June 7, 2023

There’s a first time for everything as Flyers face expansion-team Kraken for the first time


AP Photo/Chase Stevens

There’s a first time for everything. On Monday night, the Flyers will play their first-ever game against the brand new Seattle Kraken when former Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol brings his team to the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers enter this game coming off a so-so performance in their season-opening 5-4 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks at home on Friday. The Flyers dominated in the first period, then put themselves in position to have to chase the game the rest of the way. Late goals by Travis Konecny and Claude Giroux got the Flyers a point. 

After an off-day on Saturday, the team practiced on Sunday at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees.

Here are three storylines and the projected lineups for Monday night’s match.

Setting up and suporting retrievals and forecheck

The Flyers threw an aggressive two-man forecheck at Vancouver at the beginning of Friday’s opener. They skated well, dominating possession through quick retrievals of chip-ins, establishing a physical presence (15 credited hits to nine by the opponent) and broke out of their own zone cleanly. The result was a 1-0 lead at intermission, a 66.67% share of the five-on-five shot attempts, and a 10 total scoring chances including a 5-2 high-danger chance advantage.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, the Canucks adjusted between periods. The two-man forecheck was beaten on the sequence that led up to an early second-period Vasily Podkoldin goal that knotted the score. Then the Flyers got into self-inflicted penalty trouble and a 1-1 tie rapidly turned into a 3-1 deficit. The Flyers went into the third period trailing 4-2. 

They never really got back into the sort of high-energy, crisp execution that marked the first period. Vancouver controlled most of the third period until a bad penalty late in the period by Oliver Ekman-Larsson opened the door for Philly to make the late push that resulted in the Konecny power play goal and the bank-in play that Giroux converted into a scintillating game-tying goal. 

Overall, the Canucks were the better team in the second, third and overtime periods. The Flyers will need to dictate a higher overall percentage of the play over the course of games moving forward to come away with two points.

Hart’s uneven performance

Carter Hart had an uneven performance in the opener. He was sharp in the first period but not tested much. In the second period, he was tricked on a pair of crazy goals (at least one of which he seemed to misread as the play developed), a 5-on-3 goal on the follow-up of a shot it initially seemed like he had covered and one goal upstairs on a wicked shot from the right dot (Pozkoldin’s) that would have been a very tough save if he’d made it. 

In the third period, Hart had a couple of early shots that he didn’t stop cleanly but kept in front of him and covered quickly. As the frame moved along, he settled in and kept the Flyers within two goals. He was tested multiple times and came away with 15 saves over the final two minutes of regulation. For most of OT, the ice was tilted against Philly. Hart made a half-dozen more saves. All were of at least medium difficulty including a one-on-save on the deadly Elias Pettersson.

In the shootout, Pettersson opened up Hart enough to score through the five-hole and J.T. Miller outmaneuvered the goal to end the shootout in two rounds. Overall, though, there were positive things to take away from the performance in terms of how Hart battled back from adversity and settled in over the final 25 minutes of hockey. On Sunday, Vigneault announced that Hart would start against Seattle.

Yes, he has to be better, but it’s only game one.

The brand-spanking-new Kraken

While the Flyers will be playing for just the second time during the regular season, the Kraken will already be in their fourth game. Hakstol’s team is 1-1-1 to date including a 2-1 overtime road loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. All three games thus far have been decided by one goal.

Brandon Tanev’s third goal of the young seasonbroke a scoreless deadlock in the second period. On the play, “Turbo” took advantage of a whiff by Oliver Bjorkstrand to step past the Columbus forward at the Blue Jackets blue line, outmaneuver goalie Elvis Merzlikins and score. 

Midway through the third period, Columbus finally solved Phillip Grubauer (23 saves on 25 shots) to force overtime. During the 3-on-3 sudden death frame, Patrik Laine took advantage of a bad chance to score and end the game. 

Overall, Hakstol felt his teams gave up too makes chances off the rush to Columbus but was pleased with his team’s work ethic and competitiveness. The underlying numbers supported that assessment. At five-on-five, Seattle denied only 37.2% of Columbus’ entry attempts but had more overall actual puck possession (4:05 to 3;32) per the calculations on the Kraken’s official site.

Seattle did not take a single penalty in Saturday’s game. Overall, the Kraken are 4-for-5 on the PK in their games to date. They are 2-for-6 on the power play. Fellow former Pittsburgh Penguins players Jared McCann and Tanev have each tallied a power play marker apiece. 

At 5-on-5 through their first three games, the Kraken have five goals but yielded seven. Grubauer has started in three games to date in net. Former Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders forward Jordan Eberle has notched a pair of assists to date, as has former San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi. Alexander Wennberg has notched one goal and one assist thus far.

Much of Kraken general manager Ron Francis’ focus in creating the initial NHL has been on building the expansion team’s blueline. Familiar names include inaugural captain Mark Giordano, shutdown-oriented Adam Larsson, huge-framed and aggressive Jamie Oleksiak and the physically gifted but inconsistent Vince Dunn. 

The Kraken had an off-day on Sunday.

There’s nearly a 100% chance that Hakstol will get booed by much of the Wells Fargo Center crowd, and I’m all for it.

Projected lineups


28 Claude Giroux – 14 Sean Couturier – 11 Travis Konecny
86 Joel Farabee – 19 Derick Brassard – 89 Cam Atkinson
23 Oskar Lindblom – 21 Scott Laughton – 25 James van Riemsdyk
71 Max Willman – 42 Nate Thompson -62 Nicolas Aube-Kubel

9 Ivan Provorov – 94 Ryan Ellis
6 Travis Sanheim – 61 Justin Braun
3 Keith Yandle – 24 Nick Seeler

79 Carter Hart
[35 Martin Jones]


17 Jaden Schwartz – 16 Jared Mccann – 7 Jordan Eberle
12 Alex Barre-Boulet – 21 Alexander Wennberg – 72 Joonas Donskoi
13 Brandon Tanev – 67 Morgan Geekie – 9 Ryan Donato

14 Nathan Bastian – 15 Riley Sheahan – 22 Mason Appleton

24 Jamie Oleksiak – 6 Adam Larsson
5 Mark Giordano – 28 Carson Soucy
55 Jeremy Lauzon – 4 Haydn Fleury

31 Phillip Grubauer
[60 Chris Driedger]

Injuries: 37 Yanni Gourde, 19 Calle Järnkrok, 43 Colin Blackwell, 90 Marcus Johansson (IR).


When: 7:00 P.M. E.S.T.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

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