Game preview: Flyers hoping lightning doesn’t strike twice

Flyers' Claude Giroux
PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 18: Philadelphia Flyers Left Wing Claude Giroux (28) celebrates a goal in the first period during the game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers on November 18, 2021 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

When the Lightning visited the Flyers, they narrowly escaped with a shootout win. Alain Vigneault’s Flyers almost secured their first meaningful victory over the Lightning, but “almost” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

The last time the Flyers defeated the Lightning (round-robin exhibitions don’t count) was back on December 29th, 2017. The inability to conquer one team for nearly four years is insufferable.

Last week, Philadelphia put themselves in a winnable situation. Steven Stamkos scored a heartbreaking goal in the final minutes, but Claude Giroux didn’t accept that as defeat. Scoring in the remaining seconds of regulation forced overtime, then a shootout. Unfortunately, deciding a winner came down to a skills competition.

Tonight, the Flyers hope to avoid four calendar years without a victory against Tampa Bay.

Conducting From the Bay

We already knew the Tampa Bay Lightning would be without Nikita Kucherov and Erik Cernak. Now, they’ll be without Brayden Point, who played a critical role in defeating the Philadelphia Flyers once this season.

Andrei Vasilevskiy will play a vital role as the Lightning lose a little firepower from the forwards against an elite defense.

During their win against the Flyers, Vasilevskiy showed poise between the pipes. The only time he moved out of position was on the first goal of the game. Claude Giroux put the moves on him during a breakaway at the crease. It was one of his worst performances recently, ultimately ending in a victory.

Both teams incorporate a stubborn penalty kill. Tampa Bay and Philadelphia live within the top ten of the NHL’s penalty kill units. The dissonance comes from the comparison of the two team’s powerplay units. With the extra-man, the Lightning is dangerous with the puck in their hands. Meanwhile, no one feels threatened when the Flyers attempt to take advantage.

Alex Killorn and Stamkos remain lethal. Even though Tampa Bay is without Point, Philadelphia still cannot afford to relax. Cutting the third head off of this three-headed monster only allows it to grow back with a different but just as dangerous face.

A Philadelphia Fly-By

Carter Hart will likely face Andrei Vasilevskiy. Missing from the Philadelphia Flyers are Ryan Ellis, Patrick Brown, Wade Allison, and Kevin Hayes.

Scoring three goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning took every minute of regulation. Hart continues to “give his team a chance,” as Alain Vigneault would say. Due to Brayden Point’s absence from the Lightning’s lineup, scoring should come from the Flyers’ top six.

Without Kevin Hayes, this is a critical game for Derick Brassard to continue his hot streak. He accounted for both goals against the Boston Bruins. Recently, he’s looked in sync with Claude Giroux on the second line. Chuck Fletcher will consider his performance with Giroux and Cam Atkinson when pondering the possibility of recalling Morgan Frost.

Sean Couturier ought to thrive more than usual, but out of anyone on the top line, Joel Farabee needs to break his funk.

Farabee has seven points in sixteen games. He isn’t losing his goal-scoring style, but his pace is slowing. Last year was abysmal, but Farabee didn’t slump. Six of his points are from the first three games of this season. Breaking the fog doesn’t have to mean a goal scored; a contribution to a scoring play, even strength or on a powerplay, is as valuable.

Prediction

Last week, I predicted the Philadelphia Flyers would escape with a narrow victory. Instead, the Tampa Bay Lightning did after a shootout. Tonight, in Tampa Bay, I’m standing by my previous prediction. These two teams will play each other close. If Alain Vigneault lost to you in the first encounter of 2021-2022, he’s two-for-two in avenging those losses.

Flyers win, 3-2.

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