After a long, arduous offseason, the Philadelphia Flyers have returned. Today they take on the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague as part of the 2019 NHL Global Series. This will be the first time in team history the Flyers have played a regular season game outside of North America, so needless to say this is kind of a big deal! It also marks the beginning of a new era in Philadelphia Flyers hockey.
Today officially marks the beginning of the Alain Vigneault era, and while he became the defacto starter last season, I think you could make the argument today is the true beginning of the Carter Hart era. This will be his first season being the starter from day one, as he gets the call in net to open the campaign. This also marks the first full season of Chuck Fletcher as General Manager. While his impact has already been felt with his moves last season, and in the offseason, this is the first season opener with him at the helm.
They take on a team in the Chicago Blackhawks who are in the middle of a rebuild/retool on the fly, but still possess a plethora of dangerous offensive weapons. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and newly extended Alex Debrincat all remain on this team which constantly makes them a threat.
For the Flyers, we see the debuts of Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun, Tyler Pitlick Carsen Twarynski, and finally Connor Bunnaman. The final two will be making their NHL debuts, while the former three will make their first regular season appearance in a Flyers jersey. It might just be game one, but there are some lofty expectations for this team to start hot. We’ve been so accustomed to slow starts over the past few years, it would be a pleasant twist to get off on the right foot, and that all starts today.
Players to watch for
The rookies — Joel Farabee sadly did not make this hockey team, but two other prospects did. Twarynski and Bunnaman make their NHL debuts today and it’s the result of a solid preseason, and some injury woes. With Chuck Fletcher having said there would be plenty of roster moves in the opening weeks, this will push the rookies even further to have solid showings in the opening games. Bunnaman is really only here due to the Nolan Patrick injury, and Twarynski had a solid preseason, but must continue that if he hopes to remain on the roster.
The new guys — As for the other guys making their debuts, the microscope will be on them as well. With Hayes listed as the first line center for today’s game, there will surely be an even larger focus on him out of the group. His huge contract was a point of contention with some of the fanbase, and he hopes to prove his worth starting today. Braun and Niskanen came at relatively high prices, and there’s some doubt if they can really stick and make this defense better. And as for Pitlick, it will be extremely interesting to see how he performs given his absence from camp due to an offseason injury.
Carter Hart — The hype surrounding this kid is enormous, and he now makes his first season opening start. Hart has all the tools to be the savior of goaltending in Philadelphia, and be the guy that ends the woes since Ron Hextall in the late 1980’s, and if you really want to be picky, Bernie Parent in the mid 1970’s. All eyes will be on Hart in arguably his greatest test so far as goaltender of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Two big questions
1. Will Carter Hart get off on the right foot?
I know I just talked about this, but it’s a valid question! Hart’s success is ultimately extremely important for the overall success of the team this season, and a hot start wouldn’t hurt. Hart looked fantastic all preseason minus the game vs. Lausanne, but we’ll ignore that for many reasons. So, can he carry that preseason domination to the regular season?
2. Which of the new guys stands out the most?
The rookies Bunnaman and Twarynski along with the new veterans all have a chance to make a great first impression, so who will it be? Braun will be on the top pairing with Provorov, Hayes on the first line with Giroux and Voracek, so they might be the easiest guess. But hey, this is hockey we’re talking about, so would any of us really be surprised if it’s one of the depth guys?
Flyers projected lineup
Giroux — Hayes — Voracek
Lindblom — Couturier — Konecny
JVR — Laughton — Twarynski
Raffl — Bunnaman — Pitlick
Provorov — Braun
Hagg — Gostisbehere
Sanheim — Niskanen