Spying on the Saboteur: Philadephia Flyers at Boston Bruins: Part Two

After a heartbreaking 5-4 shootout loss, the Philadelphia Flyers look for redemption at the TD Garden Arena versus the Boston Bruins.

Game two of the Philadelphia Flyers road trip to the TD Garden Arena takes place at 7pm tonight. Thursday night was the first overtime loss for the Flyers, who tout a 3-1-1 record through five games. The Boston Bruins had a huge third period, converting four scoring plays against a backpedaling defense. Tied 4-4 at the end of regulation, both teams couldn’t score in the three-on-three overtime period. It took a shootout for Jake DeBrusk to break the tie, defeating Philadelphia 5-4.

Following their first loss this season, the Flyers returned with a victory. They’re a different team at home in comparison to the road. Mike Yeo made some fine defensive adjustments following the loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Tonight, Yeo will have to do the same. A redemption victory has to start with limiting shots on goal.

Boston Bruins – Forward Spotlight

Before the first meeting against the Bruins, I mentioned Nick Ritchie as a forward to watch. Tonight, I double-down on him. Generally speaking, Boston’s second line helped them back into the game. A lot of goals come from the center and left-wing. If Philadelphia wants to limit scoring chances, they have to make the Bruins earn it from weaker areas.

Winning battles along the boards in the defensive zone will go a long way tonight. The Bruins were more physical on Thursday, which allowed for golden opportunities in close against Carter Hart. Ritchie scored a powerplay goal, which originated from Boston winning behind the boards to create a scoring chance. Facing 43 shots puts too much pressure squarely on the goaltender. It is a porous defensive performance.

Boston Bruins – Defensive Spotlight

Kevan Miller is another defensive piece the Flyers have to accommodate. Both Miller and Matt Grzelyck notched an assist on Thursday night. The Bruins played their best hockey when Miller and Jakub Zboril were on the ice, representing the third pair. Collectively, Miller and Zboril earned the most ice time together on defense.

At the beginning of the third period, Boston stole the momentum. The Bruins came out hot, putting two goals on the scoreboard in just about four minutes. Miller’s role was vital in tying the game, 2-2. He disrupted a clear attempt by Philadelphia, keeping the puck in the offensive zone with help from Craig Smith. Charlie Coyle tied the game with a quick stick past Hart, but it doesn’t start without Miller breaking up the clear attempt from Robert Hagg to Michael Raffl.

Boston Bruins – Goaltender Spotlight

As games continue to be back-to-back, winning goaltenders are likely to be swapped. Tonight, Jaroslav Halak could get the start against the Flyers. He’s started just one game so far this season. In his lone start, the New Jersey Devils were able to win in the three-on-three overtime period, 2-1.

Blessed with a formidable goaltender tandem, the Bruins remain to be a difficult task. Philadelphia was buzzing on offense, scoring four goals against Tuukka Rask. Halak, who posts a 93.5% save percentage and 1.85 goals-against average, was winless against the Flyers in 2019-2020. Both games called for a shootout. He’ll have to be at the top of his game with Grzelyck missing from the lineup.

Philadelphia Flyers Phlight Deck

Hart will start for Philadelphia in a head-to-head battle against Halak. The last two starts have been frustrating for Hart. He’s on a two-game skid (0-1-1), and a beat-up defense doesn’t help his cause. The Flyers have the worst shot differential rating in the NHL, which means they rely too heavily on goaltending. Tonight, they have to find a healthy mix of defensive prowess to help Hart.

Alain Vigneault said Mark Friedman would be able to play tonight. Friedman departed from Thursday’s game after being slammed to the ice by Brad Marchand. Both players got caught up together, and Friedman landed face-first onto the ice. His return to the ice is in place of Philippe Myers, who is week-to-week with a broken rib. Philadelphia has allowed forty shots in each of their last two games, but a defenseman has also gotten hurt, short-handing that position.

In the shutout victory versus the Sabres, Myers was a casualty. That meant his minutes had to be picked up by another defenseman. Same with Friedman on Thursday. If the Flyers can remain healthy on defense, they’ll limit the number of shots Hart faces. Staying out of the penalty box will also contribute.

Vigneault mentioned there could be one change to the personnel within the forwards. Aside from that, Philadelphia will employ the same personnel from Thursday night. It’s a smart decision all-around. It allows the Flyers to try again with the same defense while managing a healthy defensive effort. Also, Hart has the chance to pick up three of four points versus Boston.

Flyers Prediction

Tonight, the playing field remains even. Philadelphia lost a heartbreaker on Thursday, one they wish they could have back. Again, I predict a close game between the two teams. If the Flyers win, it’s because the defense stays healthy. Let’s go with Flyers, 4-2 after a late empty net.

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre

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