The Florida Panthers take in their second game of the season, as the Flyers make the trip to sunny Florida for their second game of the young season as well. The first matchup for both teams resulted in different results. The Panthers defeated the Devils 3-2 and the Flyers fell to Tampa Bay Lightning in OT. The Flyers are looking to turn around an abysmal 2014-15, while the Panthers are looking to build off something they had going for a great part of the season last year. What they had going was good and became a team to look out for. Playing the Panthers was no longer a free win for opposing teams. They ultimately finished with a solid 38-29-15 record. It wasn’t enough to get them in the playoffs, but it was a mini breakout season of sorts for the Panthers. No longer a doormat, the Panthers made life tough on plenty of teams. Now, in 2015-16 they are expecting a true breakout season that vaults them into the playoffs and perhaps even further than that.
The Flyers are on the opposite side of the fence in my opinion. I see them as a team in rebuilding mode. Don’t expect much from the Flyers again here in 2015-16. They went a different rout behind the bench in the offseason, hiring head coach Dave Hakstol. It was a bold move, as Hakstol comes over from the college ranks of North Dakota. Hakstol had a good team at North Dakota, bringing them seven Frozen Four appearances in just eleven years at the college. Now he makes the leap to the big leagues, where he has had no experience coaching. The NHL is a bit of a different animal, but I am willing to give him a fair shot in Philadelphia. Problem is, it isn’t the most ideal situation with the Flyers. If the Flyers aren’t playing good hockey this season, which I believe will occur, we can’t blame everything on him. But Hakstol might be an easy scapegoat in Philadelphia if things go awry. He and the Flyers will play for their first win of the season in Florida against the Panthers.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Florida Panthers Pick
A big reason for why the Panthers played so well last season was due in large part to Roberto Luongo. Luongo came back to Florida, the team he started his NHL career with in 2000. He is well known for his eight years in Vancouver, where he brought the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals, but we all know what happened there. I really don’t think Canuck fans appreciated what they had with Luongo until he left the team. Luongo staying in Vancouver wasn’t going to bring the Canucks a Cup or anything, but he was always unfairly criticized in the media. Tension with management ultimately lead to a messy divorce with the Canucks. He had a spectacular 2.35 GAA in 2014-15, his best season since 2010.
The ageless one at 43 years old, Jaromir Jagr, is back with the Panthers this season, mullet and all. Jagr excelled on a line with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau in the 20 games he played in Florida after the trade from New Jersey. Jagr isn’t going to be the sole reason for the Panthers getting into the playoffs, he’s too old to be the main cog on the offense now. Although, he still gives the Panthers some punch. The meat of this Panther team is their defense though, a unit that finished in the top 5 of the NHL a year ago. At first look people may be thinking the Flyers should be favorites in this game. Said the people that haven’t been following hockey for the last two years. I actually think the Panthers should be in the -135 range against the Flyers tonight. I like the Panthers in the first Saturday of the NHL season.
PICK: PANTHERS TO WIN -124