After establishing themselves as a team to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers are now staring down possibly the two best teams in the east.
The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning are both eyeing a Stanley Cup Finals run with the quality of their rosters and will be no easy out for any team.
I know, the Lightning found themselves swept out of the first-round last season but if you are writing them off based on that I would be careful. However, before we get to Tampa lets discuss the Flyers’ opponent tonight.
The Boston Bruins have been a steamroller this season, plain and simple. With a league-best record of 43-14-12, they currently sit at 98 points and are poised to finish well above 100 points for the season.
Superstar David Pastrnak has lit the up NHL, as he is currently tied with Alex Ovechkin for the league-lead in goals with 48. He is going to break the 100-point mark for the first time in his career, with 13 games remaining he only needs six more points.
The core of the Bruins team from the last decade is still here as well, which comes along with it tons of playoff experience. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and the great Zdeno Chara still are highly effective players. Both Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have been very solid in net this season as well.
The Flyers will have their hands full with this team, possibly even more so now with Phil Myers out for at least a month with a fractured patella in his right knee. At least the Flyers will have the home-ice advantage, but that is not something they will have Thursday night.
The Lightning have looked like a contender all season. Currently, Tampa Bay is tied for the league-lead in wins with Boston (43) and second behind Boston in points with 92. Their powerplay is ranked in the top five in the league as well, which is no surprise. Although their penalty kill is not the first-ranked unit that it was last season, their penalty kill this year ranks right outside of the top ten.
They have been as good at home as they are on the road this season, with home and away records of 22-10-2 and 21-10-4 respectively. The core of this team has remained intact over the last half-decade and has plenty of playoff success and experience. After being eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals twice in the past five years, they were embarrassed last year. They were penned by many to win Lord Stanley’s Cup and failed in the worst way possible. The odds that they get swept again in the first round are not very likely at all, and they could very well find themselves in the final this season.
If the Flyers can come out of this two-game stretch with two wins, especially considering they are without JVR and Myers, it will be huge. The Penguins continue to drop games, and the Flyers could very well gain a point or two lead over the Capitals by the end of the week.
A wild card in the equation here is now Shayne Gostisbehere, who will fill in for Phil Myers tonight. Gostisbehere has struggled over his past season and a half with the team, not playing like the player we saw in his first two years in the NHL. He definitely has something to prove, assuming he is now completely recovered from his injuries. He is a player who could remind the league about his dynamic offensive game over the course of this week.