Flyers-Maple Leafs Preview
Thanks to a recent stretch of strong play, the Philadelphia Flyers have put themselves in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The Flyers now take on the team directly ahead of them as they head north of the border Saturday night to face off with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Philadelphia (33-24-6) has won three straight and seven of eight, climbing to second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers stand fifth in the East, two points behind fourth-place Toronto (33-23-8), but only three clear of being out of playoff position.
Captain Claude Giroux has keyed their recent success, recording eight goals and nine assists over the past 10 games.
Giroux had two goals and an assist in both games of Philadelphia’s home-and-home sweep of Washington, capped by Wednesday’s 6-4 victory. Jakub Voracek had scored only once in 12 games before getting three goals during that sweep along with two assists.
Philadelphia is 17-2-1 when Giroux scores and 10-2-2 when Voracek does.
"They’re the leaders of this team," goalie Steve Mason said. "When they are going, everybody follows."
Andrew MacDonald contributed an assist Wednesday in his Flyers debut after being acquired from the New York Islanders at the trade deadline. Philadelphia is hoping the sixth-year blueliner can shore up a defense that has been struggling, allowing 17 goals in the last four games.
The Flyers could have their hands full again defensively against a Maple Leafs team which ranks in the top-third of the NHL in goals scored.
"They move well, they skate really well and they make some really good plays out there," MacDonald said of Toronto’s attack. "We have to play well defensively, all five guys."
Toronto snapped a three-game losing streak Wednesday, beating the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime on Tyler Bozak’s second goal of the game.
However, the Maple Leafs’ power-play drought reached seven games. They’re 3-2-2 in that span following a 9-1-1 stretch during which they had 11 goals with the man advantage.
Toronto remains among the league leaders on the power play, scoring on 21.0 percent of its chances.
"There’s been a few turnovers here and there. We’ve been doing the same things we have been, we just have to be a little bit smarter with the puck," Bozak said of the power-play issues. "We haven’t been getting the bounces we were getting earlier in the year. That’s something we can easily fix."
The Flyers are among the league’s best penalty-killing teams on the road at 15.5 percent, but they did give up three power-play goals at home Wednesday.
The Maple Leafs won the only previous meeting between the teams this season, 3-1 in Philadelphia on Oct. 2.
The Flyers, though, have won six of seven in Toronto, and Mason has won his two career starts there.