The Philadelphia Flyers are in desperation mode and they have just made that glaringly obvious.
The Flyers currently find themselves facing elimination in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result of the fact that they have been completely dominated in 3 out of 4 games by the two time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and that domination has come in large part thanks to the terrible goaltending the Flyers have received in this series.
Thus far the Flyers have used 3 different goaltenders in this series, starter Brian Elliott as well as backups Petr Mrazek and Michal Neuvirth but none of the three have been able to consistently hold down the fort for Philadelphia. Elliott is the starter but after two horrific starts already in this series it now appears that head coach Dave Hakstol has completely lost faith in him and has decided to put him on the bench.
Despite signs that it looked like Elliot would be getting the start this morning based on the fact that Brian Elliott appeared to be in the starter's position during the Flyer's morning skate, Hakstol has made the decision to go with Michal Neuvirth for a critical Game 5 for the Flyers. This may very well be an indication that if the Flyers can get through this game with a win that Brian Elliot will be relegated to the back up role after dropping the ball early on in this series.
Flyers beat reporter Dave Isaac of USA Today has been ale to confirm that the Flyers are indeed starting Neuvirth although even Isaac himself admitted that he was very surprised by the decision. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on the Flyers and their head coach heading into this game, not only due to the fact that they are facing eliminations, but also due to the fact that they are doing so against one of their most bitter rivals.
On Thursday night Flyers captain Claude Giroux took a great deal of that burden on his own shoulders when he effectively guaranteed in Game 5 by saying that the Flyers would be bringing the series back to Philadelphia for a 6th game.
"We're not ready for our season to be over," said Giroux as per NHL.com's Dan Rosen "We go to Pittsburgh, tough building to play in. We know we can win there. We know if we play our game we can win. So we're going to go out there, play our game and be back for Game 6."
It's not all bad though, there is also some very good news for the Flyers here as well. According to Isaac it looks like Flyers veteran forward Sean Couturier will be back in the line up after missing Game 4 in the series due to injury. Couturier suffered a "lower body injury" when he was tripped by teammate Radko Gudas during a practice earlier in the week, and there were fears that he could miss the remainder of the series as a result of the injury.
Despite the return of Couturier you have to imagine that this is going to be an uphill battle for the Flyers tonight unless they can get some decent goaltending out of Neuvirth.