We knew it wouldn’t take much to get the juices flowing in a Flyers-Penguins season opener in Philadelphia, and that was exactly the case. The wild sold-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia roared in approval of the return of the National Hockey League and their Flyers.
It was a playoff atmosphere early on when the Flyers were introduced to the crowd and the Penguins were booed. The fans came back in full force with a sellout that was a tough ticket in Philadelphia.
We knew things were going to be a little out of sync to start the abbreviated 48-game season, but slop was a very appropriate word in the 1st period. The ice was a little sloppy, but the Flyers passing was very ugly and the timing on defense wasn’t there either. The Flyers were outmatched in just about every category in the first period.
The Penguins opened the scoring on a power play goal from Tyler Kennedy which came off of a very questionable interference call which appeared to be called on the wrong player Braydon Coburn. That put the Pens up 1-0 in the rivalry of Pennsylvania.
Let’s just say nobody really appeared to be in midseason form on this day. Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov gave up a wrister to James Neal of the Penguins off of a faceoff. It was one he’d like to have back, but it wasn’t a terrible day of Bryzgalov.
The Flyers finished the first period playing very sloppy. The passing was not crisp and you could tell they just came off of a 1-week training camp.
Things started to look like they might change in the second period when Claude Giroux kicked things off with a goal to bring the Flyers within 1. The goal was scored off of a saucer pass by Scott Hartnell that Giroux slammed home.
The defense started to tighten up after the Giroux goal. Things were very evenly matched the rest of the game and there were a lot less mistakes being made than we saw in the sloppy first period.
One thing of significance that was on display today in Philadelphia was that the officials look to be cracking down on obstruction. They called 3 interference penalties in the first two periods that could have gone either way, but the officials seemed to make it clear like they did back in 2005 that obstruction plays that slow the game down won’t be tolerated.
One thing to take out of this sloppy opener is the Flyers really need to work on their power play. They were 0-for-5 on the power play today and really didn’t have any spectacular chances, although Pens netminder Marc-Andre Fleury played fantastic today.
The Flyers were not able to solve Fleury again before the end of the game as the teams really tightened up and held their own. Chris Kunitz iced the game late in the 3rd with an empty netter as the Penguins took Game 1 of 4 between these two teams 3-1. The Flyers had a few opportunities to score and when they had those opportunities Fleury had the answer with a few really solid saves.
At the end of the day. the Flyers will have to get their legs under them and get as much time in as possible in practice working on the power play and trying to find some rhythm. They won’t have much time to figure it out in this abbreviated 48-game season.
The Flyers won’t have much time to think about this one as they trek on with 48 games in 99 days. The team will have a chance to bounce right back tomorrow in Buffalo at 12:30 against the Sabres.
Other Game Notes:
The Flyers had a little scare when defenseman Nicklas Grossmann went down on a play earlier in the game. He was down for a minute or so after a play on the boards before getting up and skating to the bench. He did return again in the period so the Flyers dodged a bullet as he is expected to be a big part of their defensive corps this year.
Justin Johnson is a Senior Correspondent and has been covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the 2008-09 season. Justin has covered all levels of hockey across the United States and Canada. Justin is a graduate of Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ and currently resides in Southern New Jersey.