Welcome back, friends! We’ve made it! We’ve really made it! After all of the weirdness and tumult that was the preseason, we’ve officially arrived at the start of the regular season. Are we ready?
The last we saw the Flyers, before the long and arduous offseason, they were doing a pretty spectacular first round playoff exit against the Pittsburgh Penguins. No one was scoring. The defense was falling apart. All of Wayne Simmonds was broken. Sean Couturier only had one knee. Ivan Provorov was playing with one arm. It was not a spectacular time, pals, but the good news is none of them are broken anymore, and we’re staring down a clean slate.
On the flip side, the last time we saw the Vegas Golden Knights, they were doing ... well, they were doing better than that. They took their inaugural season run all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, before they were ultimately felled by the Washington Capitals. They were jiving then, but the real test for them starts now. Will they be able to maintain at this level? Are they in for the sophomore slump? Something in between?
So, as all first games of the season tend to be, this one will serve as something of a tone setter for both sides, and after how messy these pasts few weeks have been, the Flyers will want to equalize, make all that weirdness worth it somehow. And they’ll have some key areas to focus in on, in doing so.
1. Brian Elliott’s back
So. It’s been quite a week. Not even a full week. It’s been quite the few days. The Flyers now have all of the goalies, but we’re not here to drudge up all of that drama, we’re just here to talk about one goalie. Brian Elliott’s set to start tonight’s game, and play just his third full game since surgery in the offseason. And if that sounds a little scary, well, that’s because it is. He hasn’t been able to get a ton of reps in during the preseason, and now he has to be The Guy. But, if nothing else, after a rocky start, his last game saw him stabilizing and looking quicker and more responsive. It’s still an open question how he’ll handle a regular season game, but he gave us at least that little bit of reassurance—after his last game, he looked like a guy who should have earned the start on opening night. And we’ll see how it goes from there.
2. Let’s defend
It might sound callous to say that last year the Knights were kind of just a bunch of randos all having career years, in those words exactly, but the sentiment remains. They did have some offensive weapons, and while their second year production is still an open question, the Knights have still gone ahead and added a couple more threats in Paul Statsny and Max Paccioretty. So the Flyers, on paper, will have their work cut out for them, and if they want to help out their goalie who, like we said, is fresh off of surgery, it’s going to come down to defense. And that could get interesting, as well.
You’ll see the full lineup below, but we’ll spoil a bit of it for you: We’ve got a return of the Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere pair, and that’s good. I don’t have to tell you that. And it’s looking like we’re going to get Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas as our second pair, and they worked well together last season. So that second pair could be good too, but the problem would be if they decide that this isn’t actually the second pair, that they want to actually give Robert Hagg and Andrew MacDonald second pair minutes, and that could get a little hairy. We’ll have to see how they work this out, but the Flyers have the chance to have two good pairs, if only they use them properly.
3. The kids are alright
But that also serves as a nice segue. The Flyers have a lot of kids and we’re ready to see them do well! Sanheim’s primed to get a larger role this season. Travis Konecny back on the top line. Nolan Patrick’s healthy. Ivan Provorov’s healthy. Oskar Lindblom is on the team. Mikhail Vorobyev is on the team (welcome!). We know what the Flyers’ big guns can do, we know they can produce at a high level, and we’ve got some promising youngsters who we’re ready to see prove or confirm that they can do the same. The Flyers have some depth on paper, friends, and it’s time for the kids to Do The Thing. And, quite frankly, that’s exciting.
The puck’s allegedly set to drop at 10 pm, but I’m skeptical of that, what with it being Vegas’s home opener and them needing to go through all of their theatrics. It’ll start when it starts. Check out the Flyers’ prospective lineup below, and then make sure to get your naps in. Let’s go, the Flyers!
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Lindblom - Patrick - Voracek
van Riemsdyk - Vorobyev - Simmonds
Laughton - Lehtera - Raffl
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Sanheim - Gudas
Hagg - MacDonald