The Philadelphia Flyers host the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 26, taking on their fourth-straight top-end team in the Western Conference. Returning to Wells Fargo Center after a two-game skid on the road, how can they get back in the win column?
Expose Struggling Wild Defense
Typically known for having a pretty good defense, the Wild haven’t been up to par with their expectations on the back end so far this season. They have been missing their captain, Jared Spurgeon, but even he might not be able to fix their issues by the time he is ready to return. A struggling Flyers’ even strength offense should feast on the Wild defense.
The Flyers are coming off two very strong defensive matchups in the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights, so they might have an easier time scoring at 5-on-5, with just three goals at even strength in their last two games. It has been an uncharacteristically slow start for Minnesota, and yet they still boast the same 3-2-1 record as the Flyers.
Since they got a shutout win in their first game of the season, the Wild have allowed 25 goals in their last five games. A majority of that isn’t even on their goaltending, with their netminders having a cumulative minus-3.5 goals saved above expected rating on the season. Even if the goaltending was above average, they’d still be allowing four goals per game over their last five contests. The Flyers haven’t had many poor defenses on their schedule, but at this very moment, the Wild are one of them. They will have to take advantage.
Play Full Three Periods
The Flyers had the Golden Knights right where they wanted them after the end of the second period, both outplaying them and outscoring them, albeit by just one goal. After 12 minutes of a poor third period, their lackluster performance proved to cost them the game, as they would give up the game-tying and game-winning goals, with the latter being with just over 30 seconds left before overtime. Philadelphia cannot have that happen again, and a good way of doing that would be by not hunkering down to protect a slim lead.
Latest News & Highlights
If the Flyers take their foot off the gas if they are good enough to have a lead against Minnesota, they will pay for their mistake. Head coach John Tortorella and his team must learn from their mistakes against Vegas, otherwise, it could become a habit. They have the ability to play a full 60 minutes, and they should have an easier time doing so against a team that is not 7-0-0 like the Golden Knights are.
Continue Solid Defensive Play
There is a reason why the Wild have a record over .500 despite all of the goals they are allowing. Their offense has been humming recently, and will look to continue that against the Orange and Black. If the Flyers can continue to play strong on defense like they have so far this season, they should match up relatively well against the Wild, all things considered.
The Flyers are still prone to some disastrous turnovers, but they have not been as frequent as in previous seasons. Overall, their first pairing of Cam York and Travis Sanheim has led the way, and actually been one of the best duos in the league thus far. Against a lethal top line for Minnesota, they will once again have to be at their best.
The top line of the Wild consists of Kirill Kaprizov, Ryan Hartman, and Mats Zuccarello. They have a combined 11 goals and 25 points on the season through the team’s first six games, and the trio was electrifying in their most recent game, where they combined for 10 points.
Emil Andrae was sent down to the American Hockey League (AHL) for his early struggles, while both Victor Mete and Louie Belpedio were called up to replace him. With Marc Staal’s injury in consideration, one of them is likely to start unless Rasmus Ristolainen returns, but he recently suffered a setback that will probably sideline him for a bit more time.
The depth on defense might be shaky to start with the changes being made, but beyond York, Sanheim, and Sean Walker, the Flyers have had their defensive lapses anyway. It has been strong, and the AHL players will get an opportunity to show why they belong in the NHL against a strong Wild offense.
Get Something Going on the Power Play
The Flyers have already established that, once again, their power play might be the worst in the entire NHL for the third season in a row. While this was something that was expected, it doesn’t have to be that way. With just one goal on the man advantage, the Flyers have to get rolling at some point. Doing so against a team that has made the postseason for the past three seasons might be good for their confidence moving forward.
With a 5-on-5 offense that ranks around the middle of the pack in terms of goals, the power play will have to at least get something going, even if it doesn’t score a goal. The Flyers have been competitive this season despite their struggles on the man advantage. This will not last, so they will need to change the outlook, and soon.
A win against the Wild would help make up for their recent collapse against the Golden Knights, but it won’t be an easy task. The Flyers have had some very tough teams on their schedule as of late, so their competitiveness so far this season is admirable. A nice win could go a long way.