Rounding out their first homestand of the 2021-2022 season, the Philadelphia Flyers (2-0-1) take on the Florida Panthers (4-0-0.)
Confidence is a critical ingredient to consider when separating contenders from pretenders. Theoretically, the Philadelphia Flyers have exceeded early expectations. They entered 2021-2022 as the most injured team in the NHL. Thus far, they’re trending in the right direction in their first ten games. The Flyers are 2-0-1 in three games; a shootout loss, undefeated all-time versus the Seattle Kraken, and a handed defeat of the Boston Bruins.
Philadelphia should be happy with their performance to date, but the Florida Panthers are undefeated. There isn’t any caveat to that claim. They’ve been on the winning end of every result in 2021-2022. The only team to score more than one goal against the Panthers this season was the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Both teams tonight consist of high-scoring offenses. The Panthers average 4.5 goals per game and surrender two per game. Defensively, Florida has the advantage, but the Flyers do score at a slightly higher rate.
Tonight, Philadelphia faces its tallest task in the early stages of the new season. If they can perform as they did in front of Martin Jones against the Boston Bruins, the Flyers could put an exclamation point on the end of their homestand.
Before the puck drops tonight, here’s what to watch for:
Walk Like A Panther
Emerging as a key forward on the Florida Panthers is Mason Marchment. The 4RW in the bottom six is off to a career pace. He’s notched three assists in two games.
Patric Hornqvist has a coast-to-coast connection on his line with Sam Reinhart, who became very familiar with the Philadelphia Flyers last season. Travis Sanheim must tighten his game on the left side next to Rasmus Ristolainen.
Anton Lundell centers Reinhart and Hornqvist. His fingerprints appear on every game this season. In four games, he tallied four points (2G, 2A.) Expect Nick Seeler to up the intensity as he did against the Seattle Kraken and Jamie Oleksiak.
The Flyers will be susceptible to pressure on the right side of the ice. It doesn’t seem Ryan Ellis will be available because Seeler is back from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. That’ll bump Justin Braun to the top line with Ivan Provorov. Without Ellis, Philadelphia is no longer stable on the right side. Depending on a 2020-2021 top pair and Seeler on the third pair isn’t ideal, especially against a team that doesn’t make many defensive mistakes.
No defensive detail can go unnoticed.
A Philadelphia Fly-By
Nicolas Aube-Kubel is off to a rough start in 2021-2022. He took an unnecessary penalty against the Seattle Kraken and didn’t look much smoother against the Boston Bruins. Of all the Philadelphia Flyers players to start three games, Aube-Kubel offers the most amiss minutes. The Florida Panthers have an eleventh-ranked powerplay. Discipline is the name of the game.
Patrick Brown is easing off of the COVID19 protocol list. Zack McEwen is already assuming the 4RW slot. It’s paramount that Aube-Kubel finds his game tonight. He could compete soon with Max Willman, who seemed more composed in two starts.
Keith Yandle faces his former team in his new home. Alongside Nick Seeler, they’re an ideal welcoming committee. Before Yandle, Rasmus Ristolainen will get the first word in.
Following Martin Jones’ 92.5% save percentage performance against the Boston Bruins, the pressure is on Carter Hart. Hart is 1-0-1, navigating the early waters against the undefeated Panthers.
“Compete levels” is a valuable component that Alain Vigneault discussed previously, and the Flyers are underdogs in their barn.
It’s hard to go against the undefeated team knowing the lineup isn’t stable. The Florida Panthers are tied for the top defense in the league in terms of goals allowed. On the flip side, the Philadelphia Flyers outright possess the best offense in the NHL.
Tonight may not be the best night to bet on the underdog. It’ll be close, but I’m taking the Panthers, 3-2.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre