Flyers streaking behind offense, goaltending
After an impressive 6-0-1 stretch — including a perfect 3-0 homestand last week — the Flyers find themselves only two points out of a playoff position entering Monday’s action.
The Flyers (10-10-2) will try to keep their points streak alive when they take on the Florida Panthers (6-13-5) at the BB&T Center on Monday night.
With puck drop set for 7:30 p.m. (CSN), here are five things you need to know for Flyers-Panthers:
1. Building an identity
It didn’t take long for the Flyers to adjust to new head coach Craig Berube. They've gone 10-7-2 under Berube and are finally starting to build an identity.
The Flyers have received stellar goaltending all season, but now the offense is finally supporting its netminders consistently and the defense is no longer making poor decisions in its own zone.
The confidence is there. The Flyers look like a team that no longer feels they will cave when pressured.
“I think we are doing all right,” Brayden Schenn said after the Flyers’ 5-2 win over the New York Islanders (see story). “Our guys are playing as a team and that’s what it takes to win hockey games. We’ve still got a long ways to go. We can’t be happy with a .500 (record), that’s probably not going to get you to playoffs.”
The season is still young, but if the Flyers continue their recent play they’ll have no problem climbing the standings in a very weak Metropolitan Division.
2. Read between the lines
Matt Read, who is tied with Vinny Lecavalier for the team-lead in goals with eight, has found the back of the net four times in his last two games.
He can attribute his recent success to the chemistry he has been building with current linemates Sean Couturier and Steve Downie. The trio has combined for five goals and eight assists over the Flyers’ past three games.
Each player has been bringing something different to the table for the Flyers. Read has been burying his chances. Downie has been setting up numerous scoring chances while throwing his body around. And Couturier has shown he can produce offensively and serve in more than just a defensive role.
The strong play of the third line has been a pleasant surprise. It has allowed players such as Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Lecavalier to play relaxed and with more focus.
Most importantly, the Flyers’ goal-scoring improvement has brought line stability and enabled the defense to stay at home, which in turn is leading to stronger play in front of Steve Mason and Ray Emery.
3. Hitting the road
Starting Monday, the Flyers will play eight of their next nine games on the road. Strangely, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Before the Flyers’ three-game sweep at home this week, they were just 3-7-0 in their own building. Away from the Wells Fargo Center, however, the orange and black have posted a 4-3-2 record.
They’ll make their second stop in Florida on Wednesday when they play Lecavalier’s former club, the Tampa Bay Lightning. After that, the Flyers will host the Jets on Black Friday morning before departing for a six-game road trip.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are returning from a lengthy trip of their own. They finished a five-game road trip with a 2-2-1 record after falling to the Calgary Flames, 4-3, in a shootout on Friday.
Florida will begin a five-game homestand after playing eight of its last nine on the road when the Flyers visit Monday.
The Flyers are a healthy bunch, but the same can’t be said for the Panthers.
Defenseman Ed Jovanovski (hip) and forward Steven Pinizzotto (hip) are on injured reserve. In addition, forwards Jesse Winchester (lower body) and Tomas Kopecky (upper body) are out for Monday’s game.
Defenseman Mike Weaver hasn’t played since Nov. 15 because of flu-like symptoms but could return against the Flyers.
5. This and that
• Monday will mark the second of three meetings between the two clubs this season. On Oct. 8, the first contest between the teams in 2013-14, Braydon Coburn and Brayden Schenn each scored and Mason made 33 saves to help the Flyers to a 2-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center.
• Giroux enters Monday with at least one point in each of his last four games. During that span, the Flyers’ captain has two goals and three assists.
• Former Flyer Scottie Upshall has been piling up some points as of late. In his last six games, Upshall has collected two goals and four assists. He’s also fired 14 shots on net during that stretch.
• He’s still dominating the faceoff circle, so we’ll continue to talk about Adam Hall. The gritty center has won 50 of 61 draws over his last eight games and is at 64.0 percent for the season overall.
• Second-year Panther Jonathan Huberdeau has been held scoreless in his last three games after scoring on back-to-back nights on Nov. 15 and 16. The 20-year-old has two goals and two assists in four games against the Flyers.