Flyers-Panthers Postgame Thoughts
It may have taken them five games, but the Philadelphia Flyers finally look like themselves again. They went into Sunrise, Florida and handed the Florida Panthers a most devastating 7-1 defeat on their home ice. For Philadelphia, almost all of the takeaways from Saturday’s game were positive.
A Night Of Firsts
Number one seemed to be a lucky number for Philadelphia, as a multitude of firsts happened versus Florida. Danny Briere made his first appearance of the season, and registered 14:01 TOI. Despite having not seen game action in almost a month, Briere seemed to be in midseason form. He jumped right back into the Flyers power play, and came within mere inches of netting his first goal of the 2013 campaign. For Mike Knuble, it was his first game in a Flyers sweater since April 25th, 2009.
The 40 year old was signed earlier this week to a one year deal after Scott Hartnell suffered a broken foot. Knuble, like Briere, did not miss a beat, and even dished out an assist. If there was anyone to be impressed with on Saturday night, it was surely the Toronto native. Knuble spent plenty of time on the power play, and had quite a presence on the forecheck. Sticking with the theme of firsts, Tye McGinn scored his first career NHL goal, on a re-direction pass from Braydon Coburn. Ruslan Fedotenko would have his first Flyers goal since April 14, 2002, and Luke Schenn would score his first goal in a Flyers sweater late in the second, ripping a shot from the point that trickled past the Panthers goaltender.
But the man of the hour on Saturday was certainly second year player Matt Read. Read took three shots, but deposited all three in the back of the net, earning him his first ever hat trick. There was certainly concern that Read would fall victim to a “sophomore slump” this season, but he seemed to lay all of those questions to rest. If the Flyers are to be successful this year, Read will certainly be a key factor.
Brick Wall In Net
Ilya Bryzgalov is a man on a mission this year, out to prove he was worthy of the massive contract the Flyers gave him in the summer of 2011. Against Florida, he certainly put himself back on the path to cementing himself as one of the best goalies in the league. He stopped 30 of 31 shots, with the only shot getting past him was a defensive breakdown leading to a breakaway. “Bryz” saw the puck incredibly well, and made some pretty remarkable saves moving laterally, sticking his leg out a couple of times to stuff the puck. The Russian netminder no longer seems susceptible to the mental lapses that haunted him last year, and is in his own zone. Bryzgalov dropped his GAA to 2.21 (good for 11th in the league), and raised his save percentage to .923%.
Extra Special Teams
The power play and the penalty kill: two areas of the Flyers game that was severely lacking. Going into Saturday’s game, the Flyers had allowed seven goals on 20 penalty kill opportunities, for a miserable 65%. And when Philadelphia got power play opportunities of their own, it was not much prettier. But things certainly turned around against a poor Florida team. Philadelphia converted two of seven opportunities on the odd man advantage, which is not great percentage wise, but is good going forward. Through four games, the Flyers had just 18 power play opportunities; they had seven against the Panthers. It’s a good sign to see they’re finally drawing a lot more penalties, despite the fact they may not be converting a majority of them. The power play goals are bound to come, especially with ample opportunity like they had against the Panthers. On the defensive end, Philadelphia was able to kill off all four of Florida’s power play attempts. The Panthers don’t have a potent offense by any means, but it was certainly a confidence boost for the Flyers PK squadron. They didn’t struggle to clear the puck out of the Offensive zone as in the past, and defensemen Luke Schenn and Nicklas Grossmann stepped up their physical play.
All in all, a fantastic night for Philadelphia. They’ll stay in Florida, but head up a little north to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday night.
Jake Pavorsky is a contributor for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JakePavorsky