After six long, arduous months, the Flyers finally return home to the Wells Fargo Center tonight as they open the home schedule vs. the New Jersey Devils. Coming off of a 4-3 opening day win in Prague last Friday, the Flyers look to go 2-0-0 on the young season before their usual October Trip out west. New Jersey comes into tonight 0-1-1 on the season, with an OT loss to Winnipeg in game one (in which they blew a 4-0 lead) and getting shelled by Buffalo 7-2 on Saturday.
This may only be game two of the regular season, but it’s a fairly important one for the attitude surrounding this team. A 2-0-0 start is something this team hasn’t achieved since the 2011-12 season. To give you an idea of how long that’s really been, the only players on that roster that remain on the current one? Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek, and technically James van Riemsdyk although he was in Toronto up until last season.
Winning the first two games doesn’t guarantee this team a contender in the East, but it does help fans feel just a little bit better about this team. We’re all dying for the Flyers to be consistent contenders again, and that turnaround starts with this season.
Another member from that 2011-12 team is playing tonight though, and that’s Wayne Simmonds. The Wayne Train makes his return to Philadelphia as a member of the Devils ... sorry I need a moment, that sentence made me feel icky. Simmonds was a Flyers fan favorite the second he hit the ice. Involved in the Mike Richards deal, Simmonds won fan’s hearts with his Broad Street Bullies mentality, but also possessed enough skill to be a top-six forward.
The end wasn’t pretty for Simmonds in Philly, as it looked like his rugged style was taking a toll on the 31 year old winger. He’s been open in the media about wanting the fans to boo him tonight, which only makes us love him more. I’m sure he’ll get booed at some point tonight, because you know he’s going to want to stir things up. But before he does, there’s going to be a loud ovation, and a deserved one at that.
Players to watch for
Carter Hart — Hart looked sharp in his first season opener as a Flyer, so now we see if he can replicate that effort in his first home opener start. Hart is already one of the fan favorites on this team and he’s only been here since December of last season. A dominant night in net would only further that affection.
Wayne Simmonds — So I know this is typically reserved for Flyers players but come on, Wayne has to be in here. Former Flyers have a ... well let’s call it an extreme tendency to score against us, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wayne Train on the score sheet tonight. He’s going to come out throwing his body as he always does, and honestly would any of us be surprised if he got into a fight? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
The second line — Alright this is cheating but so what. The second line of Oskar Lindblom, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny were flat out dominant in game one vs. Chicago. So now the question is; can they sustain it? It’s no surprise Couturier and Lindblom work well together, given they’re so similar in how they play, but the fact those two open up the ice so well for Konecny makes it all the better.
Two big questions
1. Can the Flyers shut down the Devils’ explosive young talent?
The Devils have a lot of question marks heading into this season, but there’s a lot of young talent at their disposal. First overall pick Jack Hughes has been held pointless so far, but we know what a talent he is. Nikita Gusev is also in the fold, not to mention 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier. A key tonight will be keeping that young, fast, exciting talent in check if the Flyers want to come away with the victory.
2. How much will the long layoff affect the team?
The Flyers haven’t played since Friday, and are coming all the way from Prague, so needless to say some rust is to be expected. A slow start in the first period wouldn’t be a shock, but it would be nice to see the team put all of that to the side and take control right from the jump.
Flyers projected lines
Giroux — Hayes — Voracek
Lindblom — Couturier — Konecny
JVR — Laughton — Twarynski
Bunnaman — Raffl — Pitlick
Provorov — Braun
Gostisbehere — Hagg
Sanheim — Niskanen