hockey at setting up scoring plays. Scoring on 14.3% of the shots he takes, he has a knack for putting the puck by goaltenders during even-strength hockey. When he is on the ice, the Lightning flourish.

Defensively, Kevin Shattenkirk is a player that the Tampa Bay Lightning gets the most value from. He has a +/- of sixteen this season, which makes him stand out from the rest of the Lightning defensemen. He’s also contributed 26 points offensively this season, with six of those points coming on the powerplay. When Shattenkirk isn’t helping the offense, he’s blocked 43 shots and dished 36 hits this season. Those are good numbers on the second defensive pairing.

Tampa Bay Lightning – Goaltending

Andrei Vasilevskiy totes a 21-9-2 record this season. He’s yet to touch double-digits in regulation losses. Just like the Philadelphia Flyers did against the Washington Capitals, they will have to solve this goaltender early on. Vasilevskiy has a 91.3% save percentage this season and a goals-against-average of 2.66. More than half of his starts this season have been quality starts.

Faceoff Possession

Both teams have a winning percentage in the faceoff circle that exceeds 50%. The Tampa Bay Lightning are at 50.8% while the Philadelphia Flyers maintain 54.9%. On the Lightning, the best faceoff opportunists are Yanni Gourde, Steven Stamkos, and Mitchell Stephens. For the Flyers, they look to Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Scott Laughton. The advantage here stays with Philadelphia.

Prediction

After a quality win against the Washington Capitals, one could argue that they face a tougher opponent at home tonight in the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Philadelphia Flyers will be without Shayne Gostisbehere. Taking the spotlight off of Carter Hart’s play at home, the focus will shift to the performance of the Flyers on special teams. If Philadelphia can convert on the powerplay and stay strong on the penalty kill, they have a shot against the Lightning at home. Expect another close game, but this time my allegiance is with the orange and black.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The money line favors the Tampa Bay Lightning at -150 with an over-under set at 6.5. Follow me at EricReesePSN and Philly Sports Network at PhiladelphiaSN on Twitter!

Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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