Jonathan Huberdeau celebrates Friday night’s game-winning goal, made possible by a miscue by his ex-teammate Keith Yandle, pictured above. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 4: FLA 4, PHI 2 – Copy Cats

“If you win this game, it’s a great homestand. You lose it, it’s an ok one.” – Claude Giroux. Ok is ok, especially early in the year, but man this could’ve been a special start to the year. Instead, while I was watching Notre Dame take down USC in football, the Philadelphia Flyers lose, 4-2, to the Florida Panthers, falling in 60 minutes for the first time in 2021-22 to one of the NHL’s six remaining undefeated teams. Familiar issues cost the Flyers in this one; both ones that popped up earlier in the homestand, and also ones that have plagued them for far too long.

It’s not like the Flyers played a horrible game against the now 5-0-0 Panthers; like in the Bruins game, they were heavily outshot (43.9% Corsi), but that didn’t stop them from generating chances. Philadelphia actually won the expected goals battle in two of the three periods at 5v5. And they came oh so close to tying the game late in the third period on numerous occasions. Yet unlike on Friday against Vancouver, tonight was purely an opportunity that got away from Philadelphia; not a death sentence by any means whatsoever, but still frustrating nonetheless.

Granted, the Flyers came into this game with quite the handicap; top defenseman Ryan Ellis didn’t play tonight due to an injury. Alain Vigneault expects him back for the upcoming Western Canada road trip; that’s good, but it didn’t help the Flyers’ efforts tonight. Philadelphia’s streak of scoring first ended at three games, thanks to a sketchy interference call on Nick Seeler (who returned to the lineup in the wake of the Ellis injury). Florida wasted no time taking advantage of the fortuitous man advantage. Right after the Panthers won the draw, Jonathan Huberdeau used a moving screen from Patric Hörnqvist to beat Carter Hart short-side for the opening period’s only goal.

The Flyers copied that bulletproof formula to perfection less than five minutes into the second period. With Gustav Forsling went off for slashing, Claude Giroux uncorked a bomb of a shot from the right side that might even put his score-opening blast from Monday on notice. JVR had a bit of a net-front presence, but even on its own, Giroux’s blast was no match for Sergei Bobrovsky, tying the game at one. And it was a good thing the Flyers took advantage of that PP because they spent most of the period being utterly dominated. Philadelphia owned a porous 28% Corsi and even worse 16% Expected Goals. That’s an early contender for worst underlying numbers in a period all season, folks.

The Panthers mainly capitalized on their territorial strength by drawing penalties (three in the middle period to be precise). That’s usually a strong formula for success, but the Flyers had other ideas tonight. Not only did the Flyers PK recover from the Huberdeau goal, going 5/5 after his goal (and 6/7 on the night), they did something they accomplished just once it 2020-21; scored shorthanded. It helps when you add one of the league’s best-shorthanded threats to your attack; and sure enough, it was Cam Atkinson picking off an ill-advised drop pass from 2020-21 Flyers killer Sam Reinhart and slipping it through Bobrovsky’s five-hole at the other end to put the Flyers on top for the first time tonight.

Philadelphia nearly made it out of what deserved to be a disappointing second period ahead. But just like on Wednesday, they couldn’t survive the final minute unscathed. After a Travis Konecny centering pass went unfinished, the Panthers went into transition, but the Flyers had numbers back. MacKenzie Weegar tossed a snail-speed backhand cross-ice pass that only a user-controlled defenseman in NHL 15-21 wouldn’t block (yes, it’s actually possible to stop them in 22). Well, almost only. Unfortunately, Travis Sanheim’s bad start to the year continued, as he somehow couldn’t block the pass, which ricocheted in off Owen Tippett’s skate. It hurts to be smart, what can I say.

For the second straight contest, the Flyers came into the third in a “win a period, win a game” situation. Unfortunately, this time it was Florida’s turn to replicate a successful special teams formula. A Keith Yandle pass to nowhere caromed off the boards in the perfect spot to send Florida the other way with numbers. A tired Giroux and Sean Couturier were unable to keep up with Huberdeau and Sam Bennett. Hart robbed Huberdeau on the initial breakaway chance; but Huberdeau alertly collected the puck below the goal-line and pulled off the second-biggest bank shot (maybe the biggest?) of the homestand, putting Florida in front.

