Throughout the years, the National Hockey League’s outdoor games have provided spectacles unlike any other. Tomorrow night will be no different. At Lincoln Financial Field, the usual home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, the Philadelphia Flyers will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. With the stage set and the puck ready to drop, here are five things to watch for on the Flyers’ side of things:
1. A Farewell to Wayne Simmonds?
With the NHL Trade Deadline just two days after the outdoor showdown, the game could spell the end for Wayne Simmonds as a Flyer. For some time now, it’s been known that the team will likely move the power forward prior to his contract expiration on July 1. Many teams have been rumored to be in the mix including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nashville Predators, Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning.
An in-depth article courtesy of Broad Street Hockey takes a look at some of the potential landing spots and returns for the long-tenured Flyers forward. On Saturday night, Simmonds could very well play his final game in a Flyers uniform before being shipped out to another club soon after.
2. Philippe Myers’ First Big Game
While one player may be seeing his last game in the orange and black, another may get his first taste of the NHL spotlight. Defenseman Philippe Myers was called up to the Flyers on Feb. 9. He drew in to the lineup playing his first game in the big leagues on Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings. Now, the young defenseman will be tasked with a bigger role right out of the gate.
Veteran Radko Gudas will be serving a two-game suspension causing him to miss the Stadium Series. So, Myers will likely be the one to replace Gudas and get his first glimpse of the Penguins and an NHL outdoor setting. With just two games under his belt with the Flyers, the 22-year-old up-and-comer will have his mettle tested in a big way.
3. Can Carter Hart Bounce Back?
Arguably, no Flyer has had their mettle tested this season quite like goaltender Carter Hart. Hart was originally called up as part of the “changing of the guard” in the stretch that former general manager Ron Hextall and former head coach Dave Hakstol were both fired. The young star burst onto the scene once he was called upon. He even won eight straight games in the time from Jan. 14 to Feb.9 tying an NHL record. Unfortunately, things haven’t been looking good for the 20-year-old in his last two games as he’s been pulled in favor of backup Brian Elliott on both occasions.
Even though he’s had his struggles of late, Hart’s numbers are still very solid. Through 22 games he owns a 13-8-1 record with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Come Saturday, it’s likely that the young goalie will be called upon once again in perhaps his most important game to date. Hopefully, for the Flyers’ sake, he’ll be able to bounce back.
4. Calling on the Captain
Aside from looking to a young player, the Flyers will also need a strong performance from a veteran. That veteran is captain Claude Giroux. Scoreless in the last four games, the team will need their leader to step up against the Penguins. After a renaissance last season, Giroux’s current campaign hasn’t been disappointing either. Through 61 games this season, the 31-year-old has as many points and leads the Flyers in scoring. As one of the NHL’s elite talents, Giroux will have to show his stuff and get on the board somehow tomorrow night.
5. Team Effort
Perhaps the most important factor for the Flyers in the upcoming match-up will be their overall effort. Not only are they looking to win their first outdoor game ever, but they’re in desperate need of two points in the standings. Too many times this season they’ve started games flat and have paid the price. From the young players to the old, everyone on the ice will need to give it their all for a complete, 60-minute effort.
Players like Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick, and Travis Konecny are key on offense while Myers, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Travis Sanheim are keys along the blue line. Up and down the bench, every man needs to contribute as best they can in order for the Flyers to emerge victorious.
In the end, the Flyers hold their fate in the palm of their hands. If they can compete at the same level as the Penguins then they’ll have a good shot at winning. If not, they’ll fall once again to their cross-state rivals outside. They’ll perhaps see one of their beloved teammates play his final game while seeing young players be part of the first big event of their careers. It’s going to be a sight to see at Lincoln Financial Field. However, the on-ice performance will be what’s discussed for years to come.