Shock the Conference: Flyers Look to Ride the Lightning
Philadelphia Flyers (13-15-1) at Tampa Bay Lightning (12-15-1)
Tampa Bay Times Forum — Tampa Bay, FL
7:30 p.m. on CSN and 97.5 FM The Fanatic
Setting the Stage
This is the third and final meeting between these two teams. They each won against each other on their home ice earlier this season. On January 27, the Lightning smoked the Flyers 5-1. On February 5, the Flyers squeaked out a 2-1 win thanks to Tom Sestito's two-goal game.
The Flyers are winners of two of their last three games, beating Buffalo at home on Sunday and New Jersey at home on Friday in tight games that featured a lot of desperation (Wednesday's loss was a butt-whuppin' at the hands of the Devils).
They are going into Tampa to face a struggling Lightning team (3-7-0 in their last 10) and with hopes of a post season still in their sights. Tampa has also won two of their last three games. In the last three games between these two teams in Florida, the Lightning prevailed.
Kimmo Timonen is also playing in his 1000th career NHL game tonight. He also turns 38-years old today.
What to Expect
For the Flyers, it's do-or-die time. They are going into Tampa to face a struggling Lightning team (3-7-0 in their last 10) and with hopes of a post season still in their sights.
The top line needs a total break-out game, especially Scott Hartnell. Hartnell has struggled since returning from injury, scoring only two goals and adding two assists in the last 10 games despite playing on a line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
Tampa Bay's leading scorer is none other than Steven Stamkos. Stamkos has 20 goals and 18 assists on the season, giving him the league lead in goals and the third highest point total in the NHL. Martin St. Louis is right behind him with 37 points, with 30 of those being assists (2nd in the NHL)
The Masked Men
Wouldn't be shocked if Ilya Bryzgalov makes his NHL-leading 28th start. He churned out a brilliant effort on Friday, stopping 27-of-28 shots and stealing a second point right out from under the noses of New Jersey.
Tampa Bay's starter will likely be Anders Lindback. Lindback played well in both games against Philadelphia, stopping 46 of the 49 shots faced in a win and loss respectively. Mathieu Garon has played more recently though, making 21 saves in a 4-1 win over Carolina on Saturday. Lindback is the Lightning's true number one though so he should get the start.
Keys to the Game
1. St. Louis-Stamkos Connection. With a combined 75 points between the two of them, St. Louis and Stamkos form one of the scariest tandems in the NHL. St. Louis, who was once known for his scoring, has always been known for his passing and ability to set up his line mates for a scoring chance. The Flyers will somehow need to neutralize that speed or else they will continuously get burned.
2. Top Line. In the last four games, the Flyers have gotten only two goals from their top line of Scott Hartnell-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek. Giroux and Voracek are their top point getters, both having struggled as of late. Hartnell has also been frustrated and needs a good, chippy effort to help shake him from the funk he's been in.
3. Control the Pace. It worked against Pittsburgh for the early part last week. But people saw what happened when the Flyers stopped dictating pressure -- a 4-1 lead turned into a 5-4 loss. Tampa Bay is a similar team who loves speed and can score in bunches. The Flyers need to slow the game down, dump and chase and grind the Lightning down into exhaustion.
“To find a way to get out of that hole and even last year [in Los Angeles] I don’t think we were even in the eighth seed until the last two, three games of the season. We were ten and not even close to eight sometimes. Everything was so tight, you win one game you can go back to eighth seed. It’s just finding a way to be consistent and finding a way to win a game. Not focusing too much ahead of yourself. Take one game at a time and not looking what could happen at the end.” -- Simon Gagne on Friday.