FLYERS (6-6-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (5-5-3)
7:00 pm (TSN4)
Something is amiss with the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite an almost identical start to this season compared to 12 months ago, second year NHL coach Dave Hakstol must be scratching his head over his teams poor defensive and goaltending situations.
Offensively the Flyers are top three in the league. Conversely, goals against are among the bottom three league wide. Special teams pretty much reflect the same thing.
The Flyers appear to be stuck in the playoff bubble vortex. Wild card team one year, out of the playoffs the year before. If the Flyers current pace continues, that will mean missing the playoffs for the third time in five years once April 2017 rolls around.
Not too many years ago teams placed a premium on building from the net out and the Flyers are sorely lacking. Franchise centers are now the norm with goaltending seeming to be an after thought and this has caught up to the Flyers. This is the spiral Toronto found themselves in prior to the scorched earth rebuild. While Toronto has stock piled the system via the draft, they have used free agency to solidify the net.
Are the Flyers on the same path come next off season? It’s not out of the question. Look for a total rebuild should they miss the playoffs this season starting with the firing of top management.
Having said all that, Philadelphia seems ripe for the picking when the Leafs play host to the “Broad Street Bulllies” Flyers tonight.
Take away the 7-0 beat down the Leafs received at the hands of the LA Kings earlier this week and the Leafs are playing some good hockey with Nazem Kadri, Mitch Marner and Frederik Andersen leading the way.
Tonight you can expect pretty much the same lineup from previous games as coach Babcock was iterated that he is not ready to shake up the Leafs lineup.
Kadri is projected to center the third line again and this year he has excelled in his role playing against teams’ top lines. For the most part, Kadri has been very effective at shutting down top scorers like Connor McDavid. An unexpected benefit has been creating quality scoring chances that have been converted to six goals in 12 games. If number 43 is able to keep this pace he will obliterate his career bests in goal scoring and points. We are finally seeing the Kadri that Leafs Nation has been waiting for all along. He is finally earning the respect of the media and fans and it’s all on Kadri and the maturity he is displaying.
If there were any doubts if Mitch Marner belongs in the NHL, doubt no more. The size challenged winger is tied for third in team scoring and has been able to show hockey fans the unreal vision he possess’ on the ice. He understands where everybody is and where players are going to be. He has developed a productive chemistry with linemates James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak. Junior hockey appears to be firmly in the rear view mirror.
Frederik Andersen signed a five-year, $25 million contract to be the Leafs number one goaltender this past summer. Shades of Jonathan Bernier surfaced in Andersen’s game in the first few weeks of the season but that has all been erased. The injury he suffered before the World Cup of Hockey has healed and he is keeping the puck out of the net with elite level play. Leafs Nation can start breathing again.
Another player that has quietly made his mark in the NHL is William Nylander. Unlike last season, the media spotlight is no longer squarely shining on him. It seems that a lower profile has been a huge plus for the Leafs leading point getter.
Tonight will be a good measuring stick to gauge how far this Leafs team has come. Leafs Nation will not only look for a bounce back game but frankly a win tonight is not an unreal expectation.
Stop the puck. They are ranked 27th in goals against
Keep scoring. This will be more difficult against the Kadri line
use their veteran presence to outplay the young Leafs.
Use speed to gain the offensive zone
Austin Matthews needs to start scoring again
Provide defensive support for Andersen
Today we recognize the bravery and sacrifice so many men and women have made to protect the freedoms we enjoy . Thank you to ALL veterans who have made Canada the country that it is. Without you, would we be even watching an NHL game tonight.
Discuss amongst yourselves.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Hyman — Matthews — Nylander
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Komarov — Kadri — Brown
Martin — Smith — Holland
Rielly — Polak
Read — Giroux — Simmonds
Konecny– Couturier — Voracek
Raffl — Schenn– Weise
Lyubimov — Bellemare — VandeVelde
Del Zotto– Gostisbehere
Provorov — Streit
Manning — Greene