The Flyers are streaking, folks! 5-0-1 in their last six games, and looking to win four in a row tonight as they take on the Florida Panthers. In their first meeting, the Flyers squandered a three goal lead but managed to escape with the shootout win. Florida sits at 6-5-3 and second to last in the Eastern Conference, just two points ahead of the New Jersey Devils. However, their 15 points is just four behind the Flyers’ 19; early season hockey will continue to be essentially worthless to analyze.
Florida is coming in with the same record in their last 10 games as the Flyers, at 6-3-1. Both teams are hovering in that realm of “we thought they’d be better than this”, and their records reflect it. After trading for Mike Hoffman adding him to an offense consisting of players like Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, and Jonathan Huberdeau, a bit more buzz than usual surrounded the team. Despite their relatively slow start, they’re still just five points behind the Buffalo Sabres, who hold the second wild card spot in the East. And in regards to their matchup tonight with the Flyers, they’ve already shown they can score on our defense.
For the Flyers, you know in the players’ minds they have to be thinking of the three goal lead they blew to this team, despite picking up the win in that contest. If they find themselves in front early vs. Florida, we could possibly see a more aggressive attack than usual with the lead. A player who specifically might have this game in mind, is Brian Elliott. Elliott was pulled from the first Panthers game after allowing four goals on 23 shots and Calvin Pickard came in relief to score the win. So, what can the Flyers do to pick up their fourth win in a row, and second straight vs. Florida?
1. Continue to attack the high danger areas
Who would have ever guessed it, the more the Flyers get away from point shots or shots to the outside, the more goals they’re scoring? It’s truly a novel concept. In all seriousness, the Flyers have been excellent of late at generating quality scoring chances, and generally playing more of a behind-the-net kind of style. And although Florida’s defensive system appears to be predicated on denying chances directly in front of the cage, the slot seems to be ripe for the picking. If the Flyers are able to attack that weak spot in the Florida defense with the right kind of players, they’ll be in prime position to score goals by the plenty in this one.
What the Flyers want to avoid is falling into this trap of avoiding the high danger areas, due to the defensive presence of the Panthers. If they continue to pressure Florida into covering the slot/crease areas, the top end skill of this team should prevail at the end of the night.
2. Elliott looks to stay hot
After his and the team’s first shutout of the year vs. Chicago, Brian Elliott hopefully is out of the funk he’s been in for much of the early going. Goaltending is not the primary reason for the Flyers’ lack of success and disappointment in the first month and a half, but it is a reason nonetheless. If Elliott can continue to improve and bail out his defense more often than not, the Flyers should continue to see their position in the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division standings rise.
Elliott has generally been solid against Florida in his career, posting a career .912 save percentage against them. Needless to say but I’m gonna say it anyway, hopefully we see that version of Elliott tonight and not the one we saw in mid-October.
3. Can the top line continue to dominate?
One of the most pleasant developments over the past few games, has been the resurgence of the Flyers’ top line in Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny. Couturier scored two goals vs. Chicago and assisted on the empty netter by Nolan Patrick, and Giroux tallied a goal and two assists. The top line had been lackluster for much of the team’s first month, but now with them clicking and the depth producing nicely and James van Riemsdyk set to return soon, the Flyers’ eighth ranked offense could become all the more dangerous.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Couturier — Konecny
Lindblom — Patrick — Voracek
Weise — Weal — Simmonds
Laughton — Lehtera — Aube-Kubel
Provorov — Hagg
Gostisbehere — Folin
Sanheim — Gudas
Graphic courtesy of hockeyviz, stats courtesy of hockey-reference