PREVIEW: Flyers Face Stars, Look to Bounce Back After Losing Giroux’s Homecoming
The Flyers will face the Stars in the second half of a back-to-back. The team’s struggles in the second half of back-to-backs has been well documented, so they’ll look to flip the script coming into today’s matchup and avoid losing 3 in a row.
After some particularly uninspiring offensive play the last two games–especially from the forwards–one has to wonder if a change in the lineup is coming.
They have 3 goals in their last two games, and 2 of those goals have come from defenseman. Their forwards have scored 1 goal combined since their offensive outburst against St. Louis, and I’m left wondering if that really is the peak of this team’s performance.
Sure, they decidedly lack the game-breaking talent that can reliably fill the net.
But at the same time, don’t they have higher ceiling offensive players than Scott Laughton or Zack MacEwan to stick on a second line? The top-six is supposed to be the scoring part of the lineup, and we seem averse to even placing potential scorers on that line… barring Owen Tippett, of course.
A Tale of Two Flyers:
The Flyers have hung their hat thus far on battling through adversity and avoiding elongated losing streaks. Both of these things will be put to the test today, and it’ll help to inform us of what kind of team we’re really dealing with.
Since starting the season with a 4-1 record, the Flyers have lost 6 of their last 9 with two of those losses coming in overtime. If they lose today, they’ll have endured two 3 game losing streaks in their last 8 total games.
That certainly sounds a lot like the team we’ve all been expecting, but today will represent an opportunity to prove that their hot start was not a mere flash in the pan.
Hockey is a fickle sport. In terms of the process, these last 4 games have been some of the best minutes that the team has played. And yet, they only have 2 wins to show for that stark improvement.
Eventually, results will start catching up to process. So if the Flyers can stay strong in that regard, then they could very well pull out their first win all year on the second half of a back-to-back.
If the Flyers really do have designs on surprising the world, there’s no better time to start than the present.
Today, the Flyers can take a step towards answering the ultimate question. Are you the team who started 4-1? Or, are you the team who has gone 3-6 in their last 9?
Strong Forecheck? Meet Miro Heiskannen.
Much of the Flyers’ improvement in puck possession, recently, has come from a strong forecheck.
Personally, I’m a believer in controlled possession being vastly preferable to dump and chase as far as manufacturing dangerous offense. And to some degree, I’ve probably been proven right in that regard. Despite the Flyers winning the shot battle in their last two games, they’ve lost the goal battle.
Their strong forecheck and simple play has turned them into a solid puck managing team in these last few games, and that is a good thing.
Moving forward, a good team will have to be able to marry making plays on the rush with managing the puck by conceding dump-ins and establishing a tenacious forecheck. But perhaps this is good enough for now, as it’s unclear that the Flyers have any real aspiration to be a quality hockey team.
Either way, their strong forecheck may have met its match in the Stars’ #1 Defenseman, Miro Heiskannen.
For those who are unfamiliar with Miro’s game, he’s quite possibly the best defenseman in the game at recovering dump-ins and moving the puck up ice no matter how hard he is pressured.
His combination of sublime skating, surreal vision, and strong passing abilities essentially makes forechecking him a completely fruitless waste of energy. He is a breakout factory, and makes establishing a gritty game down below the hashmarks borderline impossible.
The Flyers’ strong forecheck has been aided considerably in the last three games.
The Blues defense corps is not as mobile as one might think. The Blue Jackets had three of their defenseman injured by the end of the game, including their own dynamic breakout maestro in Zack Werenski. And the Senators had to suffer a Thomas Chabot injury in the middle of the game, while already lacking defensive depth in the first place.
The Stars will be a much harder team to beat down low. So we’ll see just how fruitful this style can be against a more mobile defense corps, led by one of the most brilliant breakout masters in the game.
Where Is Wade Allison?
Wade Allison is injured. I winced typing that, because it has to be typed entirely far too often. This kid has the most rotten luck I have ever beheld, and we can only hope that it was a minor injury that caused him to leave the game against Ottawa. But it is worth noting that he looked in tremendous pain, and needed to be helped off the ice.
Penalties, And Who’s Gonna Take Them:
The Stars–particularly through stretches of the season–have been one of the least disciplined teams in hockey. They’ve spent parts of the season drowning in 2 minute minors, and grinding their penalty killers to dust/
Of course, the Flyers can relate to that. They just spent all of yesterday against the Senators grinding their penalty killers to dust,, and testing their luck against a lethal Ottawa power-play. That did not work out well for them; not at all.
This game may very well be decided by who takes fewer idiotic penalties.
News From The Phantoms:
Good God, hasn’t Cam York “attacked the game” enough, already? He has 9 points in his 11 games down there, and he leads all Phantoms skaters in points as a defenseman!
Cole Caufield–the electrifying goal scoring winger he’s often compared to because of his draft position–scored 5 points in 6 games to earn a call-up back to Montreal last year.
Cam York has 6 points in his last 6 games, and again, he is a defenseman.
Besides, excluding the top-pair, it isn’t as if any of these defenders have really been covering themselves in glory to date. Surely we can begin the NHL phase of York’s development, and let him see the looks of the actual league we need him to succeed in.
But hey, what do I know? The Flyers have a long and storied history of successful player development! Oh, wait… no, they don’t.
Either way, enjoy the game, and hopefully York will be in the lineup for one of them soon.
Mandatory Credit: Johnny Ulecka