It’s not often that you get to say, That was a big-time victory over the Florida Panthers. After all, the Panthers have reached the playoffs just four times in the last quarter-century and haven’t won a postseason series since advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996. But you have to give the Flyers their due after their 4-1 win Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
With their regulation victory, the Flyers moved five points ahead of the Panthers in the Eastern Conference standings; both teams are vying for the conference’s two wild-card spots. More, the Flyers sustained the momentum and good vibes they had generated Saturday night with their rout of the Capitals.
Put aside, for the time being, what the Flyers may or may not do at the trade deadline, which is Feb. 24. They’re going to have some interesting and challenging roster decisions to make over the next couple of weeks anyway.
Joel Farabee, 10 pounds lighter after his bad bout with the flu, will be back to his playing weight and ready to return to the lineup soon enough. And if this were last season or the season before last, it would be safe to assume he’d slide back in on the third or fourth line. Back then, the Flyers were trying to balance making the playoffs and building for the future, and they likely would have placed a greater value on Farabee’s gaining more experience (given that they’d already called him up) than on giving those minutes to a veteran to push for the postseason.
But this isn’t last season. The mandate for coach Alain Vigneault and the club is to make the playoffs, full stop. To that end, the Flyers’ third and fourth lines were quite good Monday night. Morgan Frost centered James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Pitlick, and Connor Bunnaman was between Michael Raffl and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Both units controlled play for stretches of the game, particularly in the second period, when van Riemsdyk scored and the line set up a goal by Travis Sanheim.
Pitlick is 28 and has bounced around the NHL, from Edmonton to Dallas to the Flyers. He’s a right wing, as is Farabee. But making that substitution for a young, promising player isn’t as simple as it once would have been.
Carter Hart: still darned good on home ice.
There’s a brief moment during every Flyers home game when the Wells Fargo Center sound system blasts “Red Eyes” by The War on Drugs. It happened again Monday night. It’s always a good moment.