(cover photo courtesy of mapleleafs.nhl.com)
The Philadelphia Flyers (33-24-6, 72 Points) travel north of the boarder to face the Toronto Maple Leafs (33-23-8, 74 Points) tonight at 7pm from the Air Canada Centre. This is the second matchup between these two teams in the 2013-14 season. Their first was the Flyers’ season opener, a game in which the Maple Leafs won 3-1 at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers come into this game riding a three-game winning streak while the Maple Leafs are coming off of their first post-Olympic win on Wednesday night against the Rangers.
Players to Watch
For Toronto, the big offensive weapon to watch is easily Phil Kessel. The USA’s big name in Sochi has five points since the break and 16 points in his last ten. He plays the right wing on the first line with Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk, both prolific scorers as well. The player to keep an eye on his Jonathan Bernier. Originally starting the season as the backup goaltender, Bernier has been spectacular and has moved up from the backup, to platoon starter, to earning the starting spot all by himself. Bernier stonewalled the Flyers the last time so they will need to figure him out tonight.
For the Flyers, the player to watch out for is Michael Raffl. Raffl had been fairly quiet since the break until he scored Wednesday night but his best play, statistically, comes on the road. 11 of his 19 points have come away from the Wells Fargo Center and he’ll want to impress everyone on Hockey Night in Canada. Defensively, watch for Braden Coburn to have a big night. Coburn started the season off by not holding the blue line too well, but no one was really doing for the Flyers anyway. He has vastly improved and the Flyers have seen the difference in the win column. He’ll look to continue his positive streak (+4 in his last three games) tonight in Toronto.
-Play fast and physical hockey: Toronto is one of the best skating teams in the Eastern Conference
-Solve Bernier: Keep a man in front of him at all times, it doesn’t matter if the goal is a snipe or a garbage goal, it’s still a goal. Bernier saved 31 of 32 Philadelphia shots last time.
-Penalty Killing: Three power play goals were surrendered to the Capitals Wednesday. I don’t care how good a team’s PP unit is, that’s still way too many. Toronto went 1 for 2 in the last game.
The puck drops today at 7pm from the Air Canada Centre. It will be broadcasted locally on Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia and nationally in Canada on CBC for Hockey Night in Canada.