This is it. The Wings on Saturday will play their final home game of the 2018-2019 season before departing on a road trip that includes three games in two weeks. Their playoff hopes are alive. Their goalie is playing better than ever. But a Calgary team that’s already locked up a postseason bid in the West will arrive at the Wells Fargo Center hoping to change both of those facts.
Faceoff is set for noon ET. The game will televised locally on PHL17 and can streamed everywhere via B/R LIVE.
Let’s break down the biggest storylines to watch for when the Wings (3-11) and Roughnecks (7-8) meet on Saturday:
In a season full of last-minute pipes, untimely penalties and one-goal losses, the Wings cannot afford any more crucial errors or bad breaks.
“We still have a chance to get into the playoffs,” head coach/general manager Paul Day said on a conference call this week. “That’s our focus right now.”
That focus must be flawless on Saturday, because a loss in any of their four remaining games would mean the Wings will be spectators come the postseason. They must spread the scoring across an offensive unit that’s seen five players record at least 40 points this season. They’ll need a boost from a defensive unit that will be without Ryan Wagner for the rest of the season. The return of a healthy Chet Koneczny will help.
Even so, a win might not save Philadelphia. New England’s magic number is one. A Black Wolves victory would eliminate both the Wings and Rochester from contention for the final seed in the East. New England, with a 6-2 record at Mohegan Sun Arena, plays host to San Diego at 7 p.m. ET Saturday. The Seals will be finishing the second half of a back-to-back that begins Friday night in Georgia.
Maybe most of all, the Wings will need Doug Buchan to be the player he’s been over the last month if they’re to win on Saturday. The rookie netminder’s improvements have pushed the goalie issues that plagued the Wings early this season far into the past.
“Doug has been real consistent and efficient and real patient in the net,” Day said. “That’s come with just some experience in his first year in the NLL.”
Buchan played the entire game just twice in the Wings’ first seven contests. In the seven games since, he’s been replaced just once — and even that was the second game of a back-to-back. He’s made at least 41 saves in each of Philadelphia’s last four games, and posted a .809 save percentage over that span (no goalie in the league has a save percentage this season that begins with an eight).
Tough to stop
When asked about the matchup with Calgary, Day said this weekend’s opponent is a team “that’s built a lot like us.” The difference, Day said, was that the Roughnecks have more experience than Philadelphia. Exhibit A: the offensive duo of Curtis Dickson and Dane Dobbie, and the combined 21 years with Calgary between them.
“(Dickson) is the toughest one-on-one guy — I think — to cover in the league,” Day said. “We know that, so we’ll have our hands full. Dobbie is so good off-ball. They compliment each other so well.”
Dobbie leads Calgary with 88 points. Dickson, who has played in only 11 of the team’s 15 games, has 59. Throw in Rhys Duch’s 61 points, and the Wings and Buchan have a tough test ahead. If they want to keep dreaming of the playoffs, failure is not an option.