NHL Preview: Philadelphia Flyers vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Flyers (9-10-1) vs Maple Leafs (11-8-0), 7 p.m., CSN
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
After posting a goal in the teams first meeting back on Feb. 11, former Flyer James van Riemsdyk will make his long awaited return to the City of Brotherly Love as the Philadelphia Flyers host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
During that first meeting, Toronto handled the Flyers quite easily, in route to a 5-2 victory. If Philadelphia hopes to even up the series on Monday night, they must get off to a good start. Over the last six contests, the Flyers have trailed after the first period five times. Despite winning three of their last four, the Flyers would much rather prefer being the aggressor to start each contest.
Inconsistency has been another issue for the Flyers this season. One night they will look like a legitimate contender from the Eastern Conference and the next, they look worse than the Florida Panthers. Which, according to the season series, they are. If this hockey club doesn’t start to consistently put together three solid periods of hockey, they could be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
They did, however, receive some help on Saturday afternoon, as power forward Scott Hartnell (broken foot) returned to the lineup. In 14:54 of ice time, Hartnell tallied five shots on goal and his physical presence certainly gave the Flyers an all around boost. He is coming back just in time to face an old foe in Dion Phaneuff. I’m sure you all remember the encounter between these two last season. After Hartnell scored a goal, Phaneuff jumped him and the two dropped gloves. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these two got in each others faces early and often on Monday night.
Between the Pipes
He’s been incredibly solid this season, but Ilya Bryzgalov hasn’t been atop of his game as of late, surrendering 13 goals over the past three contests. The last time these two squared off, Bryzgalov was pulled after allowing four goals on 14 shots.
Ben Scrivens will get the nod for Toronto. Since spelling the injured James Reimer, Scrivens has been very solid for the Leafs. He is sporting a 2.19 GAA to match a save percentage of .929. Reimer is inching much closer to a return, so the Leafs will have some solid depth in net.
Keys to Win
Bryzgalov: Over the past few games, the Flyers netminder has looked a tad bit shaky. His rebound control hasn’t been great and his confidence isn’t as high as it was earlier in the year. If Bryzgalov can play like he started 2013, the Flyers offense (which has been strong as of late) should be able to handle the rest.
Start strong: Sounds like a broken record, huh? But it’s crucial, especially against a Toronto club that isn’t the laughing stock of the league anymore. Even without Joffrey Lupul, they can still score goals at will. The Flyers need to be the aggressor and force the Leafs on their heels early and often.
Stay disciplined: Toronto has been increasingly physical over the course of the 2013 season. The Leafs lead the league in fighting majors and will look to agitate the Flyers from the puck-drop. Philadelphia is clearly a physical team themselves, but they cannot get out of hand.
Insert van Riemsdyk / Luke Schenn trade story here.
Jakub Voracek was named the league’s first star of the week. He has 12 points over that span.
Young talent Nazem Kadri is tied for the Leafs’ team-lead in points.
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