Philadelphia Flyers at Toronto Maple Leafs: GAME 14
Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Air Canada Centre
Opponent SBNation Site: Broad Street Hockey
Fresh off a 7-0 drubbing by the Kings and the most romantic bag skate ever, the Maple Leafs will be facing a team that might remind them a little bit of themselves. The Flyers have struggled with inconsistent defensive play and bad goaltending, but they have a couple rookies getting a lot of points and a lot of hype. Travis Konecny has sparkled (figuratively, not literally) on a line with Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier, and that line has provided the most consistent play for the Flyers so far this season. Meanwhile, Ivan Provorov has been on the second defensive pair all year, and is coincidentally tied in points with Nikita Zaitsev (although Provorov is winning in terms of cheekbone). They are both 19, and in related news, you’re old. You’re so old.
In their last game, on Tuesday night the Flyers took the Red Wings into a shootout and lost. However, their defense is finally intact, healthy, and free of Andrew MacDonald, at least until a defenseman gets himself injured and poor Shayne Gostisbehere must don that albatross again. This is probably the best the roster has been all season.
Speaking of defense—the Leafs lead the NHL in shot attempts/60, but the Flyers aren’t that far behind, standing at 4th in the league. The comparison ends when it comes to allowing shots—the Leafs rank 5th-worst in the league, while the Flyers are 21st. That’s worth noting for anyone who’s salivating at the thought of Matthews, Marner, and Nylander shelling Steve Mason all night long. Andersen put together a string of good games before Tuesday, and he better come up with another one.
As for the rest of the Leafs, they’ve had two whole days to stew in their embarrassment from That Game, and one has to hope they’ll come out well-rested and swinging. Flyers starting goalie Steve Mason has been, uh, not good this year; if they can exploit that, maybe this is the game that will pull Hyman, Matthews, and Nylander out of their seven-game scoring drought. (Only third in the league in rookie scoring, Auston? Tsk, tsk).
Hakstol will probably try to match Couturier up against Matthews, and I assume Kadri will get the Giroux line. This would be a great game for Magic Mitch Marner to dance around the offensive zone like he’s back in the OHL while the Flyers are focused on shutting down Matthews. The Leafs’ speed is going to be key in this game; that, and throwing everything and the kitchen sink at Mason. He’s looked shaky this year, so fire everything! Maybe he’ll let in another dump-in from the neutral zone.
Fun trivia fact: Sean Couturier was born in Phoenix, which I’m sure won’t be mentioned at all tonight in an attempt to draw nonexistent parallels between him and his WCoH teammate Matthews. Who am I kidding, it’s on my bingo card.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner
Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - Connor Brown
Matt Martin - Ben Smith - Nikita Soshnikov
Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner - Roman Polak
Martin Marincin - Connor Carrick
Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds
Travis Konecny - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek
Michael Raffl - Nick Cousins - Dale Weise
Matt Read - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Roman Lyubimov
Michael Del Zotto - Shayne Gostisbehere
Ivan Provorov - Mark Streit
Brandon Manning - Radko Gudas
Prediction: I expect a lot of goals, and I’ll expect them from Mitch Marner, because he can only benefit from my high expectations. Mark Streit’s groin is held together by twist ties and prayers, Mitch. We believe in you.