Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers vs Boston Bruins; Part Four

Last time out, the Philadelphia Flyers gave away a winning performance, falling to the Boston Bruins in overtime, 4-3.

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The Philadelphia Flyers know that to be true when playing the Boston Bruins. In two of three games, the Flyers have fallen in overtime or a shootout. On Wednesday night, as the late NFL head coach Dennis Green once said, the Bruins were “what we thought they were, and we let them off the hook.”

Similarly, Philadelphia had their own meltdown in the third period. They fought hard to take control towards the end of the first period and through the second period. Nicolas Aube-Kubel helped set the tone with a buffet of bone-crunching hits. Penalties kill dangerous teams, which caused the Flyers to unravel. Boston stole a victory, winning 4-3 in overtime.

Boston Bruins – Forward Spotlight

Previously, I highlighted David Pastrnak. He could not be stopped on Wednesday, totaling four points, including a hat-trick. The Bruins’ top line is as good as the league has to offer. They’re especially dangerous on the powerplay. Wednesday night, Boston rattled three powerplay goals, including the overtime game-winner.

Earlier today, Alain Vigneault stated about Pastrnak, “I hope he has an off night.” Pastrnak is a player who is usually on fire. I do not foresee him having an off night, which means Philadelphia has to play a smart game. Discipline will go a long way tonight. By limiting time on the penalty-kill, the Flyers’ chances of winning increase.

Boston Bruins – Defenseman Spotlight

Kevan Miller logged the most quality minutes for the Bruins defensemen. While he had an even plus-minus rating, he blocked a shot and registered a hit. As of late, the third pair for Boston has been a highlight. He and Jakub Zboril help steady the defense against an aggressive Flyers bottom-six.

Aube-Kubel will have to play as he did on Wednesday night. His high-energy style helped rejuvenate Philadephia, who surrendered a goal within the first twelve seconds of the opening period. His first hit on Zboril sparked a comeback, but later, he served a minor for closing his hand on the puck. Bad penalties, such as that, helped the Bruins make a comeback. Against a strong defense, the Flyers need to stay sharp while dictating the pace of the game.

Boston Bruins – Goaltender Spotlight

Tuukka Rask will start once again. Philadelphia has averaged three goals a night versus Boston when he occupies the net. The scouting report on Rask shows that cross-ice passes to set up a one-timer are his kryptonite. The Flyers are great at creating those particular scoring chances.

Rask has yet to save more than 90% of shots against Philadelphia in 2020-2021. High-percentage shooting within Vigneault’s system creates havoc for Rask. To elevate scoring to the next level, special teams need to convert. On Wednesday, the Flyers were unable to convert a powerplay opportunity. James van Riemsdyk did notch two assists but will have to be more involved on the crease during man-advantage scenarios.

Flyers’ Phlight Deck

Carter Hart Leaves Flyers’ Practice

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, nothing seems serious with Hart. There was no confirmation that we tweaked anything at practice. He did leave before the session was finished, which meant that Alex Lyon received practice repetitions. Tonight, Brian Elliott will start against the Bruins. After the homestand against Boston, Hart is likely to start.

Elliott is the only personnel change between Wednesday and tonight for Philadelphia. He’s been incredible this season. Hart left during powerplay drills. More on his absence will follow. Lyon is still on the taxi squad, which means Hart likely did not sustain any injury.

Friedman Receives Practice Reps

Heading into Wednesday night, Mark Friedman was the ninth defenseman on the Flyers depth chart. His repetitions today at practice denote that he is keeping prepared for ice-time at a later date. As noted, Vigneault has not made any additional changes to tonight’s lineup outside of starting Elliott. Erik Gustafsson and Justin Braun will anchor Philadelphia’s defense on the third pair. Gustafsson had a strong defensive performance on Wednesday.

During practice, Friedman participated closely with Sean Couturier in drills. He is an able body to help Couturier regain his skating legs after missing time with an injury. Featuring Friedman with the Flyers top center means that Vigneault still believes he has the talent to contribute on the main roster. With the AHL regular season soon approaching, Friedman will likely play on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to further develop his game.

Emphasis On the Flyers’ Powerplay

Today’s practice heavily focused on Philadelphia’s powerplay group. The powerplay has run cold as of late. Over the last two games, the Flyers are 1/5. Their latest conversion was Kevin Hayes’ game-winner in overtime against the New York Islanders. Against a disciplined Bruins lineup, Philadelphia needs a surge from their special teams.

Prediction

Flyers drop this one

The Flyers allow themselves to become their own worst enemy. That is what happened on Wednesday night. Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere struggled in the overtime loss, which has been uncharacteristic since they have worked on the top pair. Boston has Philadelphia’s number in 2020-2021, making it tough to bet against them. With the same personnel on the ice for the Flyers, the Bruins will likely take advantage, winning 3-2.

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre

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