The Philadelphia Flyers kicked off their 2020-21 season on Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the first of eight meetings between the Keystone State rivals.
For their first game in just over four months, the Flyers got off to a hot start. They were testing out new lines, introducing some new faces, and getting some crucial players back in the lineup. It was always set to be somewhat of a feeling-it-out type of game for the Flyers as the new season got underway.
Capturing their first victory of the season, you couldn’t really ask for a better start from the Flyers. Although there’s still so much hockey ahead of us, there were some key takeaways from their opening night win.
Setting the Tone Early, Finishing Strong
The first official game of the new season had excellent pace from start to finish. The Flyers came out fast, establishing an aggressive forecheck and the physicality that’s standard for any Flyers-Penguins matchup.
Despite an early deficit just over five minutes into the game, the Flyers were able to finally find the back of the net, scoring twice in the last five minutes of the first period.
As the final frame went on, the Flyers were eventually able to create some much-needed separation on the scoreboard, beating Pittsburgh netminder Tristan Jarry three consecutive times to close out the game. They were able to work through some early passing woes and some mental errors in the defensive end, closing the door for the win in the first of a back-to-back with the Penguins.
Depth on Display
The main reason they were able to shut that door on the Penguins was thanks to the tremendous depth throughout their forward group. It took some time for their first line of Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, and Oskar Lindblom to click with their puck movement, but they eventually found the scoresheet in the form of Lindblom’s first goal of the year.
The Flyers’ best line of the night, combining for seven points, was their second unit led by veterans Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes, alongside second-year forward Joel Farabee. Head coach Alain Vigneault made a statement in giving Farabee second-line duties with the two vets, but it obviously paid off with a four-point performance from the former BU Terrier.
The bottom-six groups showed out as well, offering up three goals between James van Riemsdyk, Michael Raffl, and the recently-returned Nolan Patrick. One of the most promising aspects of this Flyers team is their depth, and it was on full display in their first win of the season.
Solid Special Teams
On both the power play and penalty kill, the Flyers looked incredible against the Penguins. They started the night 2-for-2 on the man advantage due to some excellent puck movement and shooting from the second unit.
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Allowing just one goal on three penalties, the penalty kill picked right up where it left off last season. Sean Couturier, Ivan Provorov, and Kevin Hayes were just some of the many standout stars from the man down team.
For the Flyers, the first star of the night is obvious. Joel Farabee’s four points were certainly unexpected, but ultimately helped his team secure the victory.
Newcomer Erik Gustafsson made a solid first impression in his debut for the Orange and Black. Collecting assists on each of the Flyers’ first two goals, he was finding the open shooting lanes and giving his teammates great opportunities for deflections.
The third star is a bit of a toss-up that could go to a number of players. Despite one bad turnover that led to Sidney Crosby’s goal, Carter Hart was solid in net, kicking off what should be another breakout year for the 22-year-old. Hayes could take the honor as well, tallying a goal and an assist in the win.
Alternate captains Ivan Provorov and Sean Couturier were fantastic as well, both playing a terrific 200-foot game and showing why they’re considered some of the team’s best.
More to Come
If tonight showed us anything, it’s that we’re going to get some amazing hockey out of the Flyers this year. With seven more games on the schedule against their cross-state and divisional rivals this season, you can count on that chippy rivalry being alive and well over the next five months.
There are some obvious kinks to work out in their game, but the Flyers’ 6-3 opening night victory over the Penguins should give fans high hopes for the season ahead.