Game one of 82 was pretty successful, folks! The Flyers dominated the Vegas Golden Knights to take their third straight season opener. Now, they take on another prolific offense in the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are coming off of a win in their first game as well, with a 4-1 win vs. the Minnesota Wild. Last season, the Flyers went 1-0-1 against the Avs, taking three out of the possible four points.
Colorado didn’t do a whole lot this offseason, their biggest move being backup goalie Philipp Grubauer, but they didn’t really have to. Nathan MacKinnon established himself as one of the top players in the NHL last season, finishing second in the Hart Memorial Trophy voting. After a few years of “what the hell is this team?” the Avalanche finally seem to have to found themselves, and look to be back at the top of the West for good.
The Flyers will look to go 2-0 on the season for the first time since the 2011-2012 season, where the team went on a 3-0 start to their year.
1. Bounce back games for top line and top defense pair?
The story of the Flyers 2018-2019 season opener was the depth. With the first line struggling just a bit, and the top defense pairing having an uncharacteristically off night, the depth had to take the reigns. With the star power the Avalanche possess, the Flyers top units may have to do a bit more of the heavy lifting. I’d expect better results from at the very least the top forward line of Claude Giroux — Sean Couturier — Travis Konecny, but the greater challenge will be for the defense. Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere both struggled in the opener, and will need to be on their “A” game against the likes of MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen.
The Avs are built on their offense, and it shows when looking at their defensemen. They have some nice young pieces coming along in Samuel Girard and Connor Timmins, but as a whole it’s Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson leading the way for their blueliners. This should be a game where the Flyers top line is able to rebound and at the very least drive play in this one.
2. Elliott looks to stay sharp
Without Brian Elliott’s multiple dazzling saves in the first period, the Flyers probably end up losing to Vegas on Thursday. Elliott will have to be sharp yet again tonight against the Avs high power offense. Elliott has been solid vs. Colorado throughout his long career, going 9-2-2 against the Avs in 13 contests, posting a .910 save percentage.
What the Flyers want to avoid however, is forcing Elliott to make a lot of key saves early on as he did in Vegas. That game could have easily gotten way out of hand early on, and turned into a slugfest. Something the defense struggled with on Thursday was coverage in the slot and high danger areas, so for Elliott’s sake and the team’s sake, hopefully that is improved upon tonight.
3. Shot quality will once again be key
Speaking of keeping the other team out of high danger areas, the Flyers hopefully will follow the same kind of formula from Thursday. One of the areas they excelled at against Vegas was producing high quality shot attempts, and not relying so heavily on point shots. They’ve done this in the past as well for a few games, but never all that consistently. That is the true key for Dave Hakstol and the Flyers offense. They need to limit the point shots and try to get the puck into the slot/directly in front of the net on a much more consistent basis. If they’re able to do this, the offense should have little to no problems getting the same kind of production they did on Thursday.
Flyers Projected Lines
Claude Giroux — Sean Couturier — Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom — Nolan Patrick — Jakub Voracek
James van Riemsdyk — Mikhail Vorobyev — Wayne Simmonds
Scott Laughton — Jori Lehtera — Michael Raffl
Ivan Provorov — Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim — Radko Gudas
Andrew MacDonald — Robert Hagg