The Flyers didn’t exactly let that goal demoralize them, though. Nicolas Aubé-Kubel was robbed on a couple of chances (though he took another frustrating offensive zone tripping penalty, just like on Monday). There were a few close calls on net-front scrambles. Carter Hart went off for an extra attacker with about two minutes left, and the Flyers continued to pressure. But the Panthers were able to turn a shot block into a clear into a wide-open look at the empty net for Anton Lundell, who passed to give Sam Reinhart a wide-open look at the empty net, and he finished the game off.

There were so many elements of deja vu for the Flyers tonight. They brought back the horrible second period from Friday and were on the wrong side of a late lead-changing bank shot. Giroux’s bomb from Monday carried over. Cam Atkinson’s odd-man rush prowess from Wednesday returned to the scene tonight, too. Carter Hart’s performance wasn’t too dissimilar from Martin Jones’ showing against Boston either; solid, but not spectacular.

That last statement is a pretty accurate description of Philadelphia’s entire homestand. Earning five points out of eight is good, especially looking at their opponents. Boston and Florida are second-tier contenders expected to make the playoffs. Seattle is viewed highly by a lot of people in the advanced stats community. Vancouver is a bubble playoff team, too, especially in a weak Pacific. But the Flyers don’t want to just be good this season. While it would be an improvement from last year, just being better than 19th in the league shouldn’t be the ultimate goal; and it isn’t this team’s ultimate ceiling.

The Flyers did a lot of things right in this homestand, including tonight; their special teams were strong, aside from one poorly angled pass from Yandle. Hart made huge saves, allowing just three goals on a whopping 4.71 expected. The Flyers probably didn’t deserve to be as close to winning as they did; but learning to win when you’re not playing your best is an important trait to learn (just don’t lean on it heavily, as last year’s team learned the hard way). There’s still a lot to clean up, but there’s plenty of hockey to do it. From what we came into the season expecting, I’d say the Flyers made some progress during this season-opening homestand. As long as they keep doing that throughout the season, nights like this should eventually have different endings.

Lindies

Correction to something I mentioned in Wednesday’s Lindies: the Flyers’ 16 goals over their first three games are their most to start a season since 1983, not 1988.

The Flyers wore their black alternate jerseys for the first of fifteen times this regular season; check out the full list here.

https://twitter.com/NHLFlyers/status/1451642463282778116

Giroux’s PPG was his 82nd, tying him with Eric Lindros for eighth-most in franchise history.

It took the Flyers 50 games to score a short-handed goal last season; only one team (Detroit, who didn’t score one at all) had a longer wait. They’re one of the first ten to do so this year. What a breath of fresh air Cam Atkinson is.

After picking up his 300th career win in his last start, Sergei Bobrovsky once again haunted his former team with a bevy of quality and timely saves. Bob is 16-5-1 against the Flyers in his career; he entered tonight with a .923 SV% against the Orange and Black.

Philadelphia’s first two lines were excellent in their first three games, so it was nice to see the bottom two lines step up. The Flyers’ fourth line was as effective as they’ve been all season, creating two of the team’s best chances in the third period. And the third line of JVR, Oskar Lindblom, and Scott Laughton built on their first goal of the season on Wednesday (scored by Laughton) with a team-best 88% expected goals share.

Make sure to check out our own Ryan Schwager’s coverage of the Flyers Metro rivals Devls’ start to the season.

As I mentioned, I didn’t have a chance to watch tonight’s game; I’m a sophomore at Notre Dame, so watching us beat USC was obviously sports priority number one Saturday night. I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and watch a full Flyers TV broadcast yet this season; that should change on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (gotta love Flyers after dark!), so expect more detail in this segment and overall moving forward.

3 Stars

3rd: Cam Atkinson (PHI) – Goal (4)

2nd: Owen Tippett (FLA) – Goal (1)

1st: Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA) – 2 Goals (1, 2), Assist (4), 4 Shots

Next

FLA: 10/25 vs. ARI (0-4-1, L3)

PHI: 10/27 @ EDM (5-0-0, W5)

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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick