With the news breaking earlier today that Steve Mason would not play in the Flyers’ home opener, all the pressure of a good performance against a team who put seven past the Flyers collective just days before fell to new goaltender Michal Neuvirth. But 31 saves later and the former Capitals’ goalie recorded his eighth career shutout and helped guide the Flyers to a 1-0 win.
Brayden Schenn scored his second goal of the season just 5:57 into the first period with the assists coming from Gagner and Coots. It was a score that would from then on remain unchanged despite an end to end physical affair.
The defense stifled any chance of the Panthers coming back into the matchup with physical play against the boards, some big hits from Gudas and company set the tone for the game. With the Flyers outshooting the Flyers 14-7 in the second period.
After a shocking result on Saturday, the team came back with a vengeance and played with plenty of aggression. Wayne Simmonds was a man making some big hits whilst Sam Gagner especially stood out, playing to prove a point that he deserves to start more. Mark Streit was one of the more composed players at both ends as the clock ran down in the third period and Gudas made a positive impact in his home debut for the Flyers. Credit where credit is due, Manning also took the step up tonight and put in a solid performance.
The problem after the opening goal for the Flyers wasn’t defensively…in fact on that side of things there were plenty of positives..one of which was holding the Panthers to an 0-6 record on the penalty kill. Especially impressive considering that they had to endure a four minute Panthers power play to start the game. The Flyers were ranked 29th in the NHL on the penalty kill going into the game and came out not conceding a goal despite six power plays for the Panthers…a huge improvement.
Like last year, the team struggled to find any kind of break at full strength. The Flyers are loaded with goalscorers, snipers and creative geniuses but somehow failed to get anything past Luongo for the remainder of the game. Some impressive stops certainly didn’t help matters but the Flyers were unable to sustain drives or retain possession in the third period and because of that, the Panthers had a chance to get back into the game.
On power plays, the home team went 0-3 after sitting far too cautiously in 4-on-3 and 5-on-4 scenarios. A Mark Streit dart was saved by Luongo during a 5-on-4 to prevent any further scoring damage.
At the other end there were a few incredibly close calls for Neuvirth late on, but the goaltender’s quick glove was enough to see out the game and hand the Flyers their first victory of the Hakstol era. Neuvirth was nothing short of incredible in his debut for the Flyers, especially when you consider the scenario. With Mason absent for personal reasons, a home opener against a team that embarrassed you just days before..to answer sceptics with a shutout is an emphatic way to say that the upgrade over Ray Emery was like going from a Nokia to an iPhone 6s..kind of.
It’s also fitting that Neuvirth’s sensational break dancing skills were rewarded with a fitting record. Michal became the first goaltender since the man he replaced (Ray Emery) to record a shutout in his orange and black debut.
The Flyers move on to face the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night and will honour one of the teams most cherished defenseman, Kimmo Timonen.