Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 1: PHI 5, VGK 2 - Oh What a Knight
Look, this wasn't that special, ok. The Flyers didn't look good early, Dave Hakstol is still icing a bunch of crappy veterans, the Golden Knights are due for regression, Marc-Andre Fleury's one of the oldest starting goalies in the NHL, let's not make this a bigger deal than it needs to be.
So should the parade route go from the Farg to the Art Museum or the other way around?
Who said the Flyers didn't have energy? Who said they didn't have talent? Who said they couldn't put up a 5-spot on Fleury and the reigning Western Conference Champions? Who said Gritty isn't the best mascot in hockey?
The Philadelphia Flyers (pause for dramatic effect) WIN, 5-2 over the Loss Vegas Golden Knights.
See what I did there?
The Capitals apparently didn't get the "you're supposed to play bad on your banner night" memo in time for their opener on Wednesday, and it took a while for the Golden Knights to get a hang of that message, too.
Vegas controlled the majority of the first 10 minutes of play, hitting both iron and twine once, the latter courtesy of a Jonathan Marchessault snipe after a failed change by Andrew MacDonald (wow, an Andrew MacDonald mistake! Who could've seen that coming?), giving them an early 1-0 lead.
But the key for the Flyers was weathering the storm. The Golden Knights are a relentless team, but their style of play is demanding and can create exhaustion late in periods, especially for new players who are not used to it. The storm was not done right after the Marchessault goal, as Vegas kept pressing, but the Flyers took advantage once the storm ended. Oskar Lindblom's patient hands and Wayne Simmonds taking advantage of a crazy bounce from a Robert Hagg point shot gave the Flyers an undeserved but appreciated 2-1 lead at 1st intermission.
The 2nd period gave the Flyers a chance to run with that lead, and to their credit, the Flyers did just that. An early penalty on Vegas started the Flyers onslaught in the form of Simmonds' second greasy goal of the night, jusitfying Dave Hakstol's decision to put him back on his usual spot on the top unit to start the season. For most players, scoring those goals are a matter of luck, but for Wayne, it's an art (and a lucrative one at that). Just moments after, Robert Hagg showcased his rarely utilized but underrated wrist shot off the rush, capitalizing on a 2-on-1 with Simmonds (set up beautifully by JVR), making it 4-1. At which point the Flyers would usually decide to turtle and play full on defensive mode for the next 30 minutes of play.
Or Scott Laughton could deflect in a shot from the point and make it a 5-1 game-why don't we go that second option more often?
The Golden Knights tried to stay somewhat competitve, but looked flat for the remainder of the 2nd, save for a couple of decent chances that Brian Elliott controlled. Neither a goalie pull nor even a 70-second long 5-on-3 could jumpstart the Vegas offense. Which naturally led to a short-handed goal by former-Flyer legend (at least in Dave Hakstol's eyes) Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare, to make it a 5-2 game and give his team a boost. Short-handed goals have been a bit of a problem for the Flyers in recent memory, and giving one up on opening night isn't exactly the way to fix the issue. The Golden Knights swarmed again in the backhalf on the 3rd, but the poise of Brian Elliott on numerous occasions kept the Flyers out of serious danger. The veteran netminder stopped 23 of 25 shots, with the solid .917 save% Elliott posted not indictive of how important he was to the Flyers tonight.
While there are still plenty of areas for refinement (it is only the first game after all), the Flyers should be pleased with the effort and especially the result they earned against, for now, a strong Vegas squad (I say for now because honestly who knows what's going to happen with them). Overall, a balanced effort of skilled and gritty effort led the Flyers on to a win on Thursday night (and well into Friday morning) that can be used as a springboard to hopefully avoid the rough starts the Flyers have often had over the last few years.
The Flyers depth is what one them this game. Both teams have plenty of starpower upfront, but the Flyers depth won them this game. 11 different Flyers recorded at least 1 point, with notable names like Couturier, Provorov, Gostisbehere, and Patrick held off the scoresheet, a testament to the Flyers improved bottom-6. Surprisingly, Brian Elliott may have been the team MVP in this game - as mentioned early, he was spectacular in goal, making several outstanding saves and showing good rebound control, helping the Flyers survive Vegas barrages in the early 1st and mid-3rd.
The Flyers have now won each of their last 3 season openers, all against Pacific Divison teams, with tonight's win over Vegas. They have also earned at least 1 point in each of their last 4 openers.
Claude Giroux passed Bill Barber for sole possession of 3rd place all-time in most assists by a Flyer with career helper #464 on Simmonds' second goal.
Speaking of Wayne Simmonds, the Wayne Train now has 5 goals in the last 2 season openers after recording a hat-trick in last year's opening night 5-3 win in San Jose.
The third milestone of the Simmonds goal was career assist #400 for Jakub Voracek, his second helper of the night.
In my opinion, no Flyers defenseman looked better with the puck than Travis Sanheim. Sanheim's passes were crisp and his decision-making stellar, highpointed by the excellent pass to spring Lindblom for the team's 1st goal. Radko Gudas also looked solid playing on the 2nd pair with him.
Mikhail Vorobyev, who looked good for the most part despite being walked by Bellemare on the 5-2 goal, recorded his first NHL point in the form of a secondary assist on the Hagg goal. He becomes the first Flyer since Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny on the same night to record their 1st NHL point in their 1st game (all 3 came via an assist). He also showed character in defending Nolan Patrick after he was being harassed late in the game, something that will no doubt garner appreciation from his teammates and praise from Dave Hakstol.
James van Riemsdyk's first point back (an assist on the Hagg goal) is also the 100th of his Flyers career. I wonder how much money you could've gotten in Vegas betting he'd reach that mark in June.
Special teams played a key role in the outcome - the Flyers powerplay was 1/4 and looked solid overall, but negegated most of the right with the ugly SHG to Bellemare. On the other hand, the PK looked fantastic, going 3/3 including killing a long 5-on-3 in the 3rd. It's amazing what losing Valtteri Filppula and Brandon Manning can do for a team (now imagine how good it would be without Lehtera).
With the win tonight, the Flyers are now on pace to go 82-0-0. Sources tell me that's pretty good.
3 Stars of the Game
1st - W. Simmonds (PHI) - 2 Goals (1 PPG)
2nd - J. Marchessaut (VGK) - 1 Goal
3rd - B. Elliott (PHI) - .920 Save% (23 Saves/25 Shots)
PHI - 10/6 @ COL (1-0-0)
COL - 10/6 @ MIN (0-1-0)