Entering the season with historically low expectations, many probably weren’t anticipating much good from the Philadelphia Flyers on opening night — even against another substandard squad like the New Jersey Devils. But the Flyers not only managed to beat the Devils, but even look fairly solid doing it.
The Flyers earned a 5-2 victory Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center, and with the win, head coach John Tortorella earned his first victory as the club’s latest head honcho.
“I thought we played our ass off,” Tortorella said after the game. “We played hard.”
Tortorella has made it his mission to transform the Flyers into a harder, tougher team to play against since his hiring in the offseason, and while his team still doesn’t quite have a set identity, the full team effort in Game 1 was a hugely encouraging sign.
“When you say the word ‘hard,’ you think it’s a physical thing and fighting or whatever,” said Tortorella. “There are so many aspects of being a hard team to play against, and that’s a team that has a little bit of poise when things aren’t going well for them and they find the way to get back into swinging the momentum their way. That’s an important part of being a hard team to play against.”
The Flyers most certainly managed to swing the momentum back in their favor after falling behind early. Devils rookie Alexander Holtz scored the first goal of his NHL career eight minutes into the first period to break the ice. Carter Hart got a chunk of Holtz’s wrist shot, but not enough of it to keep it from trickling past the goal line.
Certainly a shot Hart would stop on most occasions.
After the early blemish, though, Hart’s night was stellar. The 24-year-old netminder stopped 35 of the Devils’ 37 total shots on goal, and the Devils didn’t manage to find the back of the net again until nearly midway through the final frame — long after the Flyers had built a multi-goal cushion.
Hart did not see any action during the preseason after dealing with a nagging injury that kept him out of each of the Flyers’ exhibitions, so seeing such a strong response after the early goal was a welcome sight.
“It felt good. Maybe the first 20 minutes felt a little rusty,” said Hart. “After that, just shook it off and just started playing the game.”
Forward Travis Konecny put together a shining performance of his own. Konecny, now in his seventh season as an NHLer, scored a pair of markers on the night — one of which was a laser scored on the power play.
Travis Konecny on the power play. Look at the Flyers go. pic.twitter.com/OgGm6wpATu— Ryan Quigley (@ryanquigz) October 14, 2022
“It’s always nice to get a couple early,” said Konecny. “But more importantly I just loved our work ethic, and I think one of the cool things is our lineup has a lot of young guys in there and it really doesn’t matter who you are, everyone was doing the right things. They weren’t scared to make plays because they know everyone’s backing them up and playing hard, so those are the things that stand out to me.”
Konecny wasn’t the only Flyer to score twice. Morgan Frost, who’s entering the most crucial campaign of his young career, also netted a pair of tallies. The second of which came with the Devils’ net empty, but goals are goals.
It was Frost’s first multi-goal game of his career.
Wade Allison, who buried the Flyers’ first goal of the night just 23 seconds after Holtz opened the scoring, stood out as well. And it was the Flyers’ ability to respond to adversity — like Holtz’s early goal — that made this performance feel a bit different in comparison to outings from the 2021-22 season.
“I don’t think general hockey people believe in us, and hopefully that will give us the juice to prove them wrong,” said Tortorella. “I thought we took a step tonight. It’s the first game, had some bad minutes and some really good minutes, but we found a way to win, so they should feel good about themselves and hopefully that’ll just build for us.”
The Flyers next face off against the Vancouver Canucks when they welcome the Canadian squad to town for an afternoon tilt on Saturday. The Flyers will then embark on their first road trip of the season — a three-game string against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators.
Answers to our Burning Questions
How will the Flyers perform in their first regular-season game with Tortorella on the bench?
The Flyers performed quite well! They weren’t perfect by any stretch — the power play still appears to be a work in progress and they were outshot by a not-insignificant margin — but they played a hard game that earned them a win on opening night. Tortorella may not have been completely pleased, but the team certainly gave him some signs of encouragement.
Will any Flyers step up in the scoring department?
Yes! Two of them, in fact! Konecny and Frost both delivered in the offensive zone, and it was great to see Wade Allison buzzing around. Frost, in particular, needed to have a night like this, so it’s hard not to be pleased with his strong showing.
Will the Flyers’ power play show any signs of life?
Yes! It looked quite sloppy and disjointed at times — much like it did last season — but the Flyers did manage to break through and convert on a power play. You love to see it.