Without Ryan Ellis, did the Philadelphia Flyers stand up defensively, or did the Florida Panthers exploit a weakness?
No matter the sport, games are dictated by the defense. Before the puck dropped at the Wells Fargo Center, the Florida Panthers could call their defensive unit the best in the league.
The Philadelphia Flyers scored sixteen goals in their first three games. If there were ever a team to hand the Panthers their first loss of 2021-2022, it’s the Flyers, right!? Well, maybe. On paper, they did show the capability to accumulate goals. Sergei Bobrovsky is no slouch, nor has he ever been.
Tonight, Florida was the favorite. No, they didn’t have the home-ice advantage. They did have the personnel to take on Joel Farabee, Cam Atkinson, and Travis Konecny. Unfortunately, Philadelphia had to cope without Ryan Ellis.
Who would dictate the pace? Would the Flyers be able to keep the Panthers out of the offensive zone? Which team was more disciplined?
Here’s how tonight unfolded at the Wells Fargo Center:
Throughout most of the opening period, the Philadelphia Flyers had their scoring opportunities. Most of the pressure came through the slot, putting the spotlight on Sergei Bobrovsky to make critical saves. Unfortunately for the Flyers forwards, he did that. Philadelphia wasn’t able to capitalize on the man-advantage; then went 1/2 on the penalty kill.
Each time the Florida Panthers pressed into the defensive zone, a Flyers forward remained disruptive. James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux cleared a Panthers 5v5 possession, featuring Derick Brassard on an appreciated backcheck. Then, Scott Laughton and Sean Couturier killed the first penalty committed by Travis Sanheim.
Sanheim was a player I mentioned when previewing this game. It’s up to him to tighten up the 2LD role. His pair started tonight’s game, getting the added minutes with Ryan Ellis absent. As soon as Philadelphia successfully killed on penalty, Nick Seeler committed another. It was a tick-tack call that proved to be costly.
Panthers led, 1-0.
Though the Florida Panthers took an early lead due to Nick Seeler’s untimely penalty, the Philadelphia Flyers made it their mission to strike back. They did on the powerplay and the penalty kill.
One thing that remains a constant from season to season is Claude Giroux. Earlier, he made a defensive play to clear the puck from the neutral zone. To start the second period, he connected over the stick side of Sergei Bobrovsky, converting a powerplay. Suddenly, the Panthers lead disappeared.
Carter Hart began to bail out his team, making quality save after quality save. With the score tied, Nate Thompson visited the penalty box for hooking. As quickly as the Flyers got back into the game, they were about to find themselves out.
Cam Atkinson made sure to rewrite that narrative, potting the first shorthanded goal of the season for Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, the Flyers couldn’t close Florida out in the final minutes of the second period. Similar to the first period, the Panthers scored in the fading moments. Owen Tippett tied the game, 2-2, due to soft coverage by Travis Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen. That defensive pair is the only one uninterrupted by Philadelphia’s personnel change. Not the strongest showing from a combination Alain Vigneault relies upon.
As much as the Philadelphia Flyers fought back in the second period, it all came undone in the third.
Throughout the game, special teams acted as both the biggest strength and weakness of the Flyers game. Claude Giroux and Cam Atkinson made the special teams pop. Jonathan Huberdeau, who scored the first of the night for the Florida Panthers, added a shorthanded goal of his own. Suddenly, the Panthers were back in control.
Undisciplined hockey proved to be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. Travis Sanheim wanted another opportunity to defend the eventual game-winner. Throughout the evening, he was shaky on the left side.
Lineups like the one deployed by Alain Vigneault tonight ensure exactly why Ryan Ellis is critical. Rightfully, Florida exploited a defense sans Ellis.
Finishing the night, Sam Reinhart scored an empty-net goal. The Panthers won 4-2, but Philadelphia didn’t get down on their performance. Some things worked out well. Team chemistry is trending in the right direction. With a healthy lineup, the Flyers want to see Florida again.
Next, the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, October 27th, 2021, at 10pm on TNT.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre