Taking a deep dive Into the Flyers 2020-2021 Opponents

Flyers' Carter Hart
Flyers’ Carter Hart (Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)

A season ago, the Philadelphia Flyers cut through their 2020-2021 opponents to the tune of 13-5-2 They fared very well, with one exception. While the Flyers did fall short to them in the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, they began to find their groove. Concerning the rest of the field, can Philadelphia maintain their supremacy against the Eastern Conference?

The rotation of Carter Hart and Brian Elliott more than held their own. One giant difference for the upcoming season stems from the retirement of Matt Niskanen. Philadelphia’s defense is raring to rebound after the extension of Philippe Myers, and the addition of Erik Gustafsson. Offensively, the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoff experience greatly benefited the young forwards.

How do the Flyers compare to their opponents in 2020-2021? Here, I’ll deep dive into the teams they’ll play eight times each. This upcoming season provides a new challenge. For Philadelphia, mental fortitude and genuine cunning will spotlight their path back to elite status. That goes double for Vigneault’s game planning.

Boston Bruins

In three contests between the Flyers and the Boston Bruins, overtime proved to be the ultimate outlier. Winning two out of the three games came down to one-on-one, anxiety-induced finishes between the Philadelphia goaltenders and the Bruins forwards.

In the first meeting, Hart squared off against Jaroslav Halak. Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier contributed to the scoreboard to put the Flyers up by two. Of course, Boston would tie the game to finish regulation. Joel Farabee scored the game-winning goal in the shootout to provide the win.

The second meeting featured another nailbiter. In this clash, the Bruins took an early advantage, leading 5-2 through the middle of the second period. Philadelphia upped the intensity, clawing their way back to a 5-5 tie at the end of regulation. It was the infamous shootout where Brad Marchand whiffed on a still puck in the shootout after Konecny converted against Halak. The Flyers secured a 6-5 victory.

The final contest between these two teams featured Boston getting their win. A shutout victory with Tuukka Rask between the pipes crushed the return of Shayne Gostisbehere. Justin Braun served a minor for interference, which propelled a powerplay goal from Matt Grzelcyk.

Hart started every game against the Bruins, stopping 79 of 88 shots (89.7%) while securing a 2-1-0 record. Including the play-in round, Hart made 113 saves on 123 pucks (91.8%) to improve to an overall 3-1-0 record. Couturier played a starring role in the two victories against Boston (5pts, 1G, 4A.) Aside from the reigning Frank J. Selke Trophy recipient and the team leader in scoring, Michael Raffl delivered in the postseason.

Buffalo Sabres

Philadelphia matched up against the Buffalo Sabres twice in 2019-2020, handily defeating them in both meetings. The Flyers defense gaslighted those two victories. In both defeats, the Sabres were only able to muster one goal. What stands out in Philadelphia’s first victory is who the lineup featured in a dominating win.

Players such as Andy Andreoff, Morgan Frost, Shayne Gostisbehere, David Kase, and Mikhail Vorobyev starred in the Flyers 6-1 victory on December 19th, 2019. Buffalo only tallied seventeen shots on the net. Hart nearly shut out the Sabres, but Victor Olofsson scores the lone goal with 8:25 remaining in the third period. Konecny one again padded his season points total along with a productive night from Couturier, Niskanen, Kevin Hayes, and James van Riemsdyk. Vorobyev scored his only goal of the season to start the game.

Three months later, Philadelphia won the second meeting, 3-1. Buffalo improved their offensive effort, registering 39 shots, but Hart once again dominated in the crease. The trio including Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Travis Sanheim partnered for the first two goals of the game (both scored by Giroux.) Carter Hutton served as the goaltender for the Sabres in both losses.

Once again, Hart was nightmare fuel for Buffalo. The Flyers were firing on all cylinders against the Sabres in 2019-2020. Three of the seven goals between the two games came from the powerplay unit. Of course, all of those powerplay goals took place in the 6-1 victory. Philadelphia only scored three powerplay goals in a single game one other time in 2019-2020, against the New York Rangers.

New York Rangers

Another team the Flyers were undefeated against last season was the Rangers. As stated before, the powerplay unit found a way to produce (ranked 14th in the regular season.) Though the powerplay was abysmal in the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, only one other team was worse. It was this New York team in particular.

Each time Philadelphia squared off against the Rangers, they reached the magic number of five goals. New York progressively scored more, but couldn’t keep up with the Flyers at any point. The first meeting featured a 5-1 victory by Philadelphia. Another high octane performance from a lineup that had the same players as the 6-1 victory against Buffalo. Sanheim tallied 3pts (2G, 1A) to lead the march for the Flyers.

Philadelphia won 5-2 in the second meeting of 2019-2020 between these two franchises. Again, Hart earned the victory, blocking 26 of 28 shots for a 92.9% save percentage. While Henrik Lundqvist started the first game for the Rangers, Alexandar Georgiev had this one. Similar to their first meeting, New York scored early off the stick of Jesper Fast. For the Flyers, Jakub Voracek pushed the pace, totaling four assists.

In the last meeting, Philadelphia notched a 5-3 victory. Observing the same result in game two, Lundqvist started game three for the Rangers. Hart continued to a perfect 3-0-0 record against New York. Once again, Voracek made his presence known along with efforts from Sanheim and Derek Grant.

Up to this point, the Flyers dominated every team stationed in the state of New York. Hart remained undefeated against New York teams until the Islanders showed up to play.

New York Islanders

Defensively, Philadelphia never matched up well to the Islanders. Speed killed the Flyers in the regular season and postseason. Comparing Hart in the regular season to the postseason versus New York is a tale of two halves. Emphasis deserves placement on just how great he played in the net during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. During the regular season, Elliott was viewed as the stronger netminder when these two clubs met.

Elliott replaced Hart in game one versus the Islanders during the 2019-2020 regular season. In fourteen shots, New York scored five times on Hart. Vigneault had seen enough and inserted Elliott, who didn’t allow a goal. In many ways, the Islanders were the most dangerous team Philadelphia faced last season. Consider the speed and depth during this game alone, where New York had twelve different skaters notch a point.

Following a perfect performance replacing Hart, Elliott started game two against the Islanders. Through more than three-quarters of the game, the Flyers were shutting out New York, 3-0. It was soon after the floodgates opened after Anthony Beauvillier scored. The Islanders rallied three goals in the third period to force a shootout. New York went a perfect two-for-two in the shootout while Philadelphia failed to answer twice.

Certainly, the foundation crumbling in game two of the regular season series was a farce. That wasn’t the case. Elliott once again got the start, and the Islanders produced offensively. Mathew Barzal totaled three assists in their victory.

Those three frustrating losses made the 2020 NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals the series to watch. If the Flyers were going to win, it had to be with overtime theatrics. Oskar Lindblom made his return from battling his Ewing’s sarcoma diagnosis during this series. Philadelphia would force a game seven, but New York proved they were the better team. The eight-game regular-season series between the Islanders and the Flyers commands special attention in 2020-2021.

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Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre