The Philadelphia Flyers open the 2021-22 season in just two weeks, and hopes for a fresh start are swirling in Philadelphia after general manager Chuck Fletcher’s offseason roster overhaul. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and the rest of the team will play throughout the season with something to prove after last year’s disappointment. They will face benchmark tests at different points of 2021-22, but 10 games in particular hold especially strong potential to become highlights of the season.
Flyers Face Canucks in Opener
The Flyers open the 2021-22 season at the Wells Fargo Center on Oct. 15 against the Vancouver Canucks, and it should be noted the building will allow full capacity for a regular season home game for the first time since March 2020. Although the matchup against the Canucks will not draw a specifically strong buzz from the fan base, top-tier NHL talent like Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko should give the Flyers all they can handle.
Stanley Cup Champion Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning have won back-to-back Stanley Cups, and have worked within the parameters of the salary cap rules to assemble one of the most talented rosters in the modern era of the NHL. Although they lost valuable depth players like Blake Coleman and Yanni Gourde this offseason, they still enter the 2021-22 season as a Stanley Cup favorite.
Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy will travel to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time in nearly two years on Nov. 18. The Flyers lost both regular season matchups against the Lightning in 2019-20 but defeated them in their most recent meeting in a round-robin game in the Toronto bubble in August 2020. The game will be an early-season measuring stick for Philadelphia against the defending champs.
Flyers Return to Black Friday Matinee
The Flyers will face the Carolina Hurricanes at 3:30 p.m. in South Philadelphia the day after American Thanksgiving, providing fans with a good divisional matchup and the return of an NHL tradition. The Hurricanes added Jesperi Kotkaniemi in early September after losing key pieces like Dougie Hamilton and Alex Nedeljkovic earlier in the offseason.
NHL analysts frequently consider American Thanksgiving to be a major benchmark point of the regular season. Prior to the shortened 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, SportsNet reported that, according to the statistics of Elias Sports Bureau, 76% of teams in playoff position at American Thanksgiving have qualified for the postseason since 2005-06.
Revenge on the Rangers
The New York Rangers embarrassed the Flyers last season. Although the two teams ultimately split the eight-game season series, the Rangers beat their division foes 9-0 on March 17 and 8-3 on March 25. The Metropolitan Division rivals will meet for the first time on Dec. 1 at Madison Square Garden.
It will be one of the many indicators of how much vengeance will result from the frustration the Flyers went through in 2020-21. They will have to focus on defending Mika Zibanejad, who recorded two six-point efforts in the respective March blowouts, if they want to protect goaltender Carter Hart from another nightmare.
Flyers First Trip to Face Hakstol, Kraken
The inaugural season of the Seattle Kraken is a major NHL storyline in 2021-22. The newest expansion franchise is already setting records for jersey sales before their first game. The Flyers will face the Kraken in Philadelphia in October, but they will travel to Seattle for the first time ever on Dec. 29. Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol manned the Flyers bench for three and a half seasons from 2015-18, guiding them to two playoff appearances and no series victories.
The trip will continue with road games against the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and the Anaheim Ducks. The Flyers played five games in the Western time zone at the same time of year during the 2019-20 season. They lost four of the five, which marked the low point of their season.
Flyers and Penguins Reignite the Rivalry
The Flyers will face the Pittsburgh Penguins twice at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh early in the season. The arch-rival Penguins will visit the Wells Fargo Center for the first time on Jan. 6 in a nationally broadcasted contest, just after league-wide buzz starts to pick up following the New Year’s holiday and the Winter Classic.
Frank Seravalli, as a guest on the Flyers Daily podcast with Jason Myrtetus, revealed that he expects Penguins center Evgeni Malkin to return from a serious ACL injury around the beginning of January. The potential for this added storyline could bring more intrigue to an already passionate rivalry.
Yandle Looks to Become NHL’s “Iron Man”
Defenseman Keith Yandle needs to play the first 43 games of the regular season to surpass Doug Jarvis’ consecutive game streak. His record-breaking 965th consecutive game would come on Jan. 18 against the Detroit Red Wings at the Wells Fargo Center. Yandle’s performance and health through the first half of the season will dictate his opportunity to stay in the lineup.
Voracek, Atkinson to Face Former Teams
The Flyers traded 31-year-old winger Jakub Voracek, who is 10th in franchise history in scoring, to the Columbus Blue Jackets in July in exchange for Cam Atkinson, who was considered a fan-favorite and a prominent face of the organization during his nine seasons in Columbus. The two will get the opportunity to face their former teams for the first time when the Blue Jackets travel to Philadelphia on Jan. 22, 2022.
Tough Test vs. Islanders
The New York Islanders have reached the NHL’s semifinal round in two consecutive seasons, and they eliminated the Flyers in the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Head coach Barry Trotz has implemented an ideal system in his three seasons with the Islanders. They play a strong, physical game in all three zones despite their lack of dazzling offensive firepower.
The Flyers added some toughness this offseason with a focus on sticking with physical teams like the Islanders who are built for the playoffs. The two Metropolitan foes will clash in Philadelphia on March 20 with possible playoff implications on the line. This measuring stick game will give fans a preview of how the Flyers will fare with playoff-level intensity. TNT will carry the game on its national Sunday afternoon broadcast.
Flyers, Penguins Meet with Possible Playoff Implications
The Flyers will also play the Penguins on the nationally televised Sunday matinee on April 24. Entering the final week of the season, both teams will likely be in the mix for playoff berths and/or seeding. If there is playoff buzz around Philadelphia in April 2022, this will be looked at as the biggest game of the season. The Flyers have only three games scheduled after this rivalry matchup, and they will need to put on a convincing show against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins if they want to captivate the fan base heading towards the postseason.
Additional storylines and highlights will surely come up throughout the regular season. Fans never know when they’ll see a single-game record-breaking performance or a memorable overtime thriller, but these 10 games will drastically influence the Flyers’ quest to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs next season.
Colin Newby is a freelance writer from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the “Legion of Doom” and Claude Giroux to forgotten journeymen like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. He joined the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) in 2022.
Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.