After a heart-wrenching 1-0 loss at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, the Flyers take to the ice for the first time since then tonight against the Florida Panthers. Despite a typically good enough showing from the offense in regards to quality chances, Marc-Andre Fleury stood on his head and gave Vegas the win. The Flyers look to rebound tonight vs. a winless 0-2-1 Panthers team that lost to the Vancouver Canucks that very same Saturday night. Teams like this, even this early into the season, always seem to give the Flyers issues. One of the major keys in this game is going to be for the Flyers to come out firing.
Florida will be without defenseman Michael Matheson in this one, who is suspended after his hit on young Canucks forward Elias Petterson. Matheson registered 27 points last season which resulted in an eight year, $39 million contract extension which ah, needless to say seems like a bold strategy, cotton (it probably won’t pay out for them). In his place most likely steps MacKenzie Weegar, who scored eight points in 60 games last season for the Panthers. Florida will also be without their starting goaltender, in Roberto Luongo after being placed on IR on Sunday. James Reimer will most likely be in net for the Panthers.
Last season, the Flyers went 1-2-0 against Florida, only scoring eight goals in their three matchups. The Panthers always seem to be a team that gives the Flyers fits, so one would assume there would be no “playing down to your opponent” syndrome, even this early in the season.
1. Corban Knight time?
With Corban Knight being activated today, and available for tonight’s game vs. Florida, I’d have to imagine there’s a strong possibility he jumps into the lineup. At whose expense will be the main storyline, however. Despite everything we know about him as a player, Jori Lehtera has honestly been off to an impressive start considering the player. He’s driving play in limited ice time coming in at just over a 50% corsi-for percentage. Given his surprising decent start, and Dave Hakstol’s stamp of approval, it’s hard to imagine Lehtera coming out of the lineup.
So then signs point to two players in particular, Mikhail Vorobyev, and Dale Weise. The problem we face with a Knight for Weise trade-off is, one is primarily a center, and one is not. Knight played center mostly this preseason, and one would assume if he were to be inserted in this lineup, it would be at center. This, compounded with the fact Vorobyev has not gotten off to the greatest of starts, would most likely lead to Misha sitting in the press box.
Now while I think we can all mostly agree Vorobyev is the better player over Lehtera, Hakstol’s hands are a bit tied here if we’re being fair. Lehtera hasn’t been bad to start the year, so what kind of message does it send by scratching the currently better performing player, over the lesser performing player. Obviously I think we’d all rather have Vorobyev in the lineup, or just have Knight replace Weise, but it may not be that simple. Although according to Dave Isaac, he was taking some rushes at wing in practice, so take that as you will.
Actually, he’s been rotating in on the wings. https://t.co/RGAv50COZn— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) October 15, 2018
2. Keep up the offensive pressure
Easily the most pleasant surprise of the opening games, has been the Flyers shot quality. They’ve been consistently generating chances primarily around the slot or directly in front of the net/in the crease. While there are still some lingering elements of Hakstol’s traditionally point shot heavy offense, overall it has been very much improved. If the Flyers are able to keep doing this, the goals are going to come in bunches for this offense especially when players like James van Riemsdyk and Nolan Patrick return from injury.
The key for this team is going to be to not be discouraged by small sample sizes. Yes, the Flyers were shutout by Vegas on Saturday, but they did just about everything right offensively besides finish. Sure, they’re going to need to finish if they want to win more games, but the process is there and just using common sense, it should eventually lead to more goals. The defensive aspect of the shot quality battle is one the Flyers should be a bit more concerned with, as they’ve struggled keeping teams to the outside so far.
3. Is this the game where Provorov and Gostisbehere take control?
From the most pleasant surprise to the most confusing one, Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere have been underwhelming through the first five games. Obviously, small sample size, but it is at least a tad bit concerning that Provorov and Gostisbehere have gotten off to shaky starts. They did look better against Vegas on Saturday, so hopefully this means they’re back on the right track and can be the top pairing we all know they’re capable of being. With the lack of true depth on the back end, the Flyers need this pairing to start controlling the game when they’re on the ice sooner rather than later. Against a Panthers team that has scored just seven goals in their three games so far this season, third worst in the NHL, this should be a game where Provy and Ghost take command.
Flyers Projected Lines
Giroux — Couturier — Voracek
Lindblom — Weal — Konecny
Laughton — Vorobyev (?) — Simmonds
Raffl — Lehtera — Weise
Provorov — Gostisbehere
Hagg — MacDonald
Sanheim — Gudas