Fans of the orange and black must have been wishing that it was April 13, not November 13. Otherwise, the home team gave their fans very little to complain about in a 5-2 thrashing of the outclassed Florida Panthers.
Riding two goals apiece from captain Mike Richards and emerging star Claude Giroux, the game's outcome never seemed to be in doubt after 12 minutes of the first period. Richards, off a nice feed from linemate Ville Leino, scored a goal-scorer's goal to get the team off to a 1-0 start, and a lead that they would never come close to relinquishing. Brilliant rookie netminder Sergei Bobrovsky was credited with his first ever assist on the play.
From there, the Flyers continued to carry the play, with Scott Hartnell scoring another even-strength goal just three minutes later. The Flyers, 11-4-2 and unbeaten in their last nine, outshot the Panthers (7-8-0) 18-11 in the first period, and would end up peppering veteran goalie Scott Clemmensen with 42 shots, tying a season high. The total could have been much higher if not for a lackluster third period that saw the Panthers tilt the ice back a little, outshooting their hosts 12-5 in the frame.
The beauty of the 2010-11 edition of the Flyers is that thanks to Bobrovsky—and how many of us even heard of him before this year's training camp—the orange and black can afford to play a more wide-open style with full security that "The Bob" will be there to erase any mistakes.
Indeed, the Flyers have built the type of squad that can beat you 1-0, or win a 6-5 shootout.
Offensively, they have a stable of forwards who can, in hockey parlance, put the biscuit in the basket. The second period featured the exploits of two of them: Richards and Giroux. Working with a two-man advantage, Richards one-timed a Chris Pronger feed from the right faceoff circle to beat Clemmensen high to the short side.
While this comment may not be popular with Flyers fans, or with the captain, he seemed to channel his inner Sidney Crosby, finding the sharp angle while his knee hit the ice.
The Flyers extended their lead to 4-0 with a one-man advantage off a scrum that developed in front of the Panthers net.
Two questions resulted: Would the goal be overturned as the net appeared to come off the moorings around the time the puck crossed the line? No.
Would Richards get credit for the goal, completing his hat trick? A few Flyers fans threw caps on the ice to honor the apparent hat trick. But no, again, as the goal was credited to Giroux—his first of the evening.
The ultra-talented Giroux would strike again on his next shift, after blocking a puck at his own blue line. He corralled the puck and raced end to end, eventually beating Clemmensen with a deft move to his backhand. The superb effort was even more impressive when you consider that the puck never sat down for him.
Halfway through the game, the orange and black was now up 5-0, and truth be told, did not play a brilliant second half of the game. Nor did they have to.
The Panthers got one back right away when Corey Stillman deflected a Keaton Ellerby shot past Bobrovsky. Television replays showed that Stillman's stick appeared to be above the crossbar, and may have been overturned if reviewed by Toronto's replay officials. It didn't, and it was 5-1 after two periods.
The main drama of the last frame involved whether Richards or Giroux would complete the hat trick. It was not to be, even as they both had a chance or two midway through the third. On the other end, the Panthers were firing lots of black rubber at The Bob, who made several brilliant saves.
The visitors eventually nabbed a garbage-time tally on Mike Santorelli's terrific wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that seemed to catch the rookie by surprise.
But alas, the final score was 5-2 in favor of the orange and black, who are arguably the hottest team in the NHL. Now, they just have to get through another 65 regular season games relatively injury-free, and maintain their balance and chemistry.
Memo to Flyers fans: If you're planning on seeing this high-powered bunch play at the Wachovia Center, bring an extra beat-up Flyers lid or two just in case.
Right winger Andreas Nodl, who assisted on Richards' first goal, left the game with an apparent injury to his right foot after blocking a shot. While his foot was quite swollen, x-rays were negative.
Jeff Carter, fresh off a hat trick and an 11-year, $58 million extension, had a relatively silent game, being credited with two shots and one assist on the evening. Such is the team's firepower that they could still dominate without much from Carter or Danny Briere (no points).
A curious moment came during a stoppage in play to review the first Giroux goal. Seemingly 10 minutes into the stoppage, the "lead zebra" announced that the play was being reviewed. Gee, we never would have guessed as much.
It is hard to believe that veterans Carter and Richards are both only 25. With Giroux and Bobrovsky at age 22, the future indeed looks quite bright for the Flyers and their rabid fans.