The Philadelphia Flyers’ Canadian road trip got off to a rocky start last night in Montreal. While the Flyers outplayed the Canadiens for most of the game, they were tied late and stifled in the shootout, dropping a crucial game.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs are embracing the tank. Worst in the league with 49 points, the Leafs are icing a barren roster and have their eyes firmly fixed on the future once again.
The Flyers and Leafs will square off tonight at 7:00. Here are ‘3 Things’ to know prior to puck drop.
1. Shayne Gostisbehere Keeps on Scoring
Is there anything that Shayne Gostisbehere can’t do on the ice? The Flyers’ rookie defenseman increased his remarkable point-scoring streak to 14 straight games last night with a primary assist on Michael Raffl’s goal. In addition to his offense, “Ghost” played stellar defense against the Canadiens, turning in one of his better overall performances of the year.
And the best part about all of the “Ghost Mania” is the kid’s levelheadedness through it all. He’s come from humble beginnings and is never afraid to call out his team when it needs a kick in the pants.
It is tough to predict scoring streaks, but it seems silly to ever bet against Gostisbehere on any given night. He is scoring goals at a 20-goal pace, and he is involved on almost all of the Flyers’ tallies with assists.
The streak will inevitably end one day, but Gostisbehere has a good chance of keeping it rolling tonight against the spotty Leafs’ defense and goaltending.
2. Maple Leafs Playing Shorthanded
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ roster at this point in time looks a lot like the projected roster for the Toronto Marlies, their AHL affiliate. After the shocking trade of ex-captain Dion Phaneuf to the rival Ottawa Senators, the defense is missing a true number one presence. Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner have bright futures but aren’t quite all of the way there yet. In fact, the Leafs’ defense may be one of few in the NHL worse than that of the Flyers.
And on offense, the team is ravaged by injuries. Almost an entire top 2 lines is missing for the Leafs right now. Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, and Joffrey Lupul are injured, and leading scorer Leo Komarov is suspended. In their stead, Nazem Kadri, Peter Holland, and Shawn Matthias have underwhelmed.
The Flyers need to take advantage of this bare-bones roster and expose the obvious holes in the lineup. There aren’t many nights where the Flyers have an obvious advantage, but tonight’s one of them.
3. Flyers Need to Execute When It Matters Most
One characteristic of the Flyers this year has been their lack of finish on offense and defense. Too many times have the Flyers come within 60 seconds of winning games only to lose, with one of the most brutal defeats coming at the hands of the Leafs.
Coming off of a game where everything went right until the team let its foot off of the gas, the Flyers ought to be playing with extra fire tonight. The Flyers have had 37% of their games go to overtime this season. There is no reason for tonight’s game to be that close.
Nothing this season has come easy for the Flyers. Yet despite injuries, a poor defense, and a lack of secondary scoring, the Flyers are only 5 points out of a playoff spot. With the chance to climb within 3 points tonight, the Flyers will have to be on their A-game and not play down to the level of the Leafs if they want to close the gap.