For the third straight year the Philadelphia Flyers have started their season out with a win on the west coast – well, technically in the desert.
The Flyers once again had a strong showing in their first game of the season, and for the second straight year it was Wayne Simmonds with a multi-goal night to lead the way. We all remember his hat trick last year in San Jose, and this year he put up a pair of goals (including the eventual “game-winner”) to get the Flyers started.
It seemed as if everything was going the Flyers’ way in this one. Everything clicked for them and, with three goals in less than five minutes to go up 5-1 in the second period, they showed that they have the talent up-and-down the lineup to compete.
At times last season (and in the past several seasons) the Flyers were a one-line team. That is no longer the case. In our breakdown of the opening night lineup, we said that the Flyers had enough depth to spread out their skill throughout the top-nine, and boy, did they show that on Thursday night.
Each forward line had a player record a point, with the second (Jake Voracek) and third (Simmonds) lines having a player with multiple points. All three of the bottom lines scored goals as well, with the bottom-six outscoring the top-six 3-1 on the night, if you include the power-play marker from Simmonds. The other goal came from Robert Hägg, who was set up by James van Riemsdyk, so the third line was really the most productive for the Flyers.
A lot of the credit for the third-line’s strong night should go to the center as well, Mikhail Vorobyev. The Russian making his NHL debut didn’t look out of place one bit overall, despite struggling in the faceoff dot. He had an impressive debut with an assist and some physicality after the whistle. He’s going to be just fine in this league.
Having JVR and Simmonds as third-line wingers almost isn’t fair, especially with the players on the lines above them.
One of the pleasant surprises in the game was Oskar Lindblom, who finally got some puck luck in the first game of 2018-19 after being snakebitten at the end of the 2017-18 season. He made a nice move and got a friendly bounce off of a skate; it was well-deserved.
On the defensive side of things, the make-or-break pair showed what they can do. That pair would be Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas, who had a strong night in Vegas. They were used as the most sheltered pair, but got quite a few neutral zone faceoffs on top of that.
Hagg, as mentioned above, also showed his offensive chops. He sniped a sweet goal, and set another one up with a shot that nearly crossed the goal line on its own before Simmonds jammed it home.
It wasn’t all good, however, as Andrew MacDonald did falter to allow the Golden Knights to open the scoring. He took a hit in the corner, then got caught. He tried to make a change while Vegas rushed up ice. He turned around to try to defend, but it was too late as Jonathan Marchessault beat Brian Elliott.
Speaking of Elliott, he was a rock in net for the Flyers. He got some help from the posts, but he made a few key saves while the game was still close, and then again late in the game to prevent the Knights from staging any sort of comeback. He stopped 23 of Vegas’ 25 shots, including a long 5-on-3 penalty kill early in the third period where the Knights could’ve gotten back into it.
Special teams was where many games were won or lost last season for the Flyers. While they didn’t win it on the power play in Vegas, their penalty kill made sure it wouldn’t lose it for them either.
They killed off a power play midway through the first period after going down 1-0 just a few minutes prior, with the Golden Knights’ only semblance of a scoring chance late in the man-advantage. Then there was the 5-on-3 power play in the third period that the Flyers disposed of.
It’s only one game – hell, it’s only three power plays – but the penalty kill looked much, much better. That is one area that the Flyers will absolutely need to improve upon from last season, and they did so in Vegas.
The Flyers did take advantage of one of their own power plays, however.
Sticking with the same top unit that has found so much success in the past, Claude Giroux and Voracek played catch before finally setting up Simmonds on the doorstep for the slam-dunk goal.
The lone blemish on special teams came on a shorthanded goal against when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare made a nice move to score. Of note on that is the fact that Shayne Gostisbehere turned the puck over mainly because he was speared between the legs; a penalty that went uncalled.
Overall, it was a good night for the Flyers. They showed what they can do against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Playing a road game is never easy, especially to start the season, but they did their thing and came away with the win.
It’s the first of many wins for a Flyers team in a make-or-break season. If they can continue to get contributions from up and down the lineup, they’ll be in good shape.