On what was a well anticipated Wednesday afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers handily defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 6-3, starting their 2020-21 NHL campaign on the right foot.
It was a victory which featured solid team play, and an overall spreading of offensive wealth which saw 12 different Flyer skaters register a point. This win was far from perfect, as it was not the best defensive showing, but regardless the way the game played out left me and many others with a reason to be happy.
Joel Farabee delivered a four point performance and made a statement to fans all over the country that he is a name to be remembered, new defenseman Erik Gustafsson (the second one!) made an immediate impact, and the Flyers managed to score two power-play goals in a single period. Is this the real life? Well, it clearly isn’t a fantasy.
Though, perhaps the biggest moments came courtesy of circumstance. The second of those power-play goals the Flyers scored came off of a shot from the point by Erik Gustafsson, which deflected on its way to the net. In fact, both power-play goals were deflections of sort. For the first, James van Riemsdyk, parked in front of the net where he should be, displayed fantastic coordination with a tip to beat Tristain Jarry. However, the second goal took a strange bounce off of none other than Nolan Patrick to find its way past the helpless Pittsburgh goaltender.
The game, regardless of Patrick scoring, was his first NHL game since April of 2019. As we all are aware, Patrick had been forced out with a migraine disorder, and missed the entirety of the 2019-20 season. It was good news for Patrick and for the Flyers that he proved well enough to begin the 2020-21 season, and 652 days later from his last NHL game, he managed to find the back of the net. His return is truly a feel good story.
Then, there’s Oskar Lindblom, who battled cancer last season to make a miraculous return during the playoffs in the Toronto bubble. In his first game at the Wells Fargo Center since December of 2019, he also managed to score, getting a piece of a Travis Konecny shot that was fired into a mess of traffic in front of the net. Lindblom looked strong as well, picking up right where he left off during his break-out last season.
Both Lindblom and Patrick give the Flyers some of the best forward depth in the entire NHL, but their successes on Wednesday matter more than just for hockey reasons. I’m not alone when I say that I don’t just root for the Flyers and their players as a hockey fan, but I root for them as people. Their triumphs on and off the ice go beyond that of entertainment value, and seeing the pair establish immediate success after battling illness brings a tear to my eye.
Regardless, their return to NHL action was a triumph, but to see them make such an impact is heartwarming. I’m incredibly happy it was they who wound up on the scoreboard.