The Philadelphia Flyers are only five points out of the second wild card playoff spot coming
off of the All-Star Break. The have only played 47 games this season and will be a busy
hockey team starting February 2.
In their first week back, they have four games in six days including a back-to-back with
the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals over the weekend. Philadelphia could still
be without second line center, Sean Couturier, who has missed the last three games prior to
the All-Star break with a lower body injury. The Flyers will play the Montreal Canadiens,
Nashville Predators,  Rangers and Capitals in their first week back from the break. All four
teams are in the thick of the playoff race.
The Flyers will return from the break to face the Canadiens, who have struggled since the
loss of goaltender Carey Price on November 25 to an injury, on Tuesday. In the first 23
games, the Canadiens scored 83 goals and only let in 51 goals, but in the last 27 games
without Price, they’ve only scored 53 goals, while allowing 83. The Flyers had struggled to
score goals until line changes were made on December 15 when Jake Voracek was put
together with Sean Couturier. Prior to the line change, the Flyers were only
averaging about two goals per game, but since then they’re averaging 2.76 goals per
game. They were 12-12-6 prior to the line changes on December 15, but have a
record of 9-6-2 since the changes were made.
This game will be an important game for both teams because if the Flyers win, they will be
tied with the Canadiens in the standings and have a chance to keep pace in the playoff
race for the second wild card spot. If the Canadiens win, they will be able to put some
distance between the two teams in the standings. The Flyers have won the only matchup
between the two teams so far this season with a 4-3 regulation win.
The Flyers will need to stay out of the penalty box against the Canadiens since they have
30 power play goals on the season, which is 12th best in the league. The Canadiens’
goalies have been struggling to stop pucks so the Flyers need to just shoot from every
angle and hope some pucks find the back of the net. The Canadiens may be struggling to
score but that doesn’t mean the Flyers won’t have to try and contain their top two lines.
The Canadiens will need  to pay close attention to Brayden Schenn, who has one goal, two
assists and three points in one game played against them this season.
Then on Thursday night the Flyers will visit the Nashville Predators, who they beat in their only matchup in overtime. The Predators have been struggling to score at even strength all
season so the Flyers need to play a solid even strength game. The Flyers also need to
get pucks and traffic towards the goaltenders, especially if the goalie is Pekka Rinne. Rinne
has struggled throughout the season and has allowed the second most goals in the NHL
(101). The Flyers need to stay out of the penalty box against the Predators because
they have 33 power play goals, which is good for seventh overall. Philadelphia also needs to
capitalize on their own power play opportunities because the Predators penalty kill is ranked
25th out of 30 teams at 79.1%.
On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers play host to the Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers have a 2-0-1 record against their Metropolitan foes this season with two of the
games ending in a shootout. They need to establish the forecheck early against the
Rangers since they’ve scored the second most even strength goals this season. If the
Rangers are trapped in their own end of the ice then it’ll be hard for them to get anything
going in the Flyers end of the ice. The Rangers will want to try and contain Wayne
Simmonds, who has three goals, two assists and five points in three games played against
them this season. Simmonds and the team also need to capitalize on their power play
chances since the Rangers have the eighth worst penalty kill in the league. The Flyers will
need to keep an eye on J.T. Miller, who has two goals in three games played against
them this season.
The Flyers face the Capitals in the second game of a back-to-back on Sunday
afternoon. The Capitals are the best team in the NHL and have four lines that can score.
The Flyers need to stay out of the penalty box because Washington has the best power
play in the NHL, and both power play units can produce. Philadelphia needs to
establish a forechecking game early which will force the Capitals to turn the puck over, possibly
leading to scoring chances or goals. The Flyers need to get traffic in front of the
goaltenders especially if Braden Holtby is playing because he’s having a Vezina type
season so far and is stopping anything he can see. At the same time, Philadelphia will need to try
and shut down the Capitals top two scoring lines.
If the Flyers want to hang around in the playoff race then they’ll have to start playing
better special teams and winning the games that they have in hand on those teams
in front of them in the standings.


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