The Panthers return to Philadelphia tonight for the first time since November 6th, when the Flyers took a 4-1 victory. The Panthers defeated Philadelphia in Sunrise five days prior to that, by a 2-1 final score. This will be the last time the two face off against each other this season. I was lucky enough to catch Travis Hughes and trade off some questions with him.
Kevin (LBC): 1) The Flyers have made the postseason in 17 of the last 19 seasons, but at this point do not look poised to return. What’s the main reason for the substandard results?
Travis (BSH): They're just a mediocre team. They're not a very good possession team, and there are lots of theories as to why that is: my running hypothesis is that the defense just isn't good enough to move the puck up ice, and a really talented group up front suffers as a result. Aside from that, they were a team that relied on special teams a lot last season, and while the PP is still strong, the penalty kill has taken a huge step back this season. They were an elite unit last year and they are very substandard this year.
Kevin: 2) The dropoff from Steve Mason to Ray Emery is significant. Do you think the Flyers have their eye on an upgrade at number two? For your money - who would you like to see on the club?
Travis: Nah. Mason gets most of the starts anyway, and while there has been a gap between them this year, the Flyers are pretty comfortable with Emery as the backup. Emery is a perfectly capable NHL backup, and I don't know if there are many guys available that I'd rather have.
Kevin: 3) Philadelphia still has an IR slot filled by Chris Pronger. What are the chances that we’ll ever see him back on the ice?
Travis: Not a chance, unfortunately. He's already taken a job with the NHL in the Department of Player Safety, which is a little fishy since he's still on Flyers payroll, but taking that job was a clear indication that he's done as a player. There's actually talk that he might even be eligible for the Hall of Fame before his contract is up with the Flyers, and that would be pretty interesting. Nonetheless, he's on the Flyers roster for salary cap purposes either -- since he signed his current contract after he turned 35, the Flyers have to keep him on long-term injured reserve so they can get salary cap relief for him. If he were to officially "retire" -- which he wouldn't anyway because then he's stop getting a paycheck -- then the Flyers would be on the hook for his cap number. It's a shame he'll never play again, but at least with a brain injury he's been able to resume both a normal life and a career in the sport.
My answers to Travis' questions can be found at Broad Street Hockey, right here.
And now, a little history.
Panthers Vs. Flyers in Direct Competition - The Formative Years
The Panthers first faced the Flyers on November 2nd, 1993. The 4-5-3 Panthers were quickly gaining attention as an expansion team that could play up to the level of their competition, and would eventually finish up the season just one game below .500. Despite this, the Flyers came out firing that night in Florida, and earned their 10 win in 13 games thus far that season with three points (one goal, two assists) from Rod Brind’Amour and two each from Josef Beranek (one goal, one assist), Kevin Dineen (one goal, one assist), and Garry Galley (two assists). The Cats answered with markers from Jesse Belanger, Randy Gilhen, and Jody Hull, but couldn’t outpace the Flyers, losing 4-3. * Box Score
Florida went 1-3-1 that season against the Flyers, a small consolation is that the Cats finished ahead of Philly in the standings. The Flyers eventually posted a 35-39-10 record, also missing the playoffs. March 20th would see the Cats earn their sole win of the series that year, taking a 5-3 contest in front of 45 saves by John Vanbiesbrouck. Dave Lowry and Scott Mellanby each had a goal and an assist, Brian Benning dished out three helpers, and Stu Barnes, Brian Skrudland, and Keith Brown also lit the lamp for Florida. * Box Score
The abbreviated 1994-95 campaign would see the Cats go 1-2-1 against the Flyers, the sole victory coming on February 9th in Philly. Beezer was perfect that night, turning aside 26 shots in a 3-0 shutout. Gord Murphy and Stu Barnes each had two points on a goal and an assist, and Dave Lowry also pitched in a marker. * Box Score
It’s significant to note here (maybe not, you be the judge) that without playing the Flyers, the Panthers finished their first two seasons with a collective win-loss record of exactly .500 (51-51-21).
The Panthers broke even against Philadelphia in 1995-96, going 2-2-1 in the regular season. They faced off for six games after the end of the regular season in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After falling behind two-games-to-one, Florida reeled off three straight victories, including two in extra time. Chief amongst those contests was the 2-1 Florida victory on May 12th, when Beezer made 34 saves and allowed just one goal in 88 minutes of play. Stu Barnes scored in regulation, and Mike Hough potted the overtime game winner that put the Panthers up three-games-to-two. The Cats eventually earned the Eastern Conference Championship, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven (more on that, Saturday). * Box Score
In 1996-97, Florida went 2-3-0 versus the Flyers. In the season opener on October 5th, the Panthers defeated Philadelphia by a final count of 3-1 as Vanbiesbrouck made 31 saves, allowing only a marker to Dainius Zubrus. Johan Garpenlov, Scott Mellanby, and Brad Smyth lit the lamp for the Cats, Billy Lindsay had two assists. * Box Score
In their fifth season, the Panthers were again unable to top the Flyers in the regular season series, going 2-4-0 against the Broad Street Bullies. A rare bright spot for the eventual 24-43-15 Panthers was on April 4th, when they topped the Flyers, 4-1. David Nemirovsky and Ray Whitney had a goal and an assist each, and Dave Gagner had two helpers. Kirk Muller and Steve Washburn also scored for the Panthers. You'll notice a common theme through these first few seasons here, as John Vanbiesbrouck was in net and stopped 37-of-38 Philadelphia shots for the win. * Box Score
Do you remember some of these guys? Most of them? None of them? Leave some comments below.
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