On a night where hockey being played felt a bit ... wrong? Is that the right word? The Philadelphia Flyers spent the evening facing down one of the NHL’s last undefeated teams in the Edmonton Oilers. How exactly did that go? Let’s dive in.
What went right?
Opportunism was the word of the night for the Flyers, who has a rough start to the game by the eyes and the numbers. The Oilers dominated the shot attempt and scoring chance differentials for the first two periods, yet Philly hung tough on the back of some stellar playmaking and sniping by a certain key player.
Our visiting heroes kicked the show off with a wraparound goal by El Capitan, giving No. 28 a five-game point streak to open the year. For a guy who’s been questioned for so long, Claude Giroux sure does score a whole lot.
The 1-0 lead grew to 2-0 after Nate Thompson banged one in on a misplay by Oilers netminder Mikko Koskinen.
After the Oilers got two back and continued pressing offensively, it looked like the game was well on its way to getting out of hand.
Enter: the baddest man in the National Hockey League.
Cam Atkinson. Mama, there goes that man.
No. 89 found his fifth goal of the season in as many games with just 0.6 seconds left to play in the first period. He and Claude Giroux became the first two Flyers to start a season on a five-game points streak since noted Columbus Blue Jacket and non-goal scorer Jakub Voracek.
A dominant second period from Edmonton yielded only one goal, but yet again the threat of the Oilers breaking the dam and taking over the game loomed. The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment™ responded in kind to begin the third and final frame, this time off of a nice play by Justin Braun on the give-and-go.
Has a Flyer in recent memory left a better first impression than Cam Atkinson? He’s scoring 40 this year. Sean Couturier ended up putting things away with an empty netter that was subject to some offsides scrutiny, and that was all she wrote.
The Flyers were able to take a beating through the first 40 minutes of a game against a difficult opponent on the road, without one of their best players, and came away with the win via an incredible response to close things out. This is not last year’s team; not by a long shot. Carter Hart looked stellar aside from one goal he might have wanted back, the penalty kill stood tall, and the team defense (particularly in the neutral zone) was effective enough to mostly contain a deadly Oilers offense. This was a monumental win to start off a key road trip.
What went wrong?
Discipline remains an issue for the Flyers. Against an Edmonton team whose power play has been deadly for what’s felt like an eternity, the Orange & Black took four penalties. The PK might look good and Hart has lived up to the fanbase’s lofty expectations, but this probably won’t be a sustainable trend.
Travis Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen need to be separated. It’s not exactly a hot take to say that neither of them are benefitting too much from being partnered up. More defensive gaffes tonight for the both of them builds on an alarming track record, even if the sample size is fairly small.
Philly benefitted from poor goaltending tonight on the part of Koskinen, who conceded a soft goal and a goal that was arguably caused by poor puck handling behind the net. This was a great win to pull out, and you want to see the Flyers snag wins whenever they can while Kevin Hayes and Ellis are missing, but at some point they’ll need to start driving play and controlling games at a better clip.
Recall that at the beginning of last season, Philadelphia won games by scoring and scoring alone; when that dried up, it all fell apart. This year doesn’t feel like a repeat, but it very well could be.
Oh yeah, the Oilers scored some goals, too. A few of them were not so good.
Honestly, given how things played out, you can’t complain too much on these. Maybe one in here that Hart wants back, sure, but given that he played spectacularly well the rest of the night it’s not a big deal.
Three Big Things
- If there’s been one consistent problem across the first five game for the Flyers, it’s penalties. I get that Alain Vigneault and co. are trying to instill an aggressive mentality into their guys, but finding the balance between aggression and control still appears to be a work-in-progress. Back to the drawing board here; can’t afford to be taking 3-4 penalties in every game.
- Credit to Michel Therrien, whose units both look significantly improved this season. The power play for the Flyers could still use some more movement off the puck, but the set plays, passing, and decision making have all been elite or approaching elite in the early going. With a team that ought to be able to roll two excellent and skilled units out on the man advantage, it’s good to see that the scheme and execution have finally matched up with the talent.
- Carter Hart let up a goal that he probably would’ve liked to have, on the road, in front of a raucous crowd. He was lights-out from then on. The kid might be alright.
Post Game Tunes
Menzingers time. What a great music video; maybe the Flyers took this advice and finally decided to stop punching us all in the gut.
Good night, good hockey, and as always, go Flyers.