Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins

Flyers v Boston
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre

No overtime periods or losses are allowed. The Philadelphia Flyers must defeat the Boston Bruins in regulation at home today.

Sitting alone in sixth place, we’re not talking about playoffs. A win today against the Boston Bruins must take place in regulation to improve within the standings. Trailing six points on the Bruins and one to the New York Rangers, back-to-back regulation victories this weekend are required for the Flyers.

In day games (any game starting before 7pm), Philadelphia is 4-1-0 this season.

So far in April, the Flyers have played quality hockey against tough opponents. Iron is sharpening iron as three of four games went to overtime. Philadelphia has already defeated Boston once this month in overtime. Travis Sanheim scored the game-winner on Daniel Vladar.

While the Bruins have been vulnerable, the Flyers haven’t been able to take advantage. In the last two meetings against Boston, Philadelphia has split games against the third and fourth goaltenders.

Today, Brian Elliott will take his place in the net for the Flyers. He does have the only victory versus the Bruins this season. During his overtime-winning performance, Elliott saved 93.1% of shots while allowing two goals. He’ll have to be even better today. Could Elliott hold two victories over Boston this season?

Boston Bruins – Forward Spotlight

Though Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand had themselves a night on Tuesday, David Pastrnak continues to play well against Philadelphia.

Following a holding penalty on Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Pastrnak tallied an assist on the Bergeron powerplay goal. The Bruins elevate their play when Pastrnak is on the ice. Man-advantage opportunities convert more often, and Boston holds onto possession of the puck.

What broke the Flyers back on Tuesday was a shorthanded goal given up after Scott Laughton was turned away by Jeremy Swayman. As Kevan Miller served for tripping, Connor Clifton began a flawless transition that finished with Marchand scoring. Marchand scored the game-winner in a man-down scenario. Powerplay and penalty kill miscues were the theme of the loss on Tuesday for Philadelphia.

Defensively, Philippe Myers and Travis Sanheim played well against the Bruins in the loss. Alain Vigneault has mentioned he expects to keep the same defense today as he did against the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Robert Hagg will replace Philippe Myers if Vigneault sticks to his guns. Hagg, returning from a shoulder injury on Thursday, was spectacular defensively. For over fifty minutes on Thursday, the Flyers played with five defensemen. Samuel Morin received a game misconduct for a hit on Casey Cizikas. Philadelphia, who played above their grade defensively sans-Morin on Thursday, needs to keep the quality against Boston.

Boston Bruins – Defensemen Spotlight

Without shock, the focus remains on Matt Grzelcyk. His ability to help block shots keeps the Flyers from pestering whomever the Bruins start as their goaltender. If Boston begins shifts in the defensive zone, Grzelcyk plays a vital role in clearing the puck or shifting into the neutral zone. He helps reverse pressure onto opponents. Quite frankly, he’s the kind of player Philadelphia needs.

Grzelcyk is a two-way defenseman who elevates his game against the Flyers. A member of the first powerplay unit, Grzelcyk presents a blue-line threat to contain the puck in the offensive zone. The Flyers penalty kill ranks among the worst in the league. Along with the “perfection line,” Grzelcyk and company ought to score often on the powerplay.

To keep up with the Bruins, Philadelphia must convert on powerplay chances. Joel Farabee was visibly frustrated on Thursday. A lot of confidence could swing in his favor if he can get into the stat sheet today, especially on the man-advantage.

Jakub Voracek is a forward who has circulated a scoring streak recently. If he scores today, he’ll have three goals in as many games.

Farabee and Voracek are on the Flyers’ first powerplay unit, hoping to match wits with Grzelcyk and Boston’s top forwards.

Boston Bruins – Goaltender Spotlight

Jeremy Swayman will start today. Why not, right? In his debut, he saved 95.2% of all the shots he faced. Swayman is undefeated in the NHL. Today, he has the chance to take down both Philadelphia goaltenders.

Elliott will have something to say about that. Owning the only Flyers victory against Boston, he wants one more to tarnish Swayman’s career record. Avenging the loss for Hart means a lot.

Travis Konecny threaded a needle to allow Voracek to score. Voracek remains a player to watch because of his soft hands. If he’s in a two-on-one rush with Claude Giroux, usually that’s a scoring situation. Tape-to-tape passing to get Swayman to commit to a position is a requirement.

High percentage areas and quality shots are what Philadelphia wants. They need to buy into Vigneault’s system, even if it means taking fewer shots overall.


Flyers Win

Another tough sell to state the Flyers will win outright. Can they? Yes, especially with Elliott. Due to Philadelphia’s play as of late, I expect this game to remain close. A regulation win is a must for the Flyers.

Flyers 3, Bruins 2

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre