It’s been well documented that the Flyers have a tough road ahead of them. If the stretch of games after their bonding trip to North Carolina was the first test of the season, this is certainly the second. To recap, the Flyers have four road games against Western Conference teams between now and January 2nd, followed by a home-and-home with the New Jersey Devils, and then four more road games against Eastern Conference teams.
That’s 10 games in 20 days, 9 of them on the road.
As a team, the organization has to be concerned that the eight days off between their 5-0 shutout loss to the Florida Panthers and their first game back hasn’t made them rusty. They also have to be concerned that the team will not be fatigued with so many back-to-back games.
While both are reasonable concerns, my biggest fear is the strength of the defense. Oskars Bartulis looked just fine against the New York Rangers in his first game back in the line-up, as Chris Pronger is nursing a foot injury. In the shutout, though, he was a bit of a defensive liability. If he isn’t able to step up his game, Peter Laviolette may have to ice his top two defensive pairings much more often.
From a goaltending perspective, carrying three goalies may work out decently in the short term. Between Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton, and Sergei Bobrovsky, the Flyers will be able to give their goaltenders plenty of rest in between games. Should Leighton look NHL ready, I would consider sending Bobrovsky down to the AHL for a few games to bring up another defenseman.
In particular, I’d like to see defenseman Danny Syvret get another crack at the Flyers line-up. While Syvret is not waiver exempt, he was already waived and recalled by the Anaheim Ducks earlier this season. In this situation, Syvret can play 9 NHL games or spend 29 days on an NHL roster (these values may be shorter depending on how many games/days he spent with the Ducks) before being eligible for re-entry waiver claims.
This isn’t an indictment of Bobrovsky so much as it is a strategy for how to juggle the Flyers’ needs over the next few weeks. Hopefully, the Flyers won’t need to do anything drastic and will come out firing on all cylinders on Tuesday.