The Flyers are stumbling into Wednesday night’s match-up against the Washington Capitals. A 4-2 loss against the Maple Leafs Monday at Wells Fargo Center again put the Flyers two games below the .500 mark and for a team struggling with consistency the wins must come immediately.
With Matt Read out of the lineup for the foreseeable future and Tye McGinn out for a few weeks with an orbital bone fracture Flyers GM Paul Holmgren pulled of a trade for Simon Gagne. Holmgren sent the Los Angeles Kings a conditional 4th round pick for Gagne, who is expected to be in the lineup against Washington. Gagne is excited to return and the fans are equally excited, outside of a few skeptics the move should help the Flyers in a few areas of need but especially on the power play.
As of right now this Flyers club isn’t playing like a playoff team. That needs to change and it needs to start against the Capitals. Alex Ovechkin’s Caps played and won Tuesday night versus the Hurricanes. Braden Holtby pitched a 33 save shutout for Washington while Nicklas Backstrom registered 2 points (1 G, 1 A) in the win. The Capitals, however, have struggled mightily this season coming into Wednesday’s game with only 15 points on the season (7-10-1). That places them 14th in the Eastern Conference ahead of only the Sabres (7-12-1 15 points), though the clubs are tied in points the Caps have played less games. Ovechkin has had some difficulty finding the net on a consistent basis this season registering only one multi-goal game which happened to be a hat trick against New Jersey last Saturday. In terms of team goal scoring, Washington is middle of the pack with 51 goals on the year, the Flyers are 4th in the NHL with 60 goals. The Flyers, though, have played more games than any other team in the league which skews that ranking quite a bit.
Speaking of the Flyers, wouldn’t it be nice for them to string some wins together? It would! Sooner or later Peter Laviolette is going to have to give Ilya Bryzgalov a night off. Bryz has played the most games by any goaltender in the league and has expressed to the media that he is tired. Brian Boucher should get a start in one of the next two games and it figures to be Saturday against Ottawa but you never know Laviolette could trot Bryzgalov out there yet again.
Wednesday will, no doubt, be an emotional game for the Flyers and the fans with Gagne’s return. It’ll be important for the boys in orange to capitalize early on scoring chances. The power play, again, will be key but it’s the little things that has to improve. One area that needs improving is the passing. Guys have to make smarter passes out of the defensive zone to ensure they don’t get caught into a situation where they’re running around tired in the defensive zone. Usually it’s been a turnover at the line or an over-skated puck that winds up in behind Bryzgalov.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see how things shake out in seemingly must win game for the Flyers. You hate to call this game a must win but it essentially is one of those games especially looking at the upcoming schedule. It’s brutal.
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Ilya Bryzgalov W-L-OT (9-9-1) GAA (2.79) SV% (.900)
Braden Holtby/Michal Neuvirth
TSN2, NBCSN/97.5 The Fanatic
Welcome Back Simon Gagne