Today’s the day. It’s finally the day, you guys. Tonight, the Flyers open up their regular season in San Jose against the Sharks.
After a preseason that presented as something of a mixed bag, with some distinct highs and lows, the Flyers are looking to start out strong against one of the powerhouses of the Western Conference. With new faces abound and the season’s tone on the line, here are three things to look for in tonight’s game.
- Nolan Patrick on the up and up
That's right. We can finally say it. Nolan Patrick is a Philadelphia Flyer and he's making his NHL debut tonight. Arguably the team's most talked-about rookie, Patrick had an impressive training camp and preseason. He started off solidly, even if he didn't set the world on fire, and has improved steadily in each subsequent game. He picked up three assists over the course of the preseason run, showcasing striking vision and plus passing ability and accuracy.
His line with Weal and Simmonds will definitely be one to look out for. The three of them have been together for much of the second half of the preseason, and while they showed some immediate chemistry— likely in part a carryover from Simmonds and Weal's at the end of last season— the line has continued to click as they spent more time playing together. And they've looked dangerous.
And speaking of lines that are working, you can also be on the lookout for...
2. Fourth line efficacy
Beyond being a marked improvement over last season's fourth line— which is admittedly not a high bar— this season's rendering has looked really impressive, through the tail end of the preseason. The early chemistry between Raffl and Laughton was apparent, as they connected for a goal, and beyond. They've brought a nice mix of physicality and offensive pressure to the mix, while the addition of Leier— who has also spent a good deal of time playing with Laughton with the Phantoms— builds on this, while also lending some extra speed and craftiness to the line. It will be interesting to see how this line manages to balance all of these elements, if they can sustain this momentum, and how they match up against other all NHL fourth lines.
3. Can the power play do anything?
One of the biggest non-cut related questions coming out of the preseason was relating to the power play units. A strength and respite for the team at the end of last season, who struggled to score at even strength, has now been struggling to capitalize on the numerous opportunities they have been presented with this preseason. To be fair, they haven't been horrendous, have been able to generate shots and pressure, but they haven't been able to capitalize in a way that's closer to proportionate to these efforts. The second unit started to click in the last few games, and the first unit scored a goal in the last game, but still lagged a bit behind.
So the question remains of whether anything will change— if the tactics will shift, the personnel will be shuffled, or if those already on the unit will be able to turn their luck around.
And what do the statistical models say?
12 out of 12 favor the Sharks, with the Flyers’ best odds coming in at 47.2 percent, their worst at 38.0 percent, and averaging out at 43.1 percent. The team and fans, of course, will hope that they can storm into San Jose and beat these odds.
Puck drops at 10:30 EST tonight. The game will air on NBCSN and 97.5 The Fanatic.
You can check out the lines from practice (via Dave Isaac) below.