Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins

Photography Credit: Alex McIntyre/Philly Sports Network

The Philadelphia Flyers (3-1-0) travel to Boston (1-1-1) to take on the Bruins in their first road game of the season.

The Philadelphia Flyers travel on the road for the first time this season after posting a 3-1-0 record at the Wells Fargo Center. After going undefeated against the Pittsburgh Penguins and recovering nicely with a shutout victory over the Buffalo Sabres, the Boston Bruins welcome the Philadelphia Flyers to the TD Garden. The last time these two teams squared off was during the round-robin playoff re-seeding in the 2020 postseason. Philadelphia was on the winning side of that matchup, 4-1. Nate Thompson scored the game-winning goal as Carter Hart recorded the win. Previously, that matchup was in the bubble at the Scotiabank Arena, a neutral site.

Tonight, the Bruins will be without Karson Kuhlman and David Pastrnak. Both the Bruins and Flyers are down men due to pandemic protocol. Kuhlman, similar to Shayne Gostisbehere, will not be dressing until he clears the COVID-19 protocol procedures. Last season, Kuhlman played in 25 games, registering six points and a plus-three rating on defense. Pastrnak, the leading scorer for Boston in 2019-2020, underwent hip surgery and is expected to miss five months. He’s a crucial loss for the Bruins, tallying 95 points on the way to winning the Maurice Richard Trophy last campaign.

Boston Bruins – Forward Spotlight

Following three games this season, Boston has a 1-1-1 record. In their last outing, they were shutout by the New York Islanders. Before that, they lost in overtime to the New Jersey Devils. Patrice Bergeron scored the only goal in that game versus the Devils on the penalty-kill. The Bruins are dangerous, even without Pastrnak; while Philadelphia has shown life on the powerplay this season, they’ve yet to allow a shorthanded goal.

Thus far, Bergeron is second on the team in overall scoring. Leading the team is Brad Marchand. Expect a lot of pressure to come from the left side of the ice between the two forwards. It’s also worth noting that Nick Ritchie, on the left-wing, has also tallied a goal this season. The Flyers are running thin on defense with two starters out of the lineup. Bergeron, Ritchie, and Marchand are three forwards that can make any team pay for an abundance of turnovers.

Boston Bruins – Defensive Spotlight

In their only win, a shootout victory over New Jersey, Matt Grzelyck registered an assist on a powerplay goal by Ritchie. Philadelphia’s penalty-kill hasn’t been a strong point in 2020-2021. Boston’s blueliners could make the Flyers pay on the man-advantage. Aside from Bergeron’s shorthanded goal, all scoring plays have been on the Bruins’ powerplay except for a shootout goal to defeat the Devils. To keep Boston at bay, Philadelphia must play exceptionally well on special teams.

Last time out, the best defenseman on the ice for the Bruins was Grzelyck. He remains a constant for Boston.

Boston Bruins – Goaltender Spotlight

Tuukka Rask is the projected starter for the Bruins in tonight’s game versus the Flyers. The reigning William M. Jennings Trophy winner has only allowed three goals this season. Rask finished 2019-2020 with the second most votes for the Vezina Trophy. During the 2020 postseason, Rask opted out of the bubble. Had he played, it’s fair to assume the Bruins would have had a more successful postseason run.

Rask notched the only victory for Boston in 2020-2021 to date. His goals-against average stands at a stubborn 1.46, with a save percentage is 92.3%. He’s an elite goaltender in this league. In his only appearance against Philadephia in 2019-2020, he secured a shutout victory. That victory was the last game before the NHL paused due to COVID-19.

Philadelphia Flyers Phlight Deck

Lineup changes are a part of the norm for the Flyers in 2020-2021. Their “next man up” mantra will continue to be put to the test as they arrive at the TD Garden Arena. Recently, Morgan Frost suffered a dislocated left shoulder in Tuesday’s victory versus the Sabres. Additionally, Philippe Myers week-to-week with a broken rib.

Alain Vigneault proved his track record in making adjustments to set Philadelphia straight. Tonight, he’ll likely enlist Connor Bunnaman to fill in for Frost. Expect Bunnaman to play on the fourth-line while Nolan Patrick and Scott Laughton gain more ice time. Defensively, Mark Friedman could fill in for Myers. Friedman could be on the third pair with Robert Hagg.

Hart will get the start tonight after Brian Elliott notched a shutout on Tuesday night. He’ll look to get back in his groove while on the road after a nightmare start on Monday. To offer help, Erik Gustafsson will have to tighten his game on the second pair with Travis Sanheim. Vigneault will likely keep his strategy, with the top-pairing between Ivan Provorov and Justin Braun.

The Flyers spotlight remains on Friedman, who Vigneault stated had an “okay training camp.” A year ago, Friedman gave Philadelphia quality minutes. Through six games in 2019-2020, Friedman had an assist while maintaining an even plus-minus rating. His physicality will be useful. Vigneault made another roster decision based on physicality, calling Sam Morin up from the taxi squad.

Prediction

Expect a close game between the two clubs tonight. The Flyers have momentum on their side, but with changes to the lineup, the playing field is relatively even. Anytime Philadelphia and Boston faceoff, the teams play each other closely. I have a feeling tonight’s affair will be a low scoring one. I’m predicting a 2-1 victory in favor of the Flyers.

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