The Flyers can walk a little taller Thursday night as they take on the Washington Capitals without having to worry about Tom Wilson running wild. Wilson was suspended this weekend for a brutal hit to the head of Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo. The Caps will be without Wilson for seven games, including Thursday and Saturday night’s matchups with the Flyers.
Obviously, this is a big opportunity for the Flyers. Tom Wilson is a dirty player and when he’s on the ice, players are without a doubt cognizant of what could happen if they go into the corner against him. It’s a shame, but that’s just the reality of it. Beyond his antics, Wilson is also an effective offensive weapon. He has seven goals and 17 points this season and has been one of the Capitals’ most dangerous players all season.
The Flyers would be wise to take advantage of his absence and perhaps exert themselves physically in this matchup. That being said, the Capitals still have plenty of firepower, so the Flyers would be ill-advised to try and turn this game into a high-scoring affair.
Keys to the game
- For the love of God, stay out of the box: The Flyers penalty kill is in shambles. There’s no other way to put it. Sure, the unit needs to improve, but for now, it’s probably best to minimize the number of trips they take to the sin bin. After a surprisingly rough season last year, the Capitals have rediscovered their touch on the man-advantage and currently rank 6th in the league. The Flyers cannot allow special teams to once again become the story of this matchup.
- Impose yourself on the forecheck: As mentioned above, the Capitals will be missing one of their most physical players. This should allow the Flyers to get in on the forecheck and also exit the zone a bit easier. We’ve seen how the Capitals hemorrhage chances in their own zone — the Flyers torched them for seven goals in the first matchup of the year and created a plethora of high-quality chances in Sunday’s meeting — so it’s pivotal to get the forecheck buzzing early.
- Please help out your goalies: Look, Carter Hart hasn’t been having the year we expected from him. He admitted after Tuesday’s game vs Buffalo in which he allowed three goals on eight shots in the first period that he is lacking confidence. That’s going to happen with young players, especially young goalies. Carter Hart will be ok. That being said, it would be really nice if the team would lock it down in front of him. All three goals by the Sabres were a result of breakdowns in front and players being allowed to shoot from the low slot. That won’t cut it, regardless of who is in the net. The Flyers were one of the best defensive teams last season. Figure it out.
Without Michael Raffl, the team will roll back to the normal 12/6 format. Andy Andreoff will check into the lineup. Sure would be nice to see Zayde Wisdom join the team, though. Phil Myers will be a healthy scratch as well.
Brian Elliott will draw between the pipes again as Carter Hart could probably stand to have a night off.