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Panthers 4, Flyers 2: Infractions with a side of action

Lots of special teams play in this one.

Florida Panthers v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Your Philadelphia Flyers closed out their season-opening home stand tonight against an intriguing Florida Panthers team. What happened, who stuck out, and why did this game end the way it did? All of that and more below.

What went right?

The Flyers skated with a very talented forward group almost all night, despite missing the services of an elite defenseman like Ryan Ellis. That this team took so many penalties, was without one of their four best players, and still hung within one goal of an electrifying Florida roster speaks volumes to how improved the team defense looks.

After going down 1-0 on a Jonathan Huberdeau goal, the Flyers got a power play look against a stingy Panthers defense that entered this game allowing the fewest goals per game in the NHL. Claude Giroux, he of the “sometimes you just gotta take a slapper” school, decided to give us a little magic.

The Flyers were on the penalty kill quite a bit tonight, but thankfully some coaching adjustments, better execution, and the addition of one key player prevented the Panthers from turning a close game into a massacre. Speaking of that “key player,” here’s a cool play he made. Cam Atkinson is gonna score 40 goals this season. Book it.

Carter Hart looked sharp tonight for the most part, making a few show-stopping saves and generally holding things together even as Nicolas Aubé-Kubel and Nate Thompson drowned him in an ever-increasing mound of penalty kills. The highlight of the game in net was absolutely this dandy of a snag by No. 79:

What went wrong?

Penalties. The Flyers made seven (seven!) trips to the box on the evening, and while the penalty killers and Carter Hart came up big by holding Florida to just one power play goal, the momentum of the game was wholly dictated by Philly’s refusal to play more than five minutes at a time at even strength. Jonathan Huberdeau nabbed the Panthers’ only power play goal of the night to put Florida up 1-0 in the first period:

While the team defense was mostly good, we still saw some costly gaffes by individuals, particularly Travis Sanheim and his partner Rasmus Ristolainen. This feels like a pairing destined to fail by nature (Sanheim being prone to defensive gaffes, Ristolainen not exactly being positionally responsible), but tonight was rough for the half of this tandem that usually gets more slack from this website. Travis Sanheim is many things; he is not a capable NHL defender on plays in the offensive zone produced by an opposing cycle.

No. 6 has to have that pass. I know he’s great on breakouts, maintaining offensive zone possessions, and denying rush attempts when he isn’t falling on his ass, but for a guy who’s now essentially an NHL veteran to not prevent this goal is unacceptable. Between stuff like this and Rasmus Ristolainen’s gimmick being “I hit people,” the Flyers might be staring down a shuffle on the back end in the near future.

Speaking of defenders, one of Keith Yandle’s turnovers finally ended up in the back of the net. Yandle adds plenty of offensive value and clearly brings a needed element to the power play for this Flyers team, but stuff like this is why people consider him a liability at times. The first few games have had a few of these plays, but none have resulted in a goal until now. Hopefully he remains more good than bad in this respect; only time will tell.

Three Big Things

  1. The Flyers hung tough with a good, possibly great team for 60 minutes despite seemingly everything going against them (not playing their best game, dumb penalties, some iffy calls, Ryan Ellis missing). It’s impossible to come away from a loss satisfied, but fans should at least feel... not pissed off? Sounds about fair.
  2. Carter Hart is going to be fine. The score might’ve been something to the tune of 6-2 if not for some heroic stops. That bodes well for this roster in the face of a long season, particularly with the struggles of Sanheim and Ristolainen. Hart looking solid gives this team time to figure things out and get healthy without getting buried.
  3. The Farg was surprisingly loud for an early season, non-rivalry game. Hopefully the recent surge in arena atmosphere continues alongside some more Flyers wins. Philadelphia deserves a great team, and a great team deserves a great home crowd.

Post Game Tunes

Going with some Viktor Vaughn tonight.

Good night, good hockey, and as always, go Flyers.