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Sharks 8, Flyers 2: The home has been opened

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Some observations for your morning...

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Oh boy. That one was rough. That’s eight goals given up in your home opener. All of the wheels coming off. Big yikes. I won’t prolong this with a long introduction, you all don’t deserve that. Let’s just get right into what we learned.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

1.Say hello to the kid line

With the injury to James van Riemsdyk and the flat performance on Saturday in Colorado, the Flyers have needed to do a bit of shuffling to their lines, and we saw them returning to an old idea: pull Travis Konecny off the top line and put him on another line to get it going. It’s had mixed results in the past, and this time saw him bumped down to the second line with Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick. And guess what. It kind of worked.

That’s hard to say, I know, because the Flyers were blown out and this line didn’t put up a point, but they were getting some looks. In fact, from their very first shift they were looking sharp, and put up the first shot of the game after a bit of sustained offensive pressure. The line averaged an adjusted 52.26 CF% on the night, which on its own is pretty good but not stellar or totally dominant (what do you expect, when the team gets outshot blank to blank), but it was first among the other lines, and made them the only three players to come out of the night with a CF% above 50. And while that’s certainly not nothing, it’s hard to totally evaluate them, as they were playing in what was on the whole just a big mess, but they did show us some flash, and we’ll be looking to see if they can start to capitalize on their chances soon.

And, while we’re here, we should also give a nod to Patrick, who, after a slow start, is starting to look like he’s getting settled. He had a couple of good chances last night, and that’s probably the first time we can say that. Our 2C’s starting to look like a 2C, and that’s encouraging.

2.All that good work

It seems to be how these things go, with the Flyers at least. It’s the same old story—they get a bit of momentum going, some pressure established, and there’s almost a goal in there, but there’s not, and then one bad bounce is a turnover and it’s going the other way, and it’s in the back of their own net. We’re very familiar with this one.

This was the story of the early part of the first period of last night’s game. It’s just as we said above, they came out with energy and pace and were looking like they could maybe, just maybe do something with the pressure they were generating and take an early lead. So it was the top line set up in the offensive zone and looking dangerous, and then just like that it broke down, and it’s a three-on-one going the other way, and Elliott getting beaten five-hole.

And we can talk about how that breakdown shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but also about the importance of responding well and not letting things spiral. How allowing a scoring chance off a neutral zone faceoff, a goal from that shouldn’t happen either. How the spiral should have stopped there, but didn’t (but more on that later).

3.Killing penalties

And it’s about time that we talk about this, right? It was bound to happen eventually. And, believe it or not, it’s actually some positive things that we have to say about the penalty kill. Not all good things, but we’ll knock some of those out first.

The good: the Flyers went three-for-five on the penalty kill last night, and were not only able to kill those three penalties, but they were also able to create a handle of breakout chances. Couturier and Michael Raffl had two of their own, and then even Jori Lehtera had a breakaway chance. They were disruptive and didn’t just dump the puck out of the zone, they were able to create something with them. So that’s something.

The bad: they did give up one power play goal for the Sharks, and it was just about exactly what you would have expected to happen—a man left unattended in the crease was allowed to score a goal. Because somehow, some things never change.

A little more good: do you remember when, last year, the Flyers decided that they should take Scott Laughton off the penalty kill? That they didn’t need him, he wasn’t very good, they couldn’t trust him, whatever it was. That sure seems weird, right? Because he’s looked very good on the penalty kill to start the season. He had, by my count, at least three shorthanded chances last night. He couldn’t put any of them away, but if he keeps creating chances at this clip, it won’t be long before something breaks his way.

4.The power play

But let’s jump to the flip side of the special teams equation and talk about the power play. It was something of a mixed bag, so we’ll keep with our format from the last section to break it down.

The good: the first unit got some looks early, were able to create a few chances that they just couldn’t close on. But there was some pressure coming from that top unit.

The bad: stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the second unit just really couldn’t get anything going. They struggled to get set up and weren’t able to generate much in terms of pressure. And then, of course, there was the issue of a turnover at the blueline turning into a shorthanded chance and goal for Barclay Goodrow. Yikes.

A little more good: Shayne Gostisbehere and Wayne Simmonds saved us from having to watch a shutout. They were able to capitalize on the pressure that the top line was creating. Let’s just relive it.

The interesting: on the last couple of attempts, we actually saw Ivan Provorov pulled off the second unit and Travis Sanheim sent out in his stead, and it’s a move that makes sense—Provorov hasn’t been great on the power play, to date, and Sanheim has some very serious offensive upside, so why not give him a look? We wish he would have been able to do something in his time out there, but it was a small sample. Do they keep this structure? Who knows. But it’s good in theory and might be worth the longer look.

5.The Ginger Line is back and doing its thing

Another new look! Well, I guess we can’t really call it completely new, as it was our top line to start last season, but it’s new to the 2019-19 season? Sure, we’ll go with that. the Ginger Line is back.

More a by product of the rough showing in Colorado, Dave Hakstol opted to put back together the tried and true top line of Clause Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jake Voracek, and while the reintroduction wasn’t an all around success—in the same way that the new and improved second line wasn’t—it showed a little bit of flash. Its members put together seven chances at 5-on-5, and there were shifts where it seemed as though they were just knocking on the door. They were so close but it just all fell apart at the last second like, say, when Giroux made a perfect setup to Couturier on the rush, and he had some open net to work with, and he just rang it off the crossbar. That was the night in a nutshell. But the early flash gave us a little bit of promise that this line might not need too much time getting set, that they should be able to really hit the ground rolling sooner rather than later. Can they do that tonight in Ottawa? Yeah, we uh… we really hope so.

6.Let’s talk about Brian Elliott

Let’s get at this one, because it quickly turned, in terms of the tone and our feelings about his performance. The very early part of last night’s game looked a little bit rough for Elliott—his reactions looked a little slow and he was leaving a fair bit of space for San Jose to work with, and we started to get a little nervous. He gave up those two goals in 11 seconds (though only the second of which could we really put on him, but even then not entirely) and we started to get anxious.

But then things changes, we saw the defense continuing to fail, and we saw Elliott continuing to try to bail them out. Sometimes he was able to, sometimes he wasn’t. When it was all said and done, he stopped 40 of the 48 shots he faced, for an .833 save percentage, which isn’t great, but how well can you really be expected to do when you’re stuck facing 48 shots and so many odd man rushes. Elliott, all in all, did well when just about no one else was.

Like Gostisbehere said after the game, “it could have been seven nothing after the first,” but it wasn’t, he made some very good saves in hopes of keeping his team in it. He just was hung out to dry.

7.Jordan Weal’s triumphant return!

Or, at least, he was likely hoping last night would be that. it wasn’t.

It’s been a weird run for Weal in these last few weeks. Given the nod as one of the frontrunners for the 3C job at the start of camp, we eventually saw Mikhail Vorobyev win out, and because apparently you can’t play Weal on the fourth line, he found himself relegated to the press box to start the season, waiting for an injury to someone in the top nine for him to get another chance. And then, well, it happened. With JVR out, Weal was able to slip back onto the third line with Vorobyev and Simmonds, and last night was his first night back. And it was… anticlimactic.

At the risk of sounding too harsh, we should note that this wasn’t a bad game for Weal, it just wasn’t really a good one. But it wasn’t a good game for anyone. He came out of the night with zero shots and zero points, and all in all, wasn’t terribly noticeable. So what do we do with that? Do we call it a mulligan? On paper this line has potential, just maybe on a night when the team isn’t getting blown out. So we’ll note that Weal had a quiet night in the midst of some loudly bad performances, and we’ll hold onto our judgement on his return for just a little while longer.

8.Shots and all

A number for you: 48. That’s how many shots the Flyers gave up last night. You know what else 48 is? Exactly half the number of shots Alex Lyon faced in a game that had five overtimes. Just let that sink in for a moment.

Normally we use this section to talk about the shots that they Flyers are generating, how they are or are not a good amount, or if they are or are not of a high quality. The Flyers did put up 33 shots on the night, 14 of which were high danger chances for. But we really should be talking about the sheer volume of chances allowed.

It was a statement that was all but bursting out of the locker room last night, that they left Elliott out to dry, and that this score could have been a lot uglier than it was, had it not been for him. San Jose was putting in a good effort and doing well to generate offense, as a team as good as them does, but the Flyers were making it easy for them. Their path through the neutral zone was easy, and when they got deep into the offensive zone, the coverage was soft. That’s how 48 shots in one game happen. The Flyers just gave them all the space in the world to work with.

9.Pressing, spiraling, things of that nature

And then worth also touching on is what happens when all of those chances are given up. We’ve seen this one before, too. The team digs themselves a hole early and just can’t seem to get out, and then they start to press, and it gets even uglier. We saw some of this last night—they had some genuine chances that they couldn’t put away, but there was also a fair bit of overthinking, a choice to make a pass to set up a “better” play when they might have been just as well served just firing it at the net, making an ill advised pass that was intercepted and turned the other way. They were chasing this one, and doing a little bit of shooting themselves in the foot in the process.

And we’ve had to say this before too—now comes the real test. After a game that rough, what they really need to show is that they can have a short memory and recover quickly. They’re playing again tonight in Ottawa, so they’ll have a chance to do just that (but also maybe they should consider working out how to not do a complete all systems failure type of game in the first place).

10.The only damn thing I know

Here’s a quick one for you: it’s pretty sick that those bars/seams between the panels of glass light up now. That’s fun. That was like the only fun part about last night. At least there was something.