For the first time since their game six loss vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins in April, the Flyers will play a meaningful hockey game at the Wells Fargo Center. The team returns home after splitting the two west coast games to start the season. What treat do they get as they return home? Facing Erik Karlsson and the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks made arguably the biggest move of the offseason, acquiring Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators for...let’s not even talk about that return package anymore.
Despite their star studded lineup, the Sharks have started the year 1-2-0 after losing yesterday to the New York Islanders. In fact, not even just a loss to the Islanders, they were shut out by the Isles. Now obviously, this doesn’t mean the Sharks are a bad team and the Flyers should easily win this game, because that would be silly. But, if the Sharks are in that slow-start-with-a-new-top-player mode, this could be a game the Flyers steal away from San Jose.
The Flyers will be short handed however, with the loss of James van Riemsdyk to a lower body injury. JVR suffered the injury early on in Saturday’s game vs. Colorado, and will now be sidelined 5-6 weeks. So with that being said, what can we look for in the Flyers 2018 home opener?
1. Shot quality boys, shot quality
One of the most contributing factors to the Flyers opening night win in Vegas was their impressive shot quality, and their poor quality in game two was a huge reason for their demise. Against a team as dangerous as San Jose, the Flyers need to get into the high danger areas. This could very well turn into a barn-burner, and settling for point shots is not going to get the job done.
Their defensive effort echos the same sentiment; they need to do a better job of forcing their opponent to the outside. Against Vegas and Colorado both, the shots given up were simply way too dangerous to give up on a consistent basis. Brian Elliott has stood on his head in both games so far, but asking him to do that all year is going to bring Carter Hart up earlier than we would like. It’s going to be a tough task for the Flyers keeping a team as dangerous as the Sharks out of the high percentage areas, but it needs to be done.
2. The new (old) top line
It’s the return of the Claude Giroux — Sean Couturier — Jakub Voracek line. With the injury to JVR, Voracek moves up the top line, and Travis Konecny moves to the second line with Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick. Jordan Weal should take JVR’s spot in the lineup alongside Mikhail Vorobyev and Wayne Simmonds. The top line is the main focus here though. This line started last season together, and was one of the most productive in the entire league for the early portion of the year. They saw some time together after the JVR injury vs. Colorado, but this will be their first full game together since last season. How the other lines perform — not even the top line — will be the main story line. Depth was so vital for the Flyers vs. Vegas, and now that depth takes a major hit.
3. Gritty and the new Wells Fargo Center experience
It’s the regular season debut of Gritty! The loveable...whatever Gritty is, will surely be a part of the theatrics of tonight’s home opener. Gritty won’t be the only aspect to watch though, as the Flyers have raved the entire offseason about the changes made to the Wells Fargo Center. The mezzanine level underwent massive changes, which should be interesting to see on TV (assuming they show it).
And in a clear effort to make things just a bit more fun at Flyers games, they’ve revamped their in game entertainment. According to the Flyers website, these are just a few of the trinkets fans can look for tonight: LED lights on each pane of glass, new on-ice video projections for the extended pre-game show, and the...the “Flyers Fun Patrol”. Yeah, they’re really going all out here.
Flyers Projected Lines
Claude Giroux — Sean Couturier — Jakub Voracek
Oskar Lindblom — Nolan Patrick — Travis Konecny
Jordan Weal — Mikhail Vorobyev — Wayne Simmonds
Scott Laughton — Jori Lehtera — Michael Raffl
Ivan Provorov — Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg — Andrew MacDonald
Travis Sanheim — Radko Gudas