Florida Panthers Gameday #2: Send The Message


Oct 10, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Reilly Smith (18) celebrates his second goal of the game with center Brandon Pirri (73) center Vincent Trocheck (21) left wing Jussi Jokinen (36) and defenseman Brian Campbell (51) as Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) reacts in the third period at BB&T Center. The Panthers won 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s make something clear about the Florida Panthers’ utter destruction of the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night… They cleaned their clocks.  They packed their lunch and sent them to school.  They slapped ’em around silly.  They made them look BAD.

And now, of all 29 other teams in the NHL they could play, the Florida Panthers now have to travel to Philadelphia and face the team they just egged.  And now in their own home opener, don’t expect an angry and prideful Flyers team to let the Panthers off so easy.

Starting in net for the Flyers will be Michael Neuvrith, who wasn’t great on Saturday but was better than “worst possible” (Steve Mason).  R.J. Umberger was roughed up against the Panthers, and Sam Gagner will play instead.  Also incoming is former Lightning-defensemen Radko Gudas, who will start in lieu of Luke Schenn.  You have to imagine head coach Dave Hakstol is looking for some more truculence on defense, because Gudas isn’t good for much else.

The Flyers need that truculence because they spent most of Saturday getting trucked by Shawn Thornton.  He obviously read my last article decrying his spot in the Panthers’ opening night line-up, because his physicality went completely unmatched by the Flyers.  Thornton single-handedly smacked around the Flyers’ bottom line of Chris VandeVelde, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Ryan White.  All three picked fights with Thornton, and all three were foiled and frustrated.  White even had a shot to fight Thornton, and was put to the ice like a moody teen trying to get through a club bouncer.

The Panthers are lucky to have Thornton when they’re up by five or more goals: he kept the order when the Flyers decided to opt more for “moral victories” than “scoring goals”.  But in the close games that the Panthers will surely play this season, he is still an offensive liability compared to Quinton Howden or Rocco Grimaldi.  Thornton will presumably get his chance to fight again tonight, but maybe an assist thrown in as well would be nice.

The Panthers/Flyers game will be featured on NHL Network tonight, so this game would be a good chance for the Panthers to prove they’re the real deal, and for the Flyers to prove they won’t be pummeled by some small-market team.  That ought to be an interesting combination.

Player to watch for the Panthers: Vincent Trocheck.  He is off to a blistering start to the season by racking up a career-high four points on Night One.  He’ll still be a third-line player tonight with Jussi Jokinen and Dave Bolland, but his production was a real eye-opener to start the year.  He won’t take the Flyers by surprise, so expect the small Trocheck to get some sticks in his ribs from a mad Flyers team.  Another strong performance would be impressive as heck.

Player to watch for the Flyers: Claude Giroux.  The Flyers captain already instilled a level of urgency into his team by holding a players-only meeting after they were smoked in only their second game of the season.  This poses two important questions: how could the Flyers lose focus in just two games?  Also, doesn’t that meeting undermine new coach Dave Hakstol?  Flyers GM Ron Hextall hired Hakstol straight from the University of North Dakota, making him the first NHL coach hired directly from the college ranks since 1982.  Flyers fans have to worry if Hakstol is the right man for the job, but it’s up to the captain to make his coach look good.  Expect Claude Giroux to play aggressively and angrily, and lead by example on that front.

What beer are we drinkin’?  Goose Island Oktoberfest.  Every brewery with access to malt and hops makes an Oktoberfest beer this time of year, and this is great news for beer-lovers.  Goose Island makes a good brew with more of a sweet malty flavor than some of its competitors, which sets it apart from some of the heartier Oktoberfests from Samuel Adams or Sierra Nevada.  And even more importantly, this is not a pumpkin beer, and that is enough for me to enjoy it.

What song are we singin’? Put The Message In The Box – World Party.  This is essentially the goal for the Flyers tonight, which is to send a message to the Florida Panthers and probably go to the penalty box because of it.  I have taken some liberty with the song’s meaning.

Next: Florida Panthers: 3 Keys to Making the Postseason

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