The knock against Peter Laviolette's Flyers has always been their ability to play a 60 minute game. They can't sustain it throughout an entire game -- for whatever reason. They can show stretches of greatness, but they don't keep it going for long enough to make a real difference, a consistent difference.
That's what'll be argued again tonight after a 3-1 loss to the Maple Leafs, but I don't know if it's fair. The Flyers were utterly dominant for certainly the first 30 minutes of the game, and they were very good for other stretches as well. They forced Toronto into nine penalties often by just controlling the puck and getting the Leafs in positions where they didn't have a choice but to take a penalty. They looked scary with two dangerous scoring lines that controlled the pace of play and generated scoring chance after scoring chance.
Jonathan Bernier was the difference. He held the Leafs in the game early while the Flyers dominated possession and tempo, and during a lull in the Flyers attack in the second period, Toronto was able to capitalize and take control. Phil Kessel got the Leafs on the board late in the second, and from that point on the Leafs were able to go into a defensive shell and thwart the Flyers transition game.
It only turned more in Toronto's favor when a defensive breakdown allowed Dave Bolland to walk in and score three minutes into the third period, and for the entire final period, the Leafs really didn't have to do much. Sit on the blue line, let the game come to you, and just stop the Flyers from setting up in the offensive zone. Can't score if ya can't get over the blue line.
Some other notes, both good and bad:
* Vincent Lecavalier looks AMAZING. Just .... yes. He's a Flyer and he's wonderful. .... okay, drooling stops now. Seriously, his presence in the lineup makes the Flyers so much more dangerous. It felt for most of the game tonight that the Flyers had two first lines. Deadly stuff.
* Mark Streit had a phenomenal game as well. Remember, the only real knock against him is that he's not going to be worth his current contract by the time that contract ends. There are several years before it ends. Streit was the best free agent defenseman on the market this summer and he's hopefully going to be a very mobile, solid, strong with the puck defender all season long for the Flyers. Really excited about him after this game.
* The power play has the potential to be great. A second unit with Vinny and Streit -- two guys who were on first units for their old teams and have a ton of PP talent -- is just deadly. There are exciting things to come here.
* .... that said, not sure what was going on with the PP zone entry tonight. Especially late, they were certainly trying to gain the zone with control but it was just an ugly, easy to defend mess. Needs some work. Also, the whole one for seven thing. You know.
* Jakub Voracek started the game on the third line but quickly worked his way up to the first line. I don't know if it's because Lavi liked what he saw or if it's because Laviolette looooooooves the line shufflin', but whatever.
* Maybe it's just me, but it seems like there's a lot of frustration surrounding this team right now. I'm not really sure why that's the case. It's Game 1. But when you see Wayne Simmonds visibly angry on the ice more than once and you see the coach shuffling lines in the first game of the season, it's worrisome.
* Steve Mason was fine tonight. The Leafs scored three goals and two of them were on rebound chances, not his fault. I'd even go as far as to say Mason played a good game tonight, but it just wasn't as good as Bernier.
* Here's all we got out of Jay Rosehill and Colton Orr tonight. Fun, useful hockey stuff.
Questions with Answers
1. What does the defense look like in the opener?
It wasn't bad. There was that breakdown on the Bolland goal early in the third, but overall, the top four looked really solid and I'm cautiously optimistic.
2. How does Steve Mason look?
Mentioned this above, but fine.
3. Claude Giroux scores eight goals, yes?
Comment of the Night
Hey, you get 7 power plays, you need to win. Simple as that.