We’ve had basketball and baseball kick off their seasons, and the NFL is closing in on their start of training camp. However, hockey fans worldwide have had to wait just as patiently for the NHL return. After a day full of hockey on Saturday, the Flyers will finally will get their call to the ice Sunday afternoon.
The Flyers, currently sitting in the fourth seed, will kick off their journey to a potential higher seed Sunday at 3 PM against the Boston Bruins. Boston, currently sitting at the first seed, looks to be a bit short handed heading into the restart.
Puck drop for the pivotal conference matchup is slated for 3 PM Sunday afternoon. Coverage can be seen on NBC, with radio coverage on 97.5 the Fantatic. Currently, the Flyers are +120 underdogs with the over/under set at 5.5 goals.
We Meet Again…
Prior to the suspension of the season, the Flyers and Bruins met on March 10th. The Flyers, riding a nine game winning streak at the time, were stopped in their tracks in this one. Boston would go on to ruin their streak in a 2-0 victory, which also kept Philadelphia from taking over the first seed in the Metropolitan Division.
However, these two teams also got to play two other games as opponents during this season. The Flyers took both of those contests in a shootout. One of them, of course, being the classic Brad Marchand shootout flub. Philadelphia may not have been able to take the first season sweep of the B’s in their franchise history, but they have proven to have the ability to beat the top dogs.
The Flyers look to be 100% healthy in terms of the injury report. After missing a couple of key players in James van Riemsdyk and Nate Thompson back in March, the Flyers finally have a fun roster. With this said, the lines are still a bit messy. Coach Alain Vigneault confirmed his defensive lines, but displayed a couple of different looks in their exhibition win over the Penguins. As shown in a number of quotes the top d-pair Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen, the defensive core sounds like they’re ready to rock and roll.
The Bruins, however, were not as lucky during the break. After a lengthy injury list a couple of weeks ago, the Bruins seem to have it cut down in time for game one. The unfortunate part for them is that they are likely to be without their starting goaltender, Tuuka Rask. Rask, who is 26-8-6 with a 2.12 GAA this season missed the Saturday practice. According to coach Bruce Cassidy, Rask “is not feeling well,” and is up in the air for Sunday. The Bruins do have quite the capable backup, though, with Jaroslav Halak in the trenches.
On the offensive end, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand are both said to be ready to play Sunday. Contrary to that, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie will be out for the Bruins.
Players to Watch
About a month ago, the Flyers’ team at Philly Sports Network wrote about the top five Flyers against each qualifying team. The five against Boston, however, do not come as much of a surprise. For Sunday’s game, make sure to continue to watch the veteran guys. The Flyers will need to rely on Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and James van Reimsdyk, all of which have incredible success in their careers against the Bruins.
Carter Hart could be the main player to watch in this one, though. Hart is obviously very young, but his maturity is beyond his age. Since he came into the league, the Boston Bruins have been a force to be reckoned with. Despite their dominance, Hart has given the Flyers a significant edge in the win column. In five appearances, Hart has gone 4-1-0. In said games, the 21-year-old has an impressive 2.71 goals against average. Saving 141 of 155 shots he has faced, his small sample size only shows what is to come for the youngster. Not only does this prove his ability to play in big games, but it shows he is able to win them as well. Keep an eye on Hart’s poise in his first meaningful game back on the ice.
On the Boston side of the ice, Pastrnak being in the lineup is huge. Pastrnak co-led the NHL’s goal race with 48 goals. He also ranks third in the NHL’s points race (95), which is a career high for him. Against the Flyers, Pastrnak has nine goals and 14 points in 15 career games.
This game is going to be incredibly tough to predict. Honestly, it’s going to come down to whoever makes the least amount of mistakes. As seen in the games already completed around the league, there’s a ton of rust among the players. This could end up favoring the Bruins in the long run, as their star power and veterans could overcome the Flyers’ youth and energy.
However, it would be ignorant to sleep on Philadelphia. They have proven doubters wrong time and time again this season. They have proven their ability to compete with the big guys, and deserve plenty of credit. Philly didn’t get into the playoffs for no reason, and are ready to make some noise. As the captain mentioned last week, the Flyers’ cup chances are as high as they were in 2010.
This game will go deep into the third period, and possibly even overtime. The Flyers, though, will come out on top as long as their young guys don’t let their nerves get to them. If Philly brings their energy, they’ll take this one 3-2. If the Flyers come out slow and let Boston’s experience trump their speed and spirit, Boston will take this one 4-2.
Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports