Time: 1:00 PM Eastern Time (Please note ridiculously early game time)
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, 620 WDAE, Tampa Bay Lightning Power Play on iHeart Radio, NBCSP
Opponent SBNation Site: Broad Street Hockey
Madeleine Campbell (who says that somehow she has not yet been nicknamed Soupy) of Broad Street Hockey was kind enough to answer five questions about the Philadelphia Flyers for us. If you’d like to listen to the other side, catch Raw Charge’s Matt (iActium) on Broad Street Hockey Radio, out today.
Raw Charge: You guys are 8-1-1 in your last ten and second in the Metro right now. What is happening?
Soupy: That’s a very good question! It seems like it’s been something of a perfect storm for the Flyers: they’ve played some not very good teams, they’ve gotten a fair share of lucky bounces, they’ve been able to mask some of their weaknesses (like sheltering the penalty kill by going more than two full games without taking a minor penalty), etc. So a lot’s been going right, before we even look too hard at what the team’s doing.
But, not to minimize their efforts, they’ve also been playing some very good hockey of late. Their first defensive pair has been super effective, they’re getting more or less consistent scoring from the top six at five-on-five and the first power play unit, and while their goaltending situation has been something of a revolving door, they’ve gotten some solid performances.
I think this is a team that has the tendency to try to get too cute with their moves sometimes, but they’ve been doing well to simplify their game, and it’s been working. Like I said, they’ve got some holes, and they were exploited on Thursday, and they’ll need shoring up, for sure. But things seem to be clicking, and they’re very close to having an optimized lineup (if they can just fix the fourth line). So they seem to be trending upwards.
Raw Charge: How impressed are you by the progression of Ivan Provorov this season?
Soupy: Very! You know, it’s interesting, by the numbers, he’s performing just about even to last season (where he put up a 49.23 CF% at five-on-five, now he’s at 49.5 percent; 5.41 SH% this year over last season’s 5.31 percent, for example) while on pace to exceed last season’s points total. So I think what’s been even more impressive is the more stylistic shifts he’s shown, since he’s been paired with Gostisbehere.
We’re seeing him much more active on the rush. He’s up just about 2.5 percent in high danger chances for. Heck, he’s dipping way low in the zone to play the puck in the crease like a forward. We’re seeing him taking more chances. And I know that this has been a concern with this coach, that the fun young players are having the creativity beaten out of them, so it’s nice to see that this isn’t the case with Provorov. He’s doing some growing and still getting results, and it’s a real treat to watch.
Raw Charge: How do you feel about your goaltending situation as you head down the stretch?
Soupy: I’m feeling pretty good about it. It was a pretty rough game for Mrazek on Thursday, but in a way I’m kind of glad it happened, if for no other reason than to have everybody sort of manage their expectations of him. He’s a good goalie, perfectly fine and competent, and that’s going to do just fine. I like the idea of a tandem between him and Elliott (once he’s back in a few weeks).
It gives them two solid goaltenders that they can rely on, that’s really all they need. They’ve gotten this far without a terribly flashy, lights-out starter, and I’m inclined to believe they’ll be fine without one for the rest of the season. Lights-out would be fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but if these two are playing solidly enough, I think they can get the job done.
Raw Charge: Which metro team would you rather face in the first round?
Soupy: It’s tough to say. Some of us at BSH talked about this a bit, maybe a week or so ago, if we’d rather play Washington or Pittsburgh in the first round, and at the time we decided pretty unanimously on Washington, even though their power play would probably torch the Flyers’ PK. But now? The Penguins without Matt Murray*? Sign me up.
*No one knows yet if he’ll be back or if he’s done for the season, so my answer may go back to being the Caps. This is a half-answer, maybe a cop out, but this is what I have for you.
Raw Charge: How about that Gudas stick handling play the other night? Totally expected that one didn’t you?
Soupy: That was honestly a masterpiece. I think what was even better was that he tried it again a few shifts later and it totally didn’t work. So, welp, I guess that’s his one for the rest of forever.
Raw Charge: Thanks, Soupy!
The Flyers have climbed all the way back into the race for the top of the Metro division but they still don’t have the statistical profile of a particularly threatening team. They are near league average in both shot share and expected goal share. They are below league average in both over the last ten games.
On special teams, they have an average power play and a penalty kill that appears good but gives up a ton of goals. Normally, that would be attributed to bad goaltending but the Flyers have had this issue for several years now with multiple goaltenders indicating that it might be something systemic.
The Lightning have started to play better in their last ten games, particularly defensively. They still aren’t generating shots the way they did early in the season and that’s dragging down their shot share. Given the Lightning’s skill on the power play and the Flyer’s issues on the penalty kill, drawing penalties could create some high end chances for the Bolts this afternoon.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Chris Kunitz - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan (What are you doing, Coach Cooper)
J.T. Miller - Tyler Johnson - Adam Erne
Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Cory Conacher
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Cedric Paquette
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Mikhail Sergachev - Dan Girardi
Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr
Will Nikita Kucherov be back for tonight’s game?
Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom - Nolan Patrick - Jakub Voracek
Taylor Leier - Scott Laughton - Michael Raffl
Jori Lehtera - Valtteri Filppula - Dale Weise
Ivan Provorov - Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg - Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning - Radko Gudas
These lines are as of yesterday’s practice.