Leading up to the Flyers’ Aug. 2 round-robin opener – which officially commences the team’s run at the 2020 Stanley Cup in the NHL’s return-to-play 24-team tournament – we’re going to break down every possible first-round matchup for the club.
Today, we look at the 10th-seeded Panthers.
Flyers by the numbers
Goals per game: 3.29 (seventh overall)
Goals allowed per game: 2.77 (tied for seventh fewest)
Power play percentage: 20.8 (14th overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 81.8 (11th overall)
Panthers by the numbers
Goals per game: 3.30 (sixth overall)
Goals allowed per game: 3.25 (tied for third most)
Power play percentage: 21.3 (tied for 10th overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 78.5 (20th overall)
How they could meet
For the first round, there are multiple scenarios in which the Flyers could draw the Panthers, who face the seventh-seeded Islanders during the qualifying round.
If the Flyers earn the No. 1 seed during the round robin, they’ll play the Panthers if Florida is the lowest seed to advance past the qualifying round (so the fifth-seeded Penguins and sixth-seeded Hurricanes would have to win their respective matchups).
If the Flyers grab the No. 2 seed, they could also face the Panthers if Florida advances and either the 11th-seeded Rangers or 12th-seeded Canadiens (not both) win their qualifying-round series.
If the Flyers grab the No. 3 seed, they’ll face the Panthers if Florida advances and both the 11th-seeded Rangers and 12th-seeded Canadiens win their qualifying-round series.
Why matchup could be favorable for Flyers
The Panthers are a bit like the Flyers. They have some defensemen that can move the puck, orchestrate offense and get up in the play.
A stark difference between the two clubs, though, is that while the Panthers can score goals like the Flyers, they don’t prevent them. Despite signing two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract, Florida had serious issues keeping the puck out of its net in the regular season. The Panthers allowed the same number of goals per game as the Devils (3.25) and only two NHL teams surrendered more – the Red Wings (3.73) and Senators (3.35).
Florida yielded four or more goals 32 times and went 9-20-3 in those games. The Flyers went 2-1-0 against the Panthers during the regular season, outscoring Florida 12-8 and twice holding it to two goals or fewer. The Flyers permitted two goals or fewer 33 times and went 29-3-1 in those games.
In Alain Vigneault’s system, the Flyers are at their best when they don’t allow a ton of time and space to the opposition because of a controlling forecheck, which is how they beat the Panthers over the final two meetings by a combined score of 10-3.
With Vigneault and Florida head coach Joel Quenneville, the series would feature a heavyweight showdown behind the benches. Vigneault has taken two teams to the Stanley Cup Final and is a Jack Adams Award finalist for the fifth time, while Quenneville has three championship rings with the Blackhawks and the NHL’s third-most all-time postseason victories (118).
And adding a little spice to the series’ storylines – April 2019, when there was a lot of buzz over Quenneville (and not as much hype over Vigneault) as both clubs were eyeing new head coaches.
Why matchup could be trouble for Flyers
The Panthers are in the 24-team tournament because they have impressive offensive ingredients.
Florida boasts two young forwards in the prime of their careers who make it a particularly dangerous matchup. Jonathan Huberdeau (23 goals, 55 assists) and Aleksander Barkov (20 goals, 42 assists) are playmakers that gave the Flyers some problems. Huberdeau scored a pair of goals and was a plus-2 against the Flyers, while Barkov put up four points (two goals, two assists) and a plus-2 mark. Another weapon is Mike Hoffman, a 29-goal, 59-point winger, who owns nine career markers against the Flyers, his second most vs. any NHL club.
Bobrovsky did not have a good regular season, going 23-19-6 with a 3.23 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. However, the 31-year-old is 15-5-1 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 21 career games against the Flyers.
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