Winners of their last two, the Philadelphia Flyers take on the New Jersey Devils on home ice, hoping to salvage one in a three-game season series.
A victory against the Vegas Golden Knights was unexpected following a shut-out loss to the Devils on the road trip. Then, for the first time since the beginning of the season, the Flyers were suddenly a favorite to win. Against the worst team in the league, favorable odds don’t say much. They remain the favorites tonight at home versus a rival they’re 0-2-0 against in 2021-2022. Maybe there’s faith in Philadelphia after all (or it’s possible too much is invested into a home-ice advantage.)
New Jersey is sinking. They’re 2-6-2 over their last ten, both victories against the Flyers during their ten-game losing streak. A regulation win over the Devils negates a series sweep while jumping them in the NHL Metropolitan Division standings.
Could Philadelphia salvage a victory versus New Jersey this season? Let’s preview tonight’s contest.
“The Greatest Trick The Devil Ever Pulled…”
“…was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Except, the Philadelphia Flyers know the New Jersey Devils. More importantly, they’re very familiar with Jesper Bratt (8G, 16A.)
Bratt has five points (2G, 3A) in two games against the Flyers in 2021-2022. He’s pacing to have a career-best season through his five-year NHL run with the Devils. Fitting his success against Philadelphia, Bratt also leads New Jersey in scoring.
Defensively, the Flyers haven’t contained Bratt in any sense. Cam Atkinson (9G, 6A) and Claude Giroux (10G, 13A) must work the neutral zone. Disrupting passing lanes during line changes is an effective way to mitigate Bratt, a versatile winger. It’ll also slow the distribution between Janne Kuokkanen (3G, 2A) and Dougie Hamilton (55.3% CF, 39 BLK, 19 GV, +1.)
Here’s the projected lineup tonight for New Jersey:
A Philadelphia Fly-By
Winning two of three on a road trip that began with a goose egg is the definition of making chicken salad out of…not chicken salad. Focusing on particular nuances, like positioning, communication, and offensive transition earned two victories after losing ten straight.
Sean Couturier (6G, 10A) continues to be the one who excels at even strength for the Philadelphia Flyers. He secured an assist against the Arizona Coyotes in the second period, establishing a 2-1 lead. Driving the Darryl Williams powerplay, Keith Yandle (48.1% CF, 17 BLK, 18 GV, -14) placed a puck on goal, allowing James van Riemsdyk (5G, 4A) to deflect a successful conversion. Recently, Williams preached a volume shooting approach, the anthesis to Alain Vigneault.
Defensively, Rasmus Ristolainen (48% CF, 79 HIT, 13 GV, -10) struggles against the New Jersey Devils. Andreas Johnsson (9G, 10A) and Tomas Tatar (5G, 7A) could utilize stretch passes to take Ristolainen out of position. Occupying passing lanes while staying home will be more effective against speed than overpursuing the big bodycheck.
Here’s the projected lineup for the Flyers, per Bill Meltzer:
I’m taking these current trends and going on a ride. The matchup has favored the New Jersey Devils in 2021-2022. If the Philadelphia Flyers carry the inspired energy from the road trip onto home ice, they may stretch a winning streak to three. Consider tonight a test of identity within the Metropolitan Division for the Flyers and Mike Yeo.
Flyers win, 3-2.