The Flyers will be aiming to put the nail in the coffin against the Canadiens this evening but will have to do so without the services of Matt Niskanen, who has been suspended for one game after his crosscheck on Brendan Gallagher. How will the Flyers negate the loss of such an important defensive cog?
An immediate solution
Alain Vigneault was asked how he’d replace Niskanen, alluding to a committee effort.
I think that without getting into the pairs, I mentioned a couple minutes ago that this is going to be done by committee because of the important minutes that Matt plays. I’ve got a lot of faith in our group. I think that whether it be Provy, whether it be Travis, whether it be Phil, Robert, Ghost or Justin, all those guys are strong players, good players. They want to compete. They want to do well. I’m sure they’re going to step up tonight.
This does make sense. Through the regular season, Niskinanen had 33 points (25 assists) through 68 games, as well as being vital on both the penalty kill and power play. Replacing him for one game isn’t an attainable thing. But finding the strengths in his game in other players and rotating them round to adjust for weaknesses is very logical.
A ghostly time to shine
One man who is bound to see more minutes is Shayne Gostisbehere. Since his emphatic two-assist outing against Tampa Bay, he’s seen 17 minutes of ice-time across two clashes with the Canadiens, but hasn’t played in seven days. The attacking-minded defenseman had 4 shots on goal and blocked a further 4 in the sickening 5-0 defeat, garnering a -2 rating.
“In the games that we’ve used him, he’s played well. He’s had a good jump. There’s no doubt coming back from the surgeries that he did, set him back a little bit, but he put in a lot of time. He put in a lot of effort. He’s had a real good attitude, a team-first attitude. Tonight, he’s going to get a chance to play. I’m confident that he’s going to play well for us.”
As far as who partners Provorov on the top line, Phil Myers has been playing unbelievably well and his goal in the recent 2-0 win will stand out here. We could well see a third line of Ghost and Hagg, while Justin Braun and Travis Sanheim filter in as rotations begin.
Vigneault could always throw a total wildcard and give some minutes to wonderkid Yegor Zamula, but it’s a lot of pressure considering the Flyers are coming off of a devastating loss. It’s more likely that all of the aforementioned names will filter in a situational committee approach to replace Niskanen. It would make sense for Ghost to see a bump on the powerplay, while others take on PK responsibilities. How all this pans out, only time will tell…but it looks as though AV wants everyone chipping in tonight.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre