Tonight is the second of a four-game series against the New Jersey Devils. Eight games remain in the 2020-2021 regular season, which half combats the Devils. Including tonight, there are four games left between New Jersey and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Egor Zamula will make his NHL debut tonight. Shayne Gostisbehere is recovering from an MCL sprain, listed inactive. Zamula joins Jackson Cates and Wade Allison in the rookie class of skaters in the lineup tonight. Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault injected more youth into their lineup ahead of the 2021 offseason. Could more debuts be on the horizon this season?
Though Philadelphia will not make the playoffs, all is not lost. Prospects earned opportunities from Fletcher and Vigneault ahead of the 2021 offseason. Accumulating forty-nine points in the standings doesn’t cut it in the Mass Mutual Eastern Division, but the Flyers would be a playoff team in the North or West. A testament to how strong the East is, Fletcher and Vigneault are wise to prime their prospects against stiff NHL competition.
Every decision and contribution through these last eight games act as an audition for 2021-2022. Who will make a lasting impression in the final stretch?
James van Riemsdyk and Wade Allison will outline Scott Laughton on the third line. Nolan Patrick will start at the right-wing on the fourth line. The bottom six remain the same to build chemistry. Claude Giroux and the veteran core have been the lifeline of Philadelphia’s offense. Instead of stealing a game in the final minutes with a six-on-five advantage, the Flyers must generate offense throughout their forward lineup.
A season ago, Philadelphia’s forwards weren’t struggling to score. When the complaint was the lack of shots on goal, the Flyers found their way on the scoreboard. Shot quality isn’t what it should be because Philadelphia routinely plays from behind. Starching the third line while Jackson Cates centers Oskar Lindblom and Patrick can only boost development ahead of next season.
Wade Allison and Cates could feed off of each other, being the rookie forwards in the lineup. Allison is the only rookie forward to notch a point. On Sunday, Cates nearly made a play to establish that he belongs on the fourth line over Laczynski (recovering from season-ending surgery.)
Another benefit for Allison’s shuffle to the third line is to grow a partnership with van Riemsdyk. Both get into the dirty areas on the powerplay.
If Allison could pick up on van Riemsdyk’s scoring tendencies, the Flyers discovered a great second-round pick back in 2016.
As mentioned, Shayne Gostisbehere is recovering from an MCL sprain. He’ll miss between five and eight more days. Now, Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault are experimenting with defensive pairings. If Gostisbehere is out of the lineup, expect Robert Hagg and Philippe Myers to round out the tandem on the third pair. Additionally, Gostisbehere would be missing from the first powerplay unit.
Filling in for Gostisbehere in the first powerplay unit is Ivan Provorov. Provorov would be promoted from the second powerplay unit, while Sanheim replaces. Last season, Matt Niskanen and Provorov carried defensive responsibilities on the power play. Michel Therrien could strategize to aggressively play his second powerplay unit, load managing Provorov’s on-ice time because of turnovers.
The man advantage works well against New Jersey this season. James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek both have two powerplay points this season against the Devils. Voracek is on the first power play unit, and van Riemsdyk is on the second, which benefits Sanheim in substitution.
Gostisbehere has routinely been the best defenseman for Philadelphia against New Jersey. Last time out, Sanheim picked up the pace.
Sanheim and the Flyers defense must tighten on defense tonight, especially as Egor Zamula debuts on the second pair.
All indicators point to Brian Elliott starting tonight. No reports of Carter Hart, but Alex Lyon remains in the backup role. While Philadelphia called Felix Sandstrom to the taxi squad, Lyon remains the first backup goaltender to see action. Elliott allowed more than two goals in April for the second time on Sunday. He’s been solid this month.
MacKenzie Blackwood suffered a 3-4 loss to the Flyers on Sunday. New Jersey is enduring a ten-game losing streak where they’ve allowed a minimum of three goals. Blackwood could receive another start tonight. If not, Scott Wedgewood will likely take his place. Goaltending hasn’t been a strong point for the Devils, making this a prime opportunity for Philadelphia’s forwards to put pucks into the net.
The Flyers cannot take New Jersey lightly. Previously, the Buffalo Sabres napped an eighteen-game losing streak, defeating Philadelphia in March. Both teams aren’t playing for any postseason hopes. They’re both trying to figure out their franchises before the NHL Expansion Draft. From the Prudential Center, I’m taking the Flyers in regulation.
Flyers 4, Devils 2