The Philadelphia Flyers are streaking.
Three wins in Western Canada were followed up by a come-from-behind victory at home on Tuesday night, giving the Flyers a four-game win streak heading into tonight. The Flyers will host the Buffalo Sabres in the second game of a five game home stand. You can get your tickets here!
Here are the projected lines, pairings, and five things to watch for in tonight’s game.
Striving for five
The Flyers have won four games in a row and they are set up for one of their easier matchups on Thursday night. The Sabres are the worst team in the Eastern Conference, and the second-worst team in the league. They have eight wins in 31 games, including four wins in 17 road games. However, they are coming off of a win against Ottawa, who just broke a long losing streak of their own, and have points in each of their last four games (2-0-2).
Buffalo has only won back-to-back games once this season, and has yet to win back-to-back games in regulation. The Flyers can’t play down to their competition, though, as they have already lost to the worst team in the league (Arizona) once this season. The Flyers’ superior skill should earn them two points against the Sabres. But hockey is played on ice, not paper.
Keep it simple
The Flyers aren’t going to need to do anything special to beat the Sabres. They’ve found a new identity after playing a simple, perhaps passive, road game in Canada. That carried over onto home ice on Tuesday night and the Flyers know they can keep doing what they’re doing.
The Sabres are the worst even-strength scoring team in the league, with just 42 goals in 31 games. That’s 1.72 goals per 60 minutes, which is dead last in the league. They have also allowed 63 goals, which is the sixth most, while the Flyers have allowed the least goals at 5v5 play with just 44 goals against.
The Flyers should be able to own play at even strength, so hopefully their special teams and goaltending will be able to do their job as well.
Consistency is key
Dave Hakstol has been able to rely on at least three of his lines in all four games of the winning streak, with Nolan Patrick’s line receiving limited ice time here and there. The shakeup in the top-six has worked, though, and the swap in the bottom-six generated a goal on Tuesday night. The lines should remain the same for tonight’s game against Buffalo.
The top line has that dynamic duo of Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier still clicking, while Wayne Simmonds has chipped in at times as well. Giroux and Couturier assisted on each other’s goals on Tuesday night, both at even strength, and the line was buzzing.
The second line was the star of the road trip, but failed to find the back of the night despite great offensive pressure against Toronto. Michael Raffl was noticeable again on the forecheck and generating pressure behind the net. Jake Voracek’s passing opened up the ice and chances for Valtteri Filppula, who failed to convert on a breakaway. The line had consistent pressure though, as they pinned the Leafs in deep a few times.
The “third” line, Patrick’s line, has been the only concerning line recently. Patrick has yet to really have a good stretch of games since returning from his concussion. He has shown flashes here and there, but nothing consistent. Having Dale Weise on his side doesn’t really help matters much, but Jordan Weal seems like a good fit.
The fourth line has been the Flyers’ most consistent line, when made up of the right personnel, all season long. Scott Laughton has carved out a niche for himself and he’s thriving as a grinding center. Taylor Leier has been able to use his speed effectively, and the addition of Travis Konecny on that line really rounds it out. Konecny brings that raw offensive skill and has the speed to help the line generate chances.
Projected forward lines
Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl – Valtteri Filppula – Jake Voracek
Dale Weise – Nolan Patrick –Jordan Weal
Taylor Leier – Scott Laughton – Travis Konecny
Healthy Scratch: Jori Lehtera
Gudas provides a stable defense
With Radko Gudas returning to the lineup on Tuesday, the Flyers now have their ideal defensive corps.
Ivan Provorov is undoubtedly the top guy and he has worked well with Andrew MacDonald. Provorov brings it every night and even MacDonald has had a solid season so far.
Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hägg continue to be relied upon as the solid second pair. Sometimes they get relied on a bit more heavily than others, but for the most part they are able to do their job effectively. Gostisbehere’s offensive game is balanced out by Hagg’s simple playstyle.
Travis Sanheim had to be counting down the days until Radko Gudas’ suspension was over. With all due respect to Brandon Manning and Mark Alt, Gudas is a huge upgrade for Sanheim. Sanheim had one of his best games in recent memory on Tuesday night as he was active in the offensive zone and used his stick to disrupt rushes. Having Gudas beside him provides a calming presence for the young defenseman.
The Sabres have scored more than three goals just once in their past nine games, including a three-game shutout streak and seven goals in their past three games. The Flyers defense should be able to handle the lackluster offense.
Projected defensive pairs
Ivan Provorov – Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere – Robert Hägg
Travis Sanheim – Radko Gudas
Healthy Scratch: Mark Alt
Injured: Brandon Manning
Elliott’s net to lose
Brian Elliott has taken over as the Flyers go-to guy. With Michal Neuvirth on injured reserve, it will be Elliott’s net for the foreseeable future.
Elliott has climbed back up to a very respectable .912 save percentage and has a .925 SV% since November 1st, which is the 7th best in the league over that span among goalies with at least 10 starts.
Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.
(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
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