3 Observations from the Flyers Season Opener

The Flyers had a very eventful season opener in Tampa Bay on Thursday night. The team had a lead midway through the second period and failed to hold it. The game included the first 3-on-3 overtime in NHL history, and it did not disappoint. Here are three observations from the first game of the 2015-16 season.

1) Breakaways

It’s something that has plagued the Flyers for so long, and judging by tonight, it isn’t going to end anytime soon. The Flyers were awarded a penalty shot in the first period, and Claude Giroux made a dazzling move, but Bishop outsmarted him and lifted his stick.

Fast forward to the overtime period, and Scott Laughton was awarded the second penalty shot of the game. He also seemed to have Bishop beat, but failed to elevate the puck.

Just minutes after Laughton missed that penalty shot, the Lightning would go on to score and win the game.

The Flyers need to improve on breakaways, penalty shots and shootouts. That game should have easily been won on the two golden opportunities the Flyers were given. Furthermore, and as we saw Thursday, the implementation of 3-on-3 overtime means that there is going to be a lot more breakaways (just ask Jason Garrison), and those need to be taken advantage of, not gone by the wayside.

2) Steve Mason Picks Up Right Where He Left Off

Lost in all the chaos of the first game might have been the play of Steve Mason. The Flyers netminder faced 32 shots and looked nothing short of outstanding between the pipes. Aside from the second goal, which was a weird ricochet, Mason kept the Flyers in the game at times when Tampa had sustained offensive pressure.

Mason had a few great saves throughout the game, but the best of them came in overtime when the Flyers needed him most.

As the tweet said, the second save came right before Laughton was awarded the penalty shot that could have won it in overtime.

If the Flyers want any hope of making it back to the postseason this year, Mason will need to be at the top of his game. Tonight just further solidified that Mason hasn’t missed a beat. More importantly, it showed that he can, and will, keep the Flyers in games, especially against some of the best teams in the conference.

Don’t expect goaltending to be a problem this year, because Mason looks just as good as ever.

3) Secondary Production

A few days ago, I wrote about some players to watch in the Flyers’ season opener. Matt Read was one of those players, Evgeny Medvedev was one of the others.

Read looked like a new man tonight. He capped off a somewhat broken, but nice passing play between Laughton and R.J. Umberger.

I have to admit, I was a little bit confused when I saw that coach Dave Hakstol had the second power-play unit on the ice to start a man advantage midway through the third, but any doubts were quickly put to rest. The second unit looked very good and contained the puck very nicely on the ice. That led to a goal for the Flyers from Brayden Schenn – one in which R.J. Umberger picked up his second point of the night, and Medvedev picked up his first career NHL point.

It didn’t stop there. The line of Umberger-Laughton-Schenn was buzzing all night. That’s great news for the Flyers, considering the tandem of Umberger and Read was one of the worst in the NHL last season.

Even though the Flyers didn’t come out with a win in Tampa, there are a lot of positives to take from places that a lot of people didn’t expect to see positives this season. The Flyers had all four lines rolling the whole game, and looked pretty good in the process. Their goalie looked in midseason form, and they played a full 60-minute game. The only real gripe was the two penalty shots they didn’t capitalize on.

It’s only Game 1 of 82, but the Flyers came out with a very good showing against one of the best teams in the conference.