The Flyers came into tonight’s home opener vs. the Western Conference Champion Vancouver Canucks with 2 straight wins on the road to open the season and a lot of things clicking so far. One was their starting goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov who joined the team in the offseason on a 9-year $51-million dollar deal. He has earned his pay so far. The Flyers top power play unit also looked sharp throughout the preseason and had some good shifts in the regular season, an encouraging sign for a team with a tough time on the power play last year.
Before this game many expected a tight contest around 3-2 with good defense and good goaltending. We got the opposite in a lot of ways. It was a pretty sloppy game.
The Flyers offense hadn’t really broken things open yet this season, but they did tonight. It was evident early that the bad Roberto Luongo was playing tonight after a couple of questionable goals early. His team in front of him didn’t help him out all that much either taking 4 first period penalties with the Flyers scoring on two of them.
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin was more upset with the team effort tonight in front of Luongo. “When there’s guys in the penalty box for the first 12-13 minutes it’s tough to get a good start, so that wasn’t good enough,” Sedin said. “Tonight we played a lot better than we did in the first two but penalties killed us.”
Claude Giroux’s big start continued as he racked up 3 points (1g, 2a) in the first period. His goal came off a really weird bounce that hit the partition and came right out in front to Giroux who buried the puck past Luongo. I asked Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa if that sort of reminded him of his goal in the playoffs last year. “We were aware the partitions stick out [in this building] before the game but sometimes you can’t do anything about it,” Bieksa said. “Our goalie goes out to play the puck, there’s me, Hamhuis and [Giroux] and the puck goes right to [Giroux].”
The Giroux line looked good again. Jaromir Jagr had an assist while James van Riemsdyk added a goal. Jagr had a beautiful move in the 2nd on Roberto Luongo but Luongo robbed him when he tried to tuck it in.
The Flyers showed a lot of grit bouncing back after conceding power play goals as the Canucks drew closer to them each time. Bryzgalov wasn’t as sharp as he was in the past two games but the defensive breakdowns in front didn’t help him tonight.
Bryzgalov admitted the team seemed to be in survival mode in the third period. “Yeah, I don’t know the reason why we found ourselves in trouble there,” Bryzgalov said. “The problem started mid-second period. I was just not quick enough moving and in the third period when you get penalty after penalty your best players are just sitting on the bench or just killing the penalties.”
Overall the Flyers offense looked good but this was the first night discipline really showed it’s ugly head after being a major problem for the Flyers of the past couple of seasons. That’s something the Flyers will surely focus on in practice leading into Saturday against Los Angeles.
Ice Time Trends:
* This ice time is really telling on how things are going with the Flyers. Scott Hartnell’s minutes continued a downward trend, with only 10:37 tonight, fueling the rumors that the Flyers are looking to trade him.
* Eighteen-year-old rookie Sean Couturier who coach Peter Laviolette has praised defensively logged 17:45 in ice time tonight, including a +1 rating and his first National Hockey League assist.
* The Flyers discipline was not very good tonight. They took dumb penalties throughout the game. Hartnell jumped Bieksa at the end of the 2nd, and they also took a couple dumb ones late in the 3rd when the Canucks were trying to make a comeback. They will need to limit that and get away from their worst enemy from last year.
* The penalty kill. Throughout the preseason and into the regular season this Flyers PK that has received a major face lift was a concern. That concern was valid tonight because the Canucks scored 2 power play goals. They will need to get creative as this is not the old school physical PK Flyers teams have had in years past where Ian Laperriere and Blair Betts were diving in front of pucks.
The Flyers will get back at in on Saturday night at home against controversial former Flyer Mike Richards and the Los Angeles Kings. The game will get underway at 7 PM at the Wells Fargo Center.
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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.