The Philadelphia Flyers kicked off their season the right way, racing out to an early lead and playing a tight and physical game. In the end, however, it simply wasn’t enough to overcome a tremendous effort from one man on the other side of the puck. There were plenty of positives to take away from the from this game, but coming in second always sucks even if it is just one game out of 82.
Track 1: 2nd Sucks
Last night, the Philadelphia Flyers took their first steps into a larger world, wading into the uncharted waters of the 2013-2014 NHL season. Whether or not the orange and black stand to see much success in the near future is still a mystery and last night’s game did little to aid any predictions one might make.
In fact, we learned much more about the Maple Leafs in the Flyers’ season opener than anything else. Playing in Montreal just 24 hours prior to what would be a very physical struggle, Toronto made the 455 mile journey to Philadelphia. After a predictably slow start, the Leafs began to assert themselves as the game went on.
Midway through the 2nd period, Toronto’s skating legs returned and the weary squad began winning races to the puck. They gave the Flyers everything they could handle along the boards, overcoming SIX short-handed situations along the way. Toronto gutted one out and deposited the final two goals it would take to put away the Flyers for good.
The men in blue skated into Wells Fargo Center and muscled the air out of the building. It was a truly impressive performance by what appears to be a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.
As far as the Flyers were concerned, the effort wasn’t anything to be ashamed of overall. Philadelphia played what was, for the most part, an uncharacteristically tight game. Passes were crisp and on target and some new faces dazzled to create multiple opportunities in front of the net.
The lone goal for the home team came as a result of some blue-collar work from the newly added Vincent Levavalier, who carved out some space for himself behind Jonathon Bernier before finessing a pass to a wide open Brayden Schenn in the slot.
Schenn buried the chance with six seconds left in the 1st period. Unfortunately for the Flyers, that’s all Bernier was prepared to concede. Despite numerous quality looks for Philadelphia, including a penalty shot from Wayne Simmonds, the new Leafs goaltender held on and stole his first victory of the season.
It’s hard to be pleased with any Flyers loss, but the Flyers showed encouraging signs in defeat. Giroux looked no worse for the wear after his off-season injury scare. He played quarterback for the team all night, setting up his mates with fantastic looks. As long as the Captain keeps at it, the points will come with time. Brayden Schenn, Mark Streit, and the aforementioned Lecavalier all made an impression in the game, but there was another player whose performance stood out.
Sean Couturier has gotten much stronger. He was in the mix along the boards and even out in front of the net on multiple occasions and looks to be coming into his own. That growth will be important as the Flyers have taken a remarkable stand behind he and Schenn as their franchise cornerstones during their recent rumored trade negotiations.
One major concern that has reared it’s ugly head for the second consecutive year (it would appear) is the Flyers’ lack of accuracy when firing on net. Philadelphia was on the power-play for twelve minutes versus the Maple Leafs and, at times, it appeared as if Jonathan Bernier was the center piece of a shooting gallery.
Still, far too many shots soared wide of the net. When a goalie is as hot as Bernier was last night, you can’t afford to help him out by missing the net. This is a problem that plagued Philly for most of the 2012 shortened season and it’s one they have to overcome to beat the best teams in the NHL.
The night left much to be desired for Philly fans, but the hockey season is a marathon and the path is not a straight one. There will be many twists and turns along the way for every team. To try and use last night as a vantage point for looking ahead would be foolish.
Montreal awaits on Saturday and the Flyers set out having a respectable foundation to build upon. The bullies have at least 4,860 minutes of ice time left to correct what they could not on opening night.