For the first time this preseason, the Philadelphia Flyers enlist a nearly normal lineup to test the Washington Capitals.
Winless in their first two preseason games, the Philadelphia Flyers will assemble a lineup akin to opening night against the Washington Capitals.
Losing to the Boston Bruins on Thursday doesn’t require deep analysis. The Bruins played most of their starters against a Flyers lineup featuring the bottom six, second pair, a backup goaltender, and prospects. Tonight, the Capitals lineup doesn’t feature a handful of starters. Philadelphia is the favorite in an exhibition.
Last season, the Flyers were undersized versus Washington. The addition of Anthony Mantha overwhelmed the Flyers, who had a hard enough time stopping Alexander Ovechkin with a horrid penalty kill. A record of 2-5-1 meant Philadelphia was never in a position to compete with the Capitals. On average, the Flyers were losing by more than two goals a game against Washington. Tonight, we’re hoping all the changes Chuck Fletcher made to the roster show enough fight.
Following their first-round exit from the 2020-2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals have a chip on their shoulder. Philadelphia’s chip never left; it only increased in size.
Alexander Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Daniel Sprong, and Alexander Alexeyev are not in tonight’s lineup. Anthony Mantha and Evgeny Kuznetsov remain, who played with Ovechkin on the top line against the New Jersey Devils in a 5-4 loss. The Philadelphia Flyers need to show they can match size against Mantha, who, like a runaway truck, skated down the middle of the ice on the way to scoring plays. Against the Devils, Mantha registered an assist. Receiving the call to the top line with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov versus New Jersey means Mantha could be auditioning to change roles with Wilson.
The Washington Capitals believe Mantha can do more than his successful role from a season ago. He participated on the top line versus the Devils and transitioned to a new job on the Capitals powerplay. Peter Laviolette has Mantha marked as a player who could mold the future in Washington. Assuming the net-front position on the powerplay means pucks will get lost in front of his 6’5″ and 234lbs frame.
Defensively, Michal Kempny returned versus New Jersey. He’ll be in action tonight versus the Flyers.
Kempny suffered many injuries, keeping him off the ice since before last season. He’s still getting his skating legs back after a bizarre Achilles tendon injury. Following his recent performance, Philadelphia has a favorable matchup when he’s on the ice tonight.
An Eye on Philadelphia
The only NHL roster player to score a goal for the Philadelphia Flyers this preseason was Joel Farabee. Yegor Zamula and Maksim Sushko did it against the New York Islanders. Farabee accounted for all of the Flyers’ goals against the Boston Bruins. He’s also provided the spark on the powerplay. Both of his goals against the Bruins were on the 5v4 advantage.
More critical than the powerplay is the performance from the penalty kill unit. Now that the lion’s share of the lineup is opening-night starters, Philadelphia needs to tighten up on the 4v5 disadvantage. Cam Atkinson is a Chuck Fletcher addition, emphasizing the penalty kill. Against the third-best powerplay from a year ago, the Flyers can make a statement tonight.
Morgan Frost is in the process of finding his footing this preseason. He’s under watch by Alain Vigneault, who sent a message to him yesterday when Elliot Desnoyers rotated in drills. Vigneault is patient with Frost but mentioned that Desnoyers commands attention each time he’s on the ice.
On Thursday night, only one of my predictions came true. Joel Farabee did score, but there were no fights, Cam York didn’t score on the powerplay, and Morgan Frost had one shot on goal. Batting .250 is only a good thing in the MLB. Tonight, here’s my preseason predictions:
- Joel Farabee PPG
- Perfect Flyers PK
- Morgan Frost assist
- Rasmus Ristolainen 3+ hits
- Martin Jones win
These two teams will square off one more time before the regular season on October 8th, 2021, in Washington.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntrye