Previously, the Philadelphia Flyers powerplay thrived versus the New Jersey Devils. Can the Flyers sweep the Devils in New Jersey?
Striking back into the win column their last time out, the Philadelphia Flyers gear up for game two against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center. Winning by a final score of 5-3, the Flyers improved in a few crucial problem areas. For the first time in 2020-2021, they produced more shots on goal than the opposition. To do so, Philadelphia had to stabilize an unstable defensive unit. Alain Vigneault and Mike Yeo collaborated to optimize the hand they were dealt.
Brian Elliott secured his second win in as many starts. Time after time, he proves why he is one of the premier backup goaltenders in the NHL. He took the pressure off of the team with his performance for one more night. Tonight, the Flyers hope for Carter Hart to turn in an outstanding performance. Is Hart slumping in 2020-2021 behind a struggling defense, or can he return to his proper form?
New Jersey Devils
While he did not score a goal Tuesday night, Andreas Johnsson may have been the best skater on the ice for either team. His ability to create scoring opportunities in the slot, especially at the crease, frustrated Philadelphia. Johnsson was the recipient of a drop back pass in the high slot before rifling a wrist shot on goal towards Elliott. The puck deflected off Travis Zajac through a flash screen. This scoring play not only tied the game in the second period, but it also evaporated any momentum the Flyers had.
Johnsson is dangerous because he doesn’t need to be on the ice for a long time to make his impression. He only played for nine and a half minutes on Tuesday, securing an assist and a plus-two rating. The only shot he took the entire game converted to a scoring opportunity. When Johnsson was on the ice, the Devils were thriving.
Objectively speaking, the best defenseman between Philadelphia and New Jersey on Tuesday was Dmitry Kulikov. Performances like his can easily get lost within a losing effort, but it shouldn’t. As a team, the Devils were producing more shots on goal with Kulikov on the ice. He helped New Jersey dictate the pace of the game. He notched an assist in the third period, but the game was already out of reach.
Kulikov was one of three Devils skaters to play 28 shifts. The other two players, Kyle Palmieri and Damon Severson carried a negative plus-minus rating or even plus-minus rating. Only Kulikov turned a productive evening out of a team-high number of shifts.
Once again, Scott Wedgewood should get the start against the Flyers. MacKenzie Blackwood cannot return to the lineup due to COVID-19 protocols. Eric Comrie, the third goaltender for New Jersey, will be used sparingly. Usually, in these situations, a team will consider starting a third goaltender if the de facto starter is fatigued. On Tuesday, Wedgewood allowed four goals, saving 26 of 30 shots (86.7%.)
Philadelphia Flyers Phlight Deck
Switching away from a defensive formula that seemed to work for them, Philadelphia will leave Mark Friedman out of their lineup. Instead, Nate Prosser could make his Flyers debut. A veteran of the NHL, Prosser last played on January 17th, 2019. Then, he was a member of the Minnesota Wild in a losing effort against the Anaheim Ducks. It has been two years since Prosser played at the NHL level.
Vigneault has been hesitant to commit to Friedman. In short, Friedman’s game is missing a necessary bite. He hasn’t impressed Vigneault in a way that guarantees him a roster spot. As Philadelphia attempts to find a defensive identity without Philippe Myers, Friedman could have squandered a golden opportunity. Myers, who returned to practice yesterday, swapped in-and-out with Friedman as he inches closer to recovery.
Connor Bunnaman has been recalled from the taxi squad again. He’s routinely been a part of the Flyers lineup since Morgan Frost dislocated his left shoulder against the Buffalo Sabres. On Tuesday night, Bunnaman had an opportunity to score. Unfortunately, he couldn’t cash in on a great look in the slot. Don’t let that minor quibble fool you; he contributes by executing the finer details.
It is time for Hart to get back on the right track. Tonight, he regains his confidence. Philadelphia takes a victory, 4-2, striking close to the Mass Mutual Eastern Division lead. Currently, the Flyers are tied for second in the division, two points behind the Washington Capitals. Sweeping the Devils tonight gets Philadelphia back on track in the east.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntrye