Some news, notes and observations from the Flyers opening game 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins:
- The Flyers game plan was to come out hitting, and hit hard. Primary target: Sidney Crosby. Anyone who got a chance to hit Crosby, did, but it wasn’t just that. Guys were hitting everyone on the Penguins. Maybe the Flyers struggled to find their speed in the first game of the season, but they sure got their licks in.
The Flyers were credited with 40 hits in the game. That’s one every 90 seconds. That’s a lot.
Leading the way for the Flyers with seven hits was Zac Rinaldo, who only played 8:54.
Matt Read had six hits, playing a much more physical brand of hockey than last season. Scott Hartnell had five and Andrej Meszaros and Scott Laughton had four each.
- Speaking of Laughton, he had three of those four hits on his first NHL shift.
“[I was nervous] the first shift,” he said. “I tried to get them out of the way. I tried to take a hit or lay a hit.”
- The Flyers did a nice job limiting and frustrating Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby was a minus-1 and went without a point, registering three shots on goal.
As for Malkin, he earned an assist on the Neal goal because he won a faceoff, but otherwise was non-existent, generating just two shots on goal.
So the Flyers did a nice job against the big two of Pittsburgh.
- Ilya Bryzgalov was solid in net. He made 24 saves in the loss, but made a few really big stops and looked very calm, cool and collected in net.
“He looked like he has all week,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He was very focused and strong.”
If he stays that way, the Flyers will be in great shape.
- If there was any doubt as to who the Flyers were going to count on in the faceoff circle, there shouldn’t be any more. Of the 62 faceoffs taken Saturday, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier took 48 of them. Together they were just a touch under 50 percent, but that’s a pretty lopsided figure.
- For a guy playing on the top line, Brayden Schenn only picked up 13:45 of ice time. Late in the third period, with the Flyers looking for the tying goal, Schenn was on the bench and Jake Voracek was taking shifts with Giroux and Scott Hartnell. Schenn did pick up a secondary assist, but was otherwise quiet in his top line debut.
Schenn also played on the second unit power play with Couturier and Read, but that group never got in sync..
“I think they’ll go once we get going this season,” Laviolette said. “The first unit there was together last year and they moved the puck well last year and they moved it well in training camp this season and they moved it well tonight and had opportunities. But the second unit is new and it will take some time.”
- Really liked the speed and energy brought by Eric Wellwood. Laviolette wasn’t afraid to go to the fourth line in the third period and Wellwood, Rinaldo and Ruslan Fedotenko contributed, creating opportunities with their speed and physical play. Nice work by that unit.
- On the converse, the defense really seemed to take a while to find their speed. A couple of times the Penguins beat out Flyers defensemen on icing calls – including Braydon Coburn, who is a very good skater that just didn’t seem up to his level tonight.
Timonen said that will come after a few games, but it was evident Saturday, especially in the first period.
My Three stars:
1.Marc-Andre Fleury – He made 26 saves, but withstood a barrage of Flyers chances over the final 39 minutes of the game without cracking.
2.Claude Giroux – Magazines and websites can rank him behind Crosby and Malkin all they want, but in a game when all three were on the ice, Giroux was the most noticeable, the most dangerous, and easily the best player.
3.James Neal – The guy is just a flat out sniper and surprised Bryzgalov with a quick shot on the game-winning goal.
Did you know:
- The attendance of 19,994 was the largest regular season crowd in Flyers history. It breaks the record of 19,992 set on February 21, 2009 vs. Pittsburgh.
- Ruslan Fedotenko’s 664 NHL games between games as a Flyer is second-most for any returning Flyer, behind only Vinny Prospal’s 715.
I will not be with the team in Buffalo, but I’ll be watching along with you on T.V. Sunday. I’ll see you on Twitter for some good hockey conversation.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37