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Flyers 4, Devils 0: How’s that for a home opener?

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Some observations for your morning...

New Jersey Devils v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Now that’s a home opener, eh? Okay, technically the Prague game counted as a hone game, but last night was the real home opener, and it was good. After a bit of a messy start that still saw the Flyers getting some chances, they took over through the final two periods, grabbing the momentum and running with it. Goals by Ivan Provorov, Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny grabbed and maintained the Flyers’ lead, and the Devils just didn’t have an answer. Glorious, glorious victory.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

How’d they look out there?

5-on-5: 48 CF, 60.71 CF%, 65.88 xGF%

So the Flyers pretty well dominated play at 5-on-5. There’s really no need to mince words about it. Both the Flyers and Devils had messy first periods, but the Flyers still hit the first intermission with an edge. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for them to build on heading into the final 40 minutes. At first they were getting the chances, but no bounces (two posts included), but instead of getting frustrated and squeezing their sticks, they just kept at it. And the results started to come. Travis Konecny benefitted from a lucky play going in his favor, but Couturier’s came as a result of the sound work they were doing in getting the puck into the offensive zone and crashing the net.

It’s work that will bode well for future results, and we started to see that already in this one.

Power play: 13 CF, 9 SF, 2 HDCF

The Flyers had four looks on the power play in total last night, and all told, those looks were good. Their first in the first period was a little messy, but they pulled it together after that. The top unit looked really sharp, and when they were able to get established in the offensive zone, their passing was, overall, clean and crisp, and the Devils didn’t really have an answer for it. Ivan Provorov picked up a goal off a nice passing play that got the puck to him, where he just lasered the puck in, and Kevin Hayes capitalized on a chance from a bit of chaos created in front of the net.

It’s still early, and it remains an open question whether they’ll be able to replicate these results as the season goes on, but so far, so good.

Penalty kill. 5 SA

Folks, the penalty kill might be fixed. The Flyers had a couple of looks on the penalty kill last night, and they looked very good. They had a bit of help in the form of a couple of self-clears by the Devils, but in the work they were actively doing, they still looked sound. Their biggest test was on an almost full two minute 3-on-5 penalty kill, and they passed with flying colors. Hart made one huge save to bail them out, but the skaters did well to defend the slot without screening their own goalie, and made the right choices on when to jump and look to disrupt a passing or shooting lane. It was nerve-wracking to watch, to be sure, but they got the job done. We’re a little limited on the stats, because there weren’t chances noted on the 3-on-5, but we can say that they only allowed three shots in those two minutes. Not excellent, but not too bad, either.

And maybe it just goes to show the difference a bit more of an aggressive style and the support of a good goalie can make. Imagine that.

Three standouts

1. Carter Hart

A 25 save shutout in the home opener? His very first career shutout? You heard it here, folks! Hart had himself a very solid game, and he’s the unequivocal first star. Let’s just lead right off with his flashiest moment. We talked about it already. That save on the 3-on-5 penalty kill.

Hart was tracking the puck remarkably well last night, and it was just one of those games where he was on. The team in front of him was doing very good work, but having Hart playing as well as he did in support was a big part of them collecting this win. He was sharp, and he deserved to pick up that shutout.

2. Kevin Hayes

Hayes took what was an impressive preseason and has been doing just about everything he can to carry that over into the regular season. He picked up the power play goal, but otherwise brought a very solid game. His line struggled a bit in their matchup, relative to their teammates, and Hayes posted an adjusted 47.85 CF%. And that’s not an altogether terrible figure, but not stellar, relatively speaking. But again last night, it was Hayes as advertised—a bit of a scoring threat, strong on defense. He really stood out on the penalty kill, and was able to generate another shorthanded threat. We’re still working to see what he is, or will be with this team, and while this will become more apparent over a larger sample, the early signs are positive.

3. Just the whole second line, man

This is a cop out, but we just couldn’t pick one final star when the whole of the Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, and Oskar Lindblom was just stellar. The trio combined for ten total shots, and posted an 89.47 CF% and a 98.91 xGF%, and you guys, that’s just otherworldly good. The Devils basically didn’t touch the puck while that line was on the ice. And granted, we don’t expect them to be able to replicate those exact numbers going forward, but they do seem to be tapping into something pretty remarkable. They put up two goals on the night, too, and those results feel about right. The process is sound, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.

Two loose observations

1. Here we go again

The Flyers started slow in this one. We’ve mentioned that a few times now, but it’s worth mentioning it again. They’ve talked about this a couple of times on BSH Radio recently, that this last era of the Flyers has scarred us a bit, and those feelings certainly started to bubble up watching that start.

“Here we go again,” was a pretty distinct feeling. Even though nobody was able to do much of anything through the first period, there was still the lingering worry in the back of our minds that the Flyers were going to do what they’d always done—come out flat and fallen into a hole that they may or may not be able to dig out of. But that didn’t happen. Instead, they kept their heads down, kept at it, and continued to dominate play. And then the breaks started coming. And the game was there.

It is one game, so it’s not like we’re definitely free of all of those old habits. But it was refreshing, is all.

2. Context, context, context

We should take a minute to talk about context here.

*crowd booing*

I know, I know, why can’t we enjoy the nice things? This was a fun win! Leave it alone!

And it was. I don’t want to take that away. But it’s also worth noting that the Devils, uh, aren’t necessarily a very stacked team. They had a good offseason, sure, but they’re still a little thin, and they’re still struggling to put it all together. We can appreciate the effort the Flyers put up last night, but also remember that they didn’t face the most difficult competition. They’ll be facing tougher competition sporadically this month (the Flames next week, hello), and then things really heat up in November. This was fun, we enjoyed it, and banking points is great, but it bears remembering that the tougher competition is yet to come.

The only damn thing I know

So I know it’s the home opener, and that it’s one of the biggest games of the season, but I’ve got to say, the crowd in the arena was good last night. The Flyers started off slow, we talked about that already, and the reaction was as could be expected. But once they started getting some chances, and then when Hart made that huge save and they killed the whole two minute 5-on-3, the building was rocking. And I know this is one of those games where you’re supposed to expect that. This one’s important. But somehow it still felt different. The buzzer sound for the second intermission and people were on their feet. It was fun. It was exciting. I loved every second of it.