For the first time in four seasons, the Philadelphia Flyers have taken a point from the season opener. But it could have been a win and was very close to becoming one. Instead, the team took part in their first ever 3-on-3 overtime period and suffered a Jason Garrison breakaway winner.
The Flyers started strongly enough and looked impressive in the opening period. Quickfire passing, hard body checking and conservative line change scenarios saw the Flyers able to hold one of the toughest teams in the league to a 0-0 record after the opening period. They could have even gone 1-0 up after Giroux drew a penalty.
The Flyers captain skated towards Bishop and went for a double moved that was executed to perfection, but the Tampa goalie was able to just clip Giroux’s shaft and influence the puck just wide of the mark to keep things level.
The Flyers even outshot the Stanley Cup runners up 14-10 as the secondary lines were looking just as dangerous as Giroux and company.
Jason Garrison opened the scoring for the Bolts in the 2nd period after taking a deflection from a point effort from Callahan. It took the Flyers a while, but it was worth the wait. A beautiful passing play set up by Scott Laughton saw Matt Read go one-on-one with Ben Bishop and slide one into the back of the net. Laughton received the puck from Umberger and played it straight to Read..no selfishness, no look on goal, a prime look to set up a teammate. It was a thing of beauty and you can tell that the “tiki taka (as it’s called in soccer)” style of play caught the Bolts off-guard completely.
Not only that but it rattled them as just two minutes later Brayden Schenn put the Flyers in front. Umberger assisted yet again and was this time joined by debutant Medvedev, who made his impact known straight away.
The other Schenn brother surprisingly had a fantastic game….you’re not dreaming..Luke Schenn…had a great game. He was easily the most physical defenseman on the Flyers team and at times became Mason’s very own personal forcefield! Say what you want about the decision to start him over Gudas and that he may be “trade bait”…if he is honestly bait then I’m biting. After not backing down from Johnson and getting into a scrum, showing some heart..you have to wonder where this Luke Schenn has been hiding! That was a sensational performance and if it carries on…the Flyers defensive woes may well have been fixed by Hakstol’s magic wand..or an assertive team talk..one or the other.
Callahan would tie things up before the period came to an end with a weak shot on the powerplay, an area where the orange and black actually performed very well in otherwise. The Flyers had three shots in the entire second period, all three came after ten minutes of play…but they were able to end the period tied at 2-2.
The rest was history after a scoreless third period. A missed penalty shot from Laughton could have sealed it but a break later on from Garrison gave the Bolts the Overtime win..but gave Hakstol a very deserving point to open his NHL career.
Mason had 29 saves on the night including some breathtaking stops. Back to back saves in the first period set the tone and some athletic moves to keep the game tied in the final period were a sign that Mason is after another career year.
The Flyers played an intense game and in many ways fought fire with fire, but the biggest thing for me was the secondary lines. Both goals came from lines below the elite pairing of Voracek and Giroux, a feature that last season could have sent the broadstreet bullies to the playoffs. It’s encouraging to see some support for the stars at the top and with Umberger enjoying his 74th career game with 2 points..things are looking up for the Flyers.
It may seem like a point is not the result that the team or the fans wanted..but an overtime loss to a team who boast a 7-2 record against the Flyers in the last three years is nothing to shy away from..especially one so explosive. It was a trial by fire for Hakstol as he came up against one of the East’s elite…but if this was a taster of things to come then it’s safe to say he came out with a few scratches and nothing more. The team look great in all areas and the new system is “lightning” fast…(sorry for the pun). The only downside I could see was early on when Raffl kept unintentionally blocking shots..it was beyond frustrating. A small mark in what was otherwise an impressive performance.
But from here, the Flyers stay on the road and travel to Florida for their first game against the Panthers on Saturday night.