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Fading Flyers Face Surging Stars

(Credit: Andy Nietupski / Texas Stars)

There was a lot to like about the Dallas Stars 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Monday night.

Thomas Harley played over 16 minutes – and looked good in doing so. Scott Wedgewood was everything that a team could want in a backup goalie, playing arguably better than he did prior to going out with a lingering lower body injury.

The top line was dominant, and there were contributions on down the lineup. That the game put the Stars over the top to qualify for the playoffs was an unsurprising bonus – but added to the general celebratory atmosphere.

Perhaps more important for the final five games of the regular season, Dallas was able to stick to the game plan against a less than playoff caliber team. Important, since four of the last five games are against similar teams – the exception being Saturday afternoon against the Vegas Golden Knights. Important, since seeding still matters once the playoffs start.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Max Domi (18) –  Ty Dellandrea (10) – Tyler Seguin (91)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Evgeni Dadonov (63)
Joel Kiviranta (25) – Radek Faksa (12) – Luke Glendening (11)

Miro Heiskanen (4) – Ryan Suter (20)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)
Thomas Harley (55) – Colin Miller (6)

Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)

If Hintz is out, Seguin and Kiviranta move up – the third line remains the same. Fredrik Olofsson would draw in on the fourth line. If any other game time decision is made, the lines will be a serious jumble.

Against Nashville, Dellandrea spent the bulk of his time on the second line, with Faksa rotating back to the fourth line. That could continue. Fredrick Olofsson was his normal, solid if unspectacular self as a fourth line replacement for Joel Kiviranta.

The big story on defense was, of course, Thomas Harley. He led all defenders in shot share percentage, and was positive on expected goal percentage (all, per NaturalStatTrick). Perhaps more impressively, all of this while primarilty backing Faksa, Glendening and Olofsson.

It remains to be seen how much rest Oettinger will get through the remaining five games. If nothing else, Wedgewood provided evidence that he’s ready when called on.

Philidelphia Flyers Lineup

Travis Konecny (11) – Morgan Frost (48) – Owen Tippett (74)
Joel Farabee (86) – Noah Cates (49) – Wade Allison (57)
James van Riemsdyk (25) – Kevin Hayes (13) – Scott Laughton (21)
Nicolas Deslauriers (44) – Tanner Laczynski (58) – Brendan Lemieux (22)

Ivan Provorov (9) – Cam York (45)
Travis Sanheim (6) – Rasmus Ristolainen (55)
Nick Seeler (24) – Ronnie Attard (47)

Carter Hart (79)
Felix Sandstrom (32)

The Flyers have the look of a team that needs a major rebuild, but aren’t quite ready/willing to pull the trigger. Van Riemsdyk’s is the only major contract coming off of the books this year, but there are hosts of moderately performing players in their mid-twenties to early-thirties who have decent sized, long term deals. And its not like there are a bunch of kids down at Lehigh Valley just busting the doors down to get to the NHL.

Admittedly, Philidelphia has close to $20 million worth of talent sitting on injured reserve, including Sean Couturier, Sam Atkinson and Ryan Ellis. Talented, sure, but also reflective of the problem: guys over 30 on long term deals.

The team has lost four in a row, after winning four in a row, giving up 18 goals while scoring 11 in the losses. All but one of the losses came against non-playoff teams.

Carter Hart has missed a few games with a lower body injury, but appears to be an option against Dallas. At times, the Flyers have gone with a 11-7 lineup.

Keys to the Game

Back to Business. Making the playoffs was worth a celebration, but on any given night, any NHL club can win. Focus on what needs to be tightened down for the playoffs.

Rolling Lines. That said, there’s no reason for Heiskanen to play 30 minutes or any forward to be over 20 minutes.

Thomas Harley. Another chance to see if improvement from within is the best trade deadline move.