Felix Sandström made his season debut tonight, and he was put to the test pretty immediately—with the Flyers dealing with something of a messy start, rife with turnovers, the Panthers got the first three looks of the game, and the first power play, and Sandström needed to bail them out early. And while he was successful in stopping those first three shots, as well as the one on the power play, the skaters were well on their heels by then, and, when a failed clear extended the Panthers’ offensive zone time and a pass from behind the net made its way to a wide open Carter Verhaeghe in the right circle, he did not miss, and was able to pull the Panthers out to an early lead.
The good news, though, is that was indeed a wake-up call, and the Flyers came right back and Travis Konecny put them on the board.
Or did he?
Narrator: he did not. Florida challenged the goal and it was reviewed and deemed that Joel Farabee had put himself offside on the entry.
And things continued to get worse for the Flyers: they were able to avoid going down 2-0 thanks to a stellar save by Sandström, and they got the puck out of their own end... and then saw the Panthers collect it again and turn right around and march it down the ice to score, and it was Verhaeghe again.
All hope was not lost, though, and the Flyers were able to get themselves on the board, for real this time, care of Nick Seeler from Zack MacEwen... just as we all predicted.
Things settled down in the second period a bit, as saw a bit of trading of power plays, and there wasn’t much doing there, until there was. One of those power plays got the Flyers back into the game, care of a hard working play—Provorov’s shot from the point rattled around in the crease and eventually James van Riemsdyk was able to jam it home.
That tie was, of course, short lived. We had a slightly sleepy start to the third period, but the Panthers were able to grab the early edge in momentum and turn that into a lead again, when a defensive miscue opened up Rudolph Balcers on the rush, and he was able to beat Sandstrom cleanly, again then Josh Mahura was able to do the same to stretch the lead to two goals.
And that was just about all she wrote for the Flyers. We say just about, because they did indeed notch a power play goal thanks to Travis Konecny with three seconds remaining, but it wasn’t enough to fully complete the comeback, and that meant their first loss of the season arrived at last.
1. Felix Sandström
Okay, was this a perfect showing for Sandström? No, it was not. There was a bit of rust to be knocked off and times when we might have liked to see some better reads, but for a season debut against this Panthers team, this was a job well enough done for Sandström. This game had the potential to get very badly out of control early, but Sandström was able to keep things, at the very least, close. There’s still a lot that we’d like to see him build on, but coming in for the first game after coming back from injury and facing 35 shots is not exactly a recipe for success. He was fine enough here, about as good as we might have expected, all things considered. And now we see where he goes from here.
2. Travis Konecny
Konecny gets this nod in part because he saved us from having to come away from this game saying that Nick Seeler was our team leader in scoring chances at 5-on-5 (he came out of this one tied with Seeler, in fairness, with two apiece). He picked up an nice power play goal when the game was effectively over, but overall it was a solid game for Konecny. The energy was there, and he had a couple of good looks away from that scoring play. Things seem to be clicking for him again this season, and he was able to carry that momentum well into this game, impressing even in the loss.
3. John Tortorella
We love an early goalie pull around here folks, and he pulled Sandström with just a hair under four and a half minutes left in regulation, which was pretty neat. It didn’t pay off for them completely, not in the way they hoped it would, but it was still a worthwhile move, and a bit of aggression that we appreciate seeing. More of that, please.
Two loose observations
1. Everything is happening so fast
The Panthers are fast, gang. This isn’t really a new development, but that speed was really on full display tonight, and it was something that the Flyers really seemed to be struggling with. And fatigue was almost certainly a factor—the Flyers played last night in Tampa while the Panthers were rested—but even early when the Flyers still fully had their legs, they looked at least a step behind at times.
And this shouldn't be a surprise either—we know this is a roster that doesn’t have a ton of speed, but tonight it was on full display how much that can and probably will be exploited as the season goes on.
2. Regression is here!
We talked, quite literally this morning, about how despite the fact that they picked up wins in their first three games, the Flyers’ process hasn’t been particularly strong, and this means that we’re going to see them coming back to earth sooner or later, but we didn’t really expect that to happen immediately. The Flyers got pretty well out-chanced in this game, and this time they had neither the same offensive punch, nor the same level of goaltending to bail them out long enough to really stay in the fight. For the first time this season, they didn’t really deserve to win the game, and they didn’t. So it goes.
Play of the game
This was a tough look for the Panthers, but both the pass and the shot leading up to Konecny’s power play goal were pretty nice, if we do say so ourselves.