That feels weird to say this early on in the season.
Hello again, folks! After a brief hiatus the Flyers return to action today against the Vegas Golden Knights at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers are coming off of a bounce-back win in Ottawa on Wednesday, and now look to build off of that in their second home game of the young season. They will however be without the services of Nolan Patrick, as he will be out 7-10 days with a upper-body injury suffered in the game vs. Ottawa. Travis Konecny was hit by a puck in the leg yesterday in practice, but no update has been given as of yet on the young winger, so one would assume he still plays today vs. Vegas.
As for the Golden Knights, they’re off to a shaky start. Including the Flyers’ opening-night win over them, the Knights have gone 1-4-0 to start their season, a stark contrast from their entrance to the NHL last season. This will be the last regular-season matchup between the two teams and it’s only October, which is NHL scheduling at its very finest. This is still a very dangerous team however, and one that probably could have beat the Flyers on opening night. Brian Elliott saved them numerous times in the first period, and without him, Vegas could have steamrolled the Flyers.
1. Depth will be key
If the Flyers are to beat the Golden Knights yet again, and sweep the season series, they’ll need a similar showing from their depth. In the first game, the Flyers top line and top defense pair struggled, but it was the Flyers depth that finished their scoring chances en route to a opening night win. Vegas has plenty of firepower themselves all throughout the lineup, so the Flyers will need their depth to show up in a big way yet again.
That depth is hurt by the loss of James van Riemsdyk since the Colorado game, and of course now with Patrick. Players such as Jordan Weal, Michael Raffl, and Scott Laughton will look to have strong games vs. a Vegas team that has allowed the second most goals in the NHL in 19, while only scoring nine goals themselves in the early season.
2. Flyers need to eliminate high-quality chances against
This has been the sort-of bugaboo with the Flyers in the early going. Typically, the defense has kept teams to the outside for the most part, one of the few strengths of Dave Hakstol’s system. However, in the first four games the Flyers have been allowing high quality chances from right in front of the crease, or the slot. It’s only four games, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see it be an anomaly and a result of small sample size, but it needs to be resolved nonetheless.
It’s appeared as though early on, for every high danger chance the Flyers have, they give up five even better chances to their opponent. That kind of play puts an extra emphasis on finishing your own chances every time, and relying on your goalie to consistently make huge saves. They’ve gotten the big saves early on this season for the most part, but that’s not a strategy they want to keep up. Vegas will be a tough team to do this against, but the buck’s gotta stop somewhere.
3. Keep the same attacking style used on opening night
One of the key factors in the Flyers’ win vs. Vegas on opening night was the fact the Flyers kept coming at the Golden Knights even when they got the lead. This has been another detractor for Hakstol and his philosophy, that he does the exact opposite, but against Vegas it was a pleasant surprise. If Hakstol and the Flyers can keep the same kind of attitude towards this game, it will make a huge difference. Vegas will not stop coming after you regardless of the score, and Hakstol needs to employ the same kind of aggression.
If they attempt to sit back on a lead vs. this team it will bite them, it’s almost a given. That is, unless the Flyers pull a full on late 90’s Devils trap. Please, let’s not do that.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Couturier — Voracek
Lindblom — Weal — Konecny (?)
Laughton — Vorobyev — Simmonds
Raffl — Lehtera — Weise
Provorov — Gostisbehere
Hagg — MacDonald
Sanheim — Gudas