Following a rough outing yesterday, the Philadelphia Flyers could split the season series with the New York Islanders tonight.
Comfortably in sixth place within the Mass Mutual Eastern Division is not how anyone envisioned this Philadelphia Flyers season. Yet, here they are.
Yesterday, versus the Washington Capitals, the Flyers allowed six goals again (for the ninth time this season). Technically, Alex Lyon faired as well as Brian Elliott. Philadelphia is a perplexing franchise aside from their struggles. It’s their success after giving up six goals that bamboozle.
Elliott will start tonight against the New York Islanders. Since Carter Hart was a late scratch yesterday with a lower-body injury, Alex Lyon will back up. Tonight will be the final meeting between the Islanders and Flyers this season. Philadelphia could split the eight games, head-to-head, with a win.
Recently, both teams battled in a shootout. Hart took the loss when Brock Nelson scored the game-winner. Credit the Flyers for forcing an overtime game with five defensemen.
If Samuel Morin didn’t get ejected, would Philadelphia have played better or worse in that shootout loss?
Nicolas Aube-Kubel lucked himself into a goal against the New York Islanders and had an assist yesterday. It doesn’t matter if the production is pretty; it just matters that it’s there. Lately, we’ve had to be honest with ourselves about Aube-Kubel contributing on the ice. Is he more of a detriment? Has the injection of Wade Allison cured Aube-Kubel?
Alain Vigneault relied on short, opportunistic line changes to score yesterday. In particular, one goal featured Allison as the first man off the ice for Aube-Kubel to spring James van Riemsdyk on a breakaway. Immediately after such a high awareness play, Aube-Kubel went to the penalty box for hooking. His offensive production was wiped by another poor penalty as it led to an opposing powerplay goal.
Vigneault replaced Aube-Kubel with Tanner Laczynski previously because of his penalty trouble. In small doses, Aube-Kubel acts as a positive contribution to the lineup. He’ll have to keep players like Leo Komarov and Jordan Eberle in check tonight.
Komarov and Eberle teamed up for the Islanders’ second goal of the first period in the last matchup between these two teams. Ivan Provorov turned the puck over, and the Islanders’ forwards split Justin Braun behind the net.
Oh, and Michael Raffl isn’t available to aide the Flyers’ forward depth.
I brought up that tidbit about Morin earlier. If Philadelphia had six defensemen, would they have benefited against the Islanders? Lately, Morin has taken undisciplined penalties, whether you agree with them or not. Casey Cizikas was okay after the hit, but opposing forwards found they can bait Morin into the penalty box. Yesterday, he took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after being hit into the boards consecutively.
The Flyers didn’t surrender another goal after Morin hit the showers or when he was on the ice for two total minutes. Every Philadelphia defenseman played more than twenty minutes in Morin’s place. Robert Hagg was incredible in his return to the ice, thrown into maximum ice time. As Morin commits untimely penalties, don’t be surprised if he is out of the lineup, replaced by Philippe Myers and Hagg.
Recently, Myers has made important plays on defense to keep extra pucks out of the net. His play yesterday should keep him in the lineup. The question becomes, will Hagg or Myers pair with Travis Sanheim?
None of this matters if the Flyers fail to pick up opposing offenses from behind Elliott. Back door setup passes have destroyed Philadelphia all season long.
For a tandem of top pair defensemen, Provorov and Braun need to be more aware.
Elliott was always supposed to start today versus the Islanders. It wouldn’t have changed based on Hart’s health or Lyon’s performance.
Ilya Sorokin allowed three goals on Friday. The Boston Bruins shut out the Islanders, which means Semyon Varlamov could face the Flyers tonight. In two games against Philadelphia, Varlamov is winless.
Tonight, the Flyers’ bottom-six could ignite. Scott Laughton and Oskar Lindblom tasted success against Varlamov this season. Both had their fingerprints on game-winning scoring plays in the two victories. Scoring depth is something Philadelphia has lacked as of late.
The Flyers will respond tonight. If Philadelphia has any identity this season, it’s answering opponents after being dismantled. For that reason, expect the Flyers to push the Islanders into overtime. Instead of a shootout, my feeling is Philadelphia wins in the overtime period.
Flyers 4, Islanders 3
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre / Philly Sports Network