Leading up to the Flyers' Aug. 2 round-robin opener — which officially commences the team's run at the 2020 Stanley Cup in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament — we're going to break down every possible first-round matchup for the club.
Today, we look at the sixth-seeded Hurricanes.
Flyers by the numbers
Goals per game: 3.29 (seventh overall)
Goals allowed per game: 2.77 (tied for seventh fewest)
Power play percentage: 20.8 (14th overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 81.8 (11th overall)
Hurricanes by the numbers
Goals per game: 3.19 (11th overall)
Goals allowed per game: 2.84 (21st overall)
Power play percentage: 22.3 (eighth overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 84.0 (fourth overall)
How they could meet
There are a few different ways in which the Flyers can face off against the Hurricanes in the first round.
• If the Flyers do not advance at all in the round robin and remain the fourth seed, they’d be slated to face the highest seed that advances (for this to happen, the Penguins would have to lose to the Canadiens).
• The Flyers could also face the Hurricanes if they finish as the third seed, but in order for that to happen, all of the top seeds would have to advance (Leafs, Islanders and Penguins).
Why matchup could be favorable for Flyers
The 2018-19 season saw a lot of defeat for the Flyers — especially within the Metropolitan Division — and the team was swept by the Hurricanes, going 0-4-0. A lot has changed since. In just one season, the Flyers transformed themselves when going up against this division team. Out of the four times these two teams saw each other in the 2019-20 season, the Flyers dominated play and went 3-0-1.
Let the captain do his thing
Claude Giroux had an extremely successful season against the Hurricanes, registering at least one point per game. In total, the captain tallied eight points (three goals, five assists). On paper, it would seem like Giroux had a less than ideal season, but to those who have been watching can see the impact he has in every game he plays.
Many like to doubt Giroux’s abilities and like to note how he tends to disappear in the playoffs, and frankly, that’s a tiring narrative. Hockey is a team sport and a game or series cannot fall on a single player, and yet somehow Giroux is always to blame. This season proves that things are different. No longer does the captain have to carry the team on his shoulders as plenty of teammates are collectively contributing to the Flyers' success. If anything, this run has the potential to reignite the flame Giroux has had in past playoffs.
Writing a new piece in history
If these two teams were to meet in the playoffs, it would be the first time in history that they do — so the Flyers should do what they can to start on the right foot. In the past decade, the Hurricanes have made the playoffs only once — and that was last season, when they lost in the Conference Final to the Bruins.
So right off the bat, the Flyers have the edge when it comes to playoff experience and they’ll need to capitalize on that. Sure, no one has experience playing through a global pandemic with no fans in the crowd, but that isn’t going to diminish what is at stake — advancing to the next round with a stronger chance at winning the Stanley Cup.
Why matchup could be trouble for Flyers
While the Flyers have good numbers when it comes to special teams from the 2019-20 season, the Hurricanes’ numbers are even greater. To have both the power play and penalty kill in the top 10 in the league is no small feat, especially when going into the playoffs — and that’s the position the Hurricanes are currently in.
The Flyers found a way past the fourth-best penalty kill only twice out of the 10 times they had the opportunity to. On the opposite side of things, the Hurricanes scored only one power play goal through nine attempts, so the Flyers were able to subside the heat in that aspect of their game.
It’s important to keep in mind though, that in the NHL playoffs — anything can happen. While the Flyers were able to mediate their special teams for the majority of the season, who knows what forces they’d be up against once any single penalty can determine the fate of the season.
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