It’s been three years since the Flyers hosted an expansion team, but that’ll change when the Seattle Kraken visit the Wells Fargo Center tonight.
Seattle comes in as the NHL’s 32nd franchise, and one looking for the same success the Vegas Golden Knights found in a 3-2 win in their first-ever trip to Philadelphia back in March of 2018.
Much has changed since 2018, though a familiar face remains in the equation as Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol was the Flyers bench boss for that matchup with the Golden Knights. Hakstol was shown the door after posting a 277-134-101 mark with the Flyers, and waited a few years to earn another head coaching opportunity that eventually arose with the expansion Kraken and general manager Ron Francis.
After significant buzz was evident during the Flyers’ home opener — a shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks — there will certainly be energy and vitriol aplenty as their former coach returns to town.
After what can only be described as an interesting expansion draft and subsequent free agency period, Seattle’s NHL offering has proved punchy through three games — winning in regulation, losing in regulation, and losing in overtime.
Built from the crease on out, the Kraken boast a deep and experienced blue line in front of Philipp Grubauer. Up front the Kraken are built on depth and are led in scoring thus far by Brandon Tanev, who is excelling in an increased role after spending much of his NHL career thriving in the bottom six.
Nothing stands out metrics-wise through a small three-game sample size — the Flyers’ is even smaller at just one game — but Seattle hovers close to league average in terms of shot attempts and has generally been out chanced at 5-on-5 per NaturalStatTrick. They’ve potted two power play goals while surrendering just one power play goal to operate at an 80% penalty kill rate through three contests.
Friday night’s home opener for the Flyers included just about everything. A fast start in a rather dominant first period was followed by a totally flat second period that necessitated a furious comeback in the final three minutes to erase a 4-2 deficit and force overtime.
In short: despite new faces on defense and at forward, it was essentially the same old Flyers of a year ago — even if it was just one game.
The struggles on the penalty kill (30th ranked a year ago) were evident once against as the Flyers ceded two goals to a talented Canucks club with weapons like Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. Though the Canucks potted a couple of rather fluky goals on Carter Hart, the visitors moved the puck well and created penalty of chances against the Flyers’ penalty killing combinations.
Speaking of Hart, the netminder on the hunt for a bounce back season allowed a strange goal to Pettersson as he wasn’t set on his post and failed to hold a puck hard against his pads later on that JT Miller jammed home. But Hart was excellent down the stretch and in overtime as the Flyers got enough saves to mount a furious comeback before going down in the vaunted shootout.
Hart will need to mind the details against a Kraken squad that is already deploying Hakstol’s penchant for firing pucks on net from all angle and distances — with a particular preference for point shots.
On a larger scale the Flyers will need to turn in a performance that doesn’t rest on a strong 30-or-so minutes as they did in the opener — we’ll see if they can do just that against the Kraken playing their fourth game in six days.
1. All eyes on Carter Hart
Hart seemed to turn things around in the later stages of Friday’s loss, but needs to be sharper on the things he can control, like his positioning. Pettersson’s goal was fluky, but one that wouldn’t have happened if Hart was tactical on his post like he should have been. Knowing that Hart already allowed a goal like that likely caused him not to receive a quick whistle on the play that became the Miller goal.
He’ll need to respond well tonight of there will be questions about who starts in net against Boston on Wednesday, and it is was too early to be evening having to think about questions like that — and we’d prefer to have to.
Look, if you’re going to keep allowing power play goals because your penalty kill stinks maybe just stop taking penalties — or at least cutting out the dumb ones that don’t directly prevent a scoring chance?
3. Fresh faces, fresh impact
Both Cam Atkinson (one goal) and Keith Yandle (two assists) had impacts in their first games for the club and the Flyers will need both of them to continue to produce in their important roles going forward — Atkinson as a shoot-first sniper and Yandle as a facilitator and distributor on the power play.
The (subject to change) Flyers lineup:
Claude Giroux Sean Couturier Travis Konecny
Joel Farabee Derick Brassard Cam Atkinson
Oskar Lindblom Scott Laughton James Van Riemsdyk
Maxwell Willman Nate Thompson Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Ivan Provorov Ryan Ellis
Travis Sanheim Justin Braun
Nick Seeler Keith Yandle
Just a personal opinion, but our sister site over at Davy Jones’ Locker Room should have 100% been named Grunge Hockey. In tribute of tonight’s matchup with Seattle — well know for producing iconic grunge bands — the cult classic from Nirvana.
All statistics via NaturalStatTrick, Hockeyreference, or NHL.com unless otherwise noted.