The Christmas break is over in the NHL, as teams return to the ice on Thursday. There’s a full slate of games tonight, with only three on tap for Friday. It was a perfect time for the Lightning to get some time off, as they were on a four-game road trip before getting a few days off for Christmas. They were out west and handled it well, with three out of four wins.
The Lightning opened up the road trip with a 5-4 loss to the Jets in overtime, and then won three in a row over the Canucks, Flames, and Oilers. They showed no signs of slowing down offensively, as they notched at least 4 goals in all four games on the road. Their most recent outing was a 6-3 win over the Oilers on Saturday. The next couple of days is all about finding teams who are most likely not to have a Christmas hangover.
Philadelphia have no time for any hangovers, as they try and make up for lost time. Dave Hakstol got pulled behind the bench after leading the Flyers to the worst record in the Eastern Conference. It wasn’t long after that they fell to last that Hakstol was canned. The Flyers aren’t out of the hole yet, but the Devils are now in last in the conference. Philly are tied with the Senators with 34 points, while the Devils are in the basement with 31 points on the season.
Their issues stem from the injury to goaltender Brian Elliott. Elliott wasn’t playing bad, but an injury has kept him out since November 15th. It’s been injury after injury between the pipes for the Flyers ever since. They’re beginning to get healthier with the return of Michal Neuvirth, but he is one of the more inconsistent goalies you can find in the NHL.
He left for the break with a nice performance against the Rangers. However, he’s going to need several more to get his numbers in order. 20-year-old Carter Hart started his NHL career on a high note, with sharp outings against the Red Wings and Predators. He came down to earth against the Blue Jackets, though, as he allowed 4 goals on 23 shots. The Lightning had an injury to their starting goaltender in the first-half as well, but Andrei Vasilevskiy is back. They also had an elite offence to shoulder the load when Vasilevskiy was out. Head below for our free Flyers vs. Lightning pick.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Pick
The Flyers can either go with Hart or Neuvirth tonight. It’s more of a guessing game than anything for the Flyers at this point. Hart showed some promise in two games, but that’s exactly the point, it’s only been two games for him. He had a GAA just over 3.00 in the AHL, so I imagine his numbers start trending towards that if he gets more starts with the Flyers.
With respects to Neuvirth, he has a 4.34 GAA and 0.833 save percentage in three starts. Hart has the better numbers in three outings, but Neuvirth has the experience and is being paid to be the backup to Elliott. The Flyers just have to ride with whoever is playing better. I don’t know if it’s going to matter against the Lightning. Whether it’s Neuvirth or Hart, they have it tough against the Tampa playmakers.
The Lightning have multiple options on their roster who are capable of going off. They’ve backed it up with 4.08 goals per game thus far in 2018-19. They are the only team in the league who are averaging more than 4 goals per game. In their last ten games, they’ve lit the red light an average of a staggering 4.9 goals per game.
They barely missed out on an even 5 goals per game. Conversely, the Flyers have given up 3.7 goals per game, so no matter who is in net for Philadelphia, expect them to have a heck of a time trying to slow down the Lightning. We do know that Vasilevskiy will be in net for the Bolts. He’s been sharp with a 2.39 GAA and 0.928 save percentage. Look for the Lightning to get out of tonight with a win by 2 or more goals.