The Flyers look to keep their two-game winning streak going as they visit the red-hot Florida Panthers who are on a four-game winning streak of their own. The Panthers are 39-13-5, good for first in the Atlantic Division and third overall in the league. The Panthers’ success this season is largely due to their high-octane offense which ranks first in goals per game, shots per game and total goals scored, while also having the league’s 12th-best power play.
In their last game out, the Panthers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in a very back-and-forth game that saw the Panthers go up 2-0 before Pittsburgh tied things up early in the 2nd. The Panthers then scored two unanswered again before the Penguins got one with the goalie pulled to make it a final of 4-3. It was an especially impressive win considering the Panthers were on the second leg of a back-to-back, having just faced the Sabres in Buffalo less than 24 hours earlier.
There really is no one player the Flyers’ defense can key in on with this Panthers team, as it feels like every player is having a career year. Obviously you have Aleksander Barkov and Johnathan Huberdeau, but then there are guys like Carter Verhaeghe who has already tied his career high in goals with 18 and set a new career high in points with 44. Furthermore, Anthony Duclair has flourished since joining the Panthers after bouncing around his first six seasons including being on five different teams from 2017 to 2020. The 26-year-old has also tied his career high in goals with 23 and points with 44.
Defensively, the Panthers are lead by former first overall pick Aaron Ekblad who is easily having the best season of his career. Ekblad has 50 points in 56 games this year, also a career high, while averaging 25:16 of ice time per game. In net the former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky is 29-6-3 and with a 2.55 GAA and .916 SV%. He hasn’t looked fantastic this year, but it has to be a great feeling knowing every game that as long as he keeps the opposition from scoring four goals, his team will probably win.
Flyers Projected Lines
Oskar Lindblom-Scott Laughton-Travis Konecny
Claude Giroux-Derick Brassard- Cam Atkinson
Joel Farabee-Kevin Hayes-James van Riemsdyk
Gerry Mayhew-Patrick Brown- Zack MacEwen
Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim-Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle-Cam York
Panthers Projected Lines
Carter Verhaeghe-Aleksander Barkov-Maxim Mamin
Johnathan Huberdeau-Sam Bennett-Anthony Duclair
Mason Marchment-Eetu Luostarinen-Sam Reinhart
Frank Vatrano-Noel Acciari- Patric Hornqvist
MacKenzie Weegar-Aaron Ekblad
Gustav Forsling-Radko Gudas
Petteri Lindblom-Brandon Montour
What to Watch for
It is no secret that Claude Giroux has been the hottest trade piece for teams looking to make a run this season. Lately reports have come out that make the Panthers seem like the front runner in the Giroux sweepstakes. The 34-year-old has 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in 53 games this season. It will be interesting to see how he performs against what may be his new team in a couple weeks. Giroux is just four games shy of playing his 1000th for the orange and black and has made it clear this achievement is something that means a great deal to him, and that he will likely not waive his no move clause before that time.
Johnathan Huberdeau has always been known as a great playmaker but this year has really taken a big step forward and is having a Hart trophy kind of season. The left winger leads the NHL in assists with 60 and is third in total points with 78, trailing only Conor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Where he really does his damage is on the power play where he is tied for eighth in total points. When the Panthers are on the power play, it will be crucial for the Flyers penalty killers to be aware of him at all times and limit his time and space.
Aleksander Barkov, the Panthers’ captain, has cemented himself has a Selke candidate for the foreseeable future. He does everything on this team, including centering the first line and being on both special teams units. He has 10 points in his last five games and is currently on a three-game point streak where he has racked up eight points in that stretch. Overall this season he has managed 57 points in just 44 games, after missing some time due to injury. He has also managed to score four short handed goals this season, tied for first in the league. With the Flyers struggling power play that should be another worry on Flyers supporters minds. Everything about this team runs through him, so fans will definitely want to keep an eye on him when he’s on the ice in any situation.