After what feels like an eternity, and also no time at all, Flyers hockey is back. The very first game of this shortened 2021 season will be our boys in orange facing their Keystone rivals, in the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ironically enough, the last time the NHL had a shortened season, the Flyers also opened against the Penguins, back in the lockout shortened 2013 season.
Despite a minor scare with some COVID-19 cases popping up in Penguins training camp, this game will be played as scheduled. This is a bit of a new look Penguins team, having added Cody Ceci and Mike Matheson (I’m trying to hold back laughter just like you, don’t worry), and lost a former core member of the team in Patric Hornqvist. They still have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin though, and as long as they’re in black & gold, the Penguins will be a pain to play against.
As for the Flyers, while they didn’t make a ton of moves this offseason, could have some huge reinforcements. Nolan Patrick appears to finally be healthy, and if he is, he’s more than a fine option for a third line center. Oskar Lindblom is also back, and looking to pick up where he left off before his cancer diagnosis in the middle of last season.
This team might just be the deepest Flyers squad we’ve seen since the Jeff Carter/Mike Richards days. There’s talent from top to bottom, along with Morgan Frost as the 13th forward. And the defense? Despite the loss of Matt Niskanen to retirement, Erik Gustafsson is a solid add to the top 4, if Phil Myers continues to progress, and Shayne Gostisbehere returns to form? This defense is going to be quite fun to watch this season.
Speaking of Gostisbehere, he will be out for today’s game. No word yet as to why, but hopefully it’s just a minor issue for Gostisbehere as he looks to rebound after back-to-back tough seasons.
Two big questions
1. How long to shake off the rust?
With no preseason games this season, rust is certainly expected to be a factor for a lot of teams in the early going, more so than in any year prior. If the Flyers can come out of the gates strong and get out to an early lead, it would be a great sign for things to come. Every game matters so much more with all games coming vs divisional opponents, so starting on the right foot will be key.
2. How will Nolan Patrick look?
He’s been a mystery for quite some time, as to when he would even play again, and how he’ll look in his first game back. He looked good in the scrimmage, but this will be different. Patrick having a good season only makes the Flyers a more dangerous team, and it would be great to see him erase concerns from the get-go.
Flyers Projected Lines
Lindblom — Couturier — Konecny
Giroux — Hayes — Farabee
JVR — Patrick — Voracek
Raffl — Laughton — NAK
Provorov — Braun
Sanheim — Myers
Hagg — Gustafsson
Checking out the competition is back! Kelly talks with Jim Rixner from our “friends” (sleep with one eye open, bird) at Pensburgh. Jim provides his thoughts on how the Penguins look this season, and especially how the new additions on their blue line could pan out.