Back to Back: Flyers Face Sharks; Oskar Lindblom Returns
The Flyers return home after a difficult road trip where they faced a gauntlet of postseason teams from last year. That road trip ended with significantly more wins than the most optimistic projection would have given them.
Their first opponent on this homestand is the San Jose Sharks, who have struggled mightily throughout this season and posted a record of 1-6 through 7 games so far.
Once fan favorite forward, Oskar Lindblom, will be making his first trip back to the Wells Fargo Center as a member of the visiting team. He’s expected to skate on the Sharks fourth line.
On paper, this is the friendliest matchup the Flyers have had in a while. Perhaps the friendliest matchup of their season so far. But just ask the Flyers themselves, paper can be wrong.
James Reimer has been stellar in net for the Sharks, despite their appalling record. And he should be their starting goalie tonight. There hasn’t been too many goalies better than Reimer thus far. He’s posted a .918 save percentage, and a 2.78 Goals Against Average despite playing for the 1-6 Sharks who have been pinned almost permanently into their defensive zone.
One goalie who has been markedly better than Reimer is Carter Hart. But coming off of a back-to-back, the Flyers won’t have access to their franchise netminder. Instead, his backup in Felix Sandstrom will get the nod.
Sandstrom’s only other start of the season came against the Florida Panthers. He performed well in that game. The 4 goals he surrendered came amidst an unrelenting flurry of odd-man rushes and shooters left alone in the slot.
Florida has one of the most high-powered offenses in the NHL, and trading Jonathan Huberdeau and Mackenzie Weegar for Matthew Tkachuk hasn’t slowed them down at all.
San Jose–with all due respect to Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl, two excellent players–do not have nearly the firepower that Florida has. Very few teams do.
These are all reasons for optimism. Despite coming off of a back-to-back, a notoriously arduous task, the Flyers are in position to be the ones in the driver’s seat of this game. They might even win the puck possession game and territorial battle, for once.
If I were a betting man, I’d probably bet on the Sharks knowing that San Jose is the more rested team and that the Flyers won’t have access to the unparalleled brilliance of their number one goalie. This is especially true, given that the Flyers are the slightly favored team at -118.
But I’m not a betting man. I’m merely a writer making a prediction in a preview, so I’m going to allow my biases to claim me.
I think the Flyers are due for an offensive explosion. A game where everything outside of the goalie’s crease goes well. For sheer law of averages, they can’t get caved in as frequently as they have. And in my humble opinion, this phenomenon is set to normalize just a little bit with the Sharks in town.
Besides, in case you haven’t heard… the vibes in Philadelphia are especially immaculate tonight.
Prediction: Flyers 6-3