After twenty games, the Philadelphia Flyers are back at square one. They looked good during the first ten, then torched through most of the back ten. The team lacks identity and confidence.
A win against a divisional rival could spark change.
Chuck Fletcher addressed the state of the Flyers yesterday during a press conference. Kevin Hayes could return tonight to take on his former team, highlighting a key storyline as Alain Vigneault tries to break the surface to catch his breath. What kinds of changes will Philadelphia make to right the ship? After dropping the last six, tonight is a must-win for the culture of the organization.
Last season, the Philadelphia Flyers were 4-3-1 against the New York Rangers. Each win was by a one-goal margin. Each loss was ugly, ranging from a 4-1 defeat to an unforgivable 9-0 shutout loss.
Unlike the Flyers, the Rangers had a dominant run through their last ten games. Their 7-2-1 record was better than anything Philadelphia has put together in the first quarter of the 2021-2022 season.
Far and away, New York has the recent momentum, but the Flyers waged war against superior opponents over their last ten games.
Filip Chytil (2G, 2A) works well on a deep forward lineup. He’ll center Alexis Lafreniere (5G, 1A) and Julien Gauthier (1G, 3A) on the third line. The Rangers ought to be working from the right side if they’re designing a scoring play. In transition, Chytil will likely partner with Lafreniere to get the best of Carter Hart.
The probable starter between the pipes for New York is Igor Shesterkin (93.3% SV, 2.22 GAA, 11-3-2.) He’s been incredible this season. An already stubborn goaltender has the advantage against an offensive unit in a scoring drought. Nils Lundkvist (43.2% CF, 11 BLK, 8 GV) is finding his footing during his rookie campaign. He’ll have his hands tied with Zack MacEwen or Travis Konecny on a long shift.
A Philadelphia Fly-By
Carter Hart (92% SV, 2.67 GAA, 5-5-3) is the probable starter for the Philadelphia Flyers. He’ll need help from his friends as he combats Igor Shesterkin head-to-head.
The worry about this lineup lingers on the defense’s top pair.
Ivan Provorov (47.4% CF, 50 BLK, 23 GV, -1) is not playing like a top-pair defenseman. He needs Ryan Ellis, who won’t be back until the end of the month or possibly the beginning of 2022. Pairing with Provorov tonight is Nick Seeler (42.6% CF, 30 HIT, 8 GV, -4.) Mika Zibanejad, a notable Flyers killer, could have a productive night with Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko.
Kevin Hayes (1G, 1A) returns to the lineup tonight, taking on his former team. He’ll try to boost scoring, and in the process of doing so, bail out Alain Vigneault from a dangerous situation. In two games, Hayes has been a contributor. That streak must continue tonight to get Philadelphia out of the gutter. A win helps the Flyers creep up the standings, especially following a New Jersey Devils loss to the San Jose Sharks last night.
Morgan Frost (0G, 1A) centers the leader in team scoring, Claude Giroux (7G, 10A) and Cam Atkinson (7G, 4A) on the second line. Chuck Fletcher is putting Frost in a position to succeed. How he plays while Derick Brassard remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury will determine the longevity of his stay in the NHL.
The New York Rangers have the advantage in just about every facet of hockey. They can expose an already sketchy top pair featuring Nick Seeler. Igor Shesterkin is off to a scorching start already. The Philadelphia Flyers are counting on Morgan Frost and Kevin Hayes to provide a spark. They could, but I don’t think it will be enough to earn the victory.
Rangers win, 4-3.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre