Opening Night Preview: How the Flyers can beat a West Coast powerhouse

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Finallllly, hockey is back. The moment that so many have awaited for has finally arrived. The proud orange clad fans can’t wait to see their beloved Flyers take the ice on opening night in a West Coast Showdown against the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Both teams split their season series last year, and it just so happens the Flyers may be catching the Golden Knights at the right time. Golden Knights sniper Alex Tuch was placed on IR on Tuesday, as well as, Forward Cody Eakin. Hopefully, the orange and black can take advantage of this Golden opportunity.

The Flyers hope to become a consistent hockey team this season. Getting off to a good start early in the season is a must for this young bunch. How are they going to do it? Well, getting better at things that have hindered them in the past. For instance, consistent Goaltending, having a solid penalty kill, and a balanced scoring lineup. Without further delay, here’s an opening night preview against a fast team in the Golden Knights.

 

The Elliott Factor
A 33 year-old, Elliott enters his second and final season as a Flyer, after signing a 2-year $5.5 million last off-season. He enters the season after having hip surgery in the off-season, while recovering from previous core muscle abdominal surgery that he had before the playoffs began. He had a pretty solid campaign for the Flyers in 2017-18, as Elliott was a runner up for team MVP at the halfway point of the season. However, a few months later he had Core Muscle surgery, and during the playoffs one could tell he was not himself. Elliott struggled to move post to post. It was apparent he came back to early from the Core Muscle surgery. He did however manage to still post a solid season as Elliott finished with a 23-11-7 record, a 2.66 GAA, and a .909 Save Percentage.

A healthy Elliott can really do wonders for this young club. Elliott had a rocky pre-season until the Boston Bruins game this past Saturday, where he stopped 26 of 27 shots. He looked like the old Elliott against the Bruins thankfully, as he was able to move post to post nicely. Moreover, Elliott stood on his head in the second period. Hopefully, this gives him the confidence he needs to have a successful start to the season against the Golden Knights.

Elliott has to keep an eye on a sniper in William Karlsson. Karlsson led the league in shooting percentage last season at a rate of 23.2%. He will shoot from anywhere, so Elliott has to be mindful of that. All eyes will be focused on #37, so paying attention to these lethal Golden Knights is a key early on for Elliott.

 

Penalty Kill
This is one area that the Flyers MUST clean up their act. The Flyers finished 29th in the league on the Penalty Kill last season, with a rate of 74.5%. This speedy Golden Knights team will eat the Flyers alive in this matchup if the Flyers are not successful in this crucial area of their Special Teams.

If teams within our division continue to improve their PK, shouldn’t the Flyers be trying to adopt a new style to their PK? Adopt the attack style already gosh darn it. When the Flyers go on the PK they become hard to watch. It makes it seem like they are sitting back eating bon-bons, while teams are creating opportunities in front of us. Simply put, this isn’t getting it done. Developing the attack style would make players have to think on the fly, thus creating more mistakes. Give the Golden Knights space to create, and this speedy team will razzle and dazzle like they never have before.

Utilizing young players such as Scott Laughton, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, and Mikhail Vorobyev should help transition the orange and black into a solid Penalty Killing core. These youngsters are Gritty, are threats to score a shorty, and are really solid Penalty Killers. Plus, this eases the wear and tear off vets, such as, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. “Yeah, we’ll see how it pans out, I have no idea, but we’ll see as it keeps going on here,” Konecny says, in regards to being a trusted