3 Takeaways from Flyers Road Trip to Western Canada

The Philadelphia Flyers followed up their season-opening homestand with a three-game road trip to Western Canada last week. They began by defeating the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 on TNT’s nationally televised game on Wednesday night. On a quick turnaround, they flew to Vancouver and defeated the Canucks 2-1 on Thursday. The red-hot Calgary Flames prevented a road trip sweep when they stopped the surging Flyers with a 4-0 win on Saturday night. For fans on the East coast who couldn’t stay up to watch the Flyers face off in the latest time slots, catch up on how the Orange and Black fared while you were asleep.

Cam Atkinson- Spark Plug of 2021-22

Newcomer Cam Atkinson is off to a fast start to his career in Philadelphia. He leads the team with six goals and a plus-9 rating in seven games. The Flyers acquired him in a trade for Jakub Voracek, who consistently racked up assists in a play-making role for ten seasons in Philadelphia. Atkinson’s shoot-first mentality has brought a better stylistic fit, and his hot streak to start the season is a refreshing change of pace for fans who’ve been frustrated in recent seasons by the Flyers’ hesitancy to shoot the puck in hopes for the perfect opportunity for a pass to present itself. 

Cam Atkinson, Philadelphia Flyers
Cam Atkinson, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Oilers rallied from a 2-0 lead to tie the game with just 18 seconds remaining in an incredibly fast-paced opening period on Wednesday. Atkinson recaptured the lead with .6 seconds remaining with a momentum-changing goal. He has given a strong effort on the penalty kill and played an energizing role with his new team in their effort to become harder to play against. His 26.1 shooting percentage drastically exceeds his career average, and he is due for a return back to Earth. However, his excellent play on the road solidified a great start to his tenure with the Flyers

Flyers Creative Passes off Back Boards

On Thursday in Vancouver, the Flyers continued to display their creative play-making efforts with passes off the opponent’s backboards for highlight-reel goals. James van Riemsdyk scored his first goal of the 2021-22 season on a designed tic-tac-toe, power-play connection from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. 

The crafty setups began in the season opener when Giroux victimized the Canucks with a game-tying goal off a pass around the net off the back wall from Couturier with just over a minute remaining in regulation. It continued against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 20 when Keith Yandle sent an intended pass from behind his own blue line off the back boards. A great hustle from van Riemsdyk cancelled the icing, and he set up Scott Laughton in front for the finish. The creativity reinforced Atkinson’s claim of how it’s been “fun to be a part of this group” early in the season. It’s just one element of the new energy the Flyers have shown in their effort to bounce back from the disappointment of 2020-21.

Strong Goaltending from Hart, Jones

Carter Hart continued his strong play early in the season. He stopped 66 of the 72 shots he faced in two starts on the road trip. The Oilers played in the offensive zone for the majority of the second period, and Hart capably limited one of the strongest offensive attacks in the NHL. It was the type of game that frequently went off the rails for the Flyers last year, but their young goaltender stabilized the team’s effort and kept them in position to win it with a strong third period. Although the results don’t necessarily reflect a great game in Calgary, Hart kept the Flyers in striking distance until the final minutes despite the fact that the Flames controlled the pace of play for most of the night.

Related: Flyers Emphasizing “Hard to Play Against” Cliché

Backup Martin Jones improved to 2-0-0 on the season with an excellent game in Vancouver. He stopped 27 of 28 shots on the night. He also withstood a flurry of second period chances and kept the Flyers ahead without their strongest effort. The early return from the move to sign Jones in free agency has paid dividends in the limited sample size up to this point. 

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart
Philadelphia Flyers, Carter Hart (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

The old adage states that a playoff spot can’t be won in October and November but can be lost. The Flyers did their best to hang with the top teams in a crowded Metropolitan Division with a 2-1-0 road trip, especially considering the strong starts for the Oilers and Flames. They will return home Tuesday to face the Arizona Coyotes in Shayne Gostisbehere’s return to the Wells Fargo Center. They’ll hit the road again to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday and the Washington Capitals on Saturday.