As things threaten to unravel late in the season while injuries continue, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be eager to get back to winning ways tonight against a talented but struggling Philadelphia Flyers team as they don their St.Pats green (7 p.m, TSN).
Currently, the Flyers are the closest non-playoff team to adding themselves into the tight wildcard race in the Eastern Conference between Carolina, Columbus, and Montreal — though the chances are getting very slim. They’re five points back of the Habs and Blue Jackets, with a game in hand on Montreal, which puts them at a measly 3% chance at the playoffs per moneypuck.com.
The Leafs and Flyers have followed similar path recently in terms of controlling play in that both teams have dipped quite a bit in their last five or so games. The Flyers are a below average possession team on the year — same goes for expected goals share — but they’ve been particularly poor in that department lately. The Leafs inability to execute their risk-reward style of play early in games has put them in a hole more often than not lately. Toronto and Philadephia sit 11th and 18th on the year in CF% but are 17th and 25th, respectively, in their last five. Here’s the trend for both teams:
Tonight is the second of a back-to-back for the Flyers, which should give the Leafs a discernible edge. On the other hand, the Flyers postseason hopes will become virtually non-existent if they lose tonight, so it means even more to them in the short term as far as the desperation level.
Philadelphia got Carter Hart back from injury for last night’s 5-2 loss to Washington, so it’ll be Brian Elliott starting tonight. Hart became the team’s starter for stretches through January and February before getting injured, performing at above league average through 23 games this year. While Elliott has taken a back seat to the 20-year-old rookie, his numbers have been respectable this year, with a .970 HDSv% (8th among regular goalies) and a GSAx of 3.54 (10th among regular goalies).
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on starting well:
Well, I just think the last two games would give us a sense of urgency like no other team. Their situation is different than ours, but our situation is we want to play way better than we have. We’ve got a proud group and we’ve had some hiccups along the way but we’ve been able to shorten those hiccups and get on with it. Four of our last six periods we didn’t like. We liked our last two periods. We need that same desperation though from the drop of the puck.
Babcock on getting Justin Holl back in the lineup:
It’s just another opportunity. We want someone to grab it. Marincin gets the call because he’s left-handed, you know. Between those three guys — we think Dermott is probably ahead of Gardiner coming back — [Dermott] is playing in of those spots. So someone else has to grab hold of it and it should be obvious to everyone, not just me.
Babcock on his level of concern about the team’s last two games:
To be honest with you, the game against Tampa I throw out just because we had no energy. It’s not like we responded part way through the game or anything like that, there was no energy. With the [Chicago game] we could turn it up as the game went on, so that means there was energy there — should’ve been ready to go at the start. I think that’s a different scenario.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #34 Auston Matthews – #29 William Nylander
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#12 Patrick Marleau – #43 Nazem Kadri – #28 Connor Brown
#63 Tyler Ennis – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #42 Trevor Moore
#44 Morgan Rielly – #2 Ron Hainsey
#8 Jake Muzzin – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#52 Martin Marincin – #3 Justin Holl
#31 Frederik Andersen
#40 Garret Sparks
Injured: Jake Gardiner (back), Travis Dermott (shoulder), Kasperi Kapanen (concussion)
Scratched: Igor Ozhiganov, Nic Petan
Philadelphia Flyers Projected Lines
#Oskar Lindblom – #14 Sean Couturier – #93 Jakub Voracek
#25 James Van Riemsdyk – #19 Nolan Patrick – #28 Claude Giroux
#12 Micheal Raffl – #21 Scott Laughton – #11 Travis Konecny
#44 Phil Varone – #10 Corban Knight – #38 Ryan Hartman
#9 Ivan Provorov – #6 Travis Sanheim
#53 Shayne Gostisbehere – #61 Philippe Myers
#8 Robert Hagg – #3 Radko Gudas
#37 Brian Elliott
#79 Carter Hart
Injured: Michal Neuvirth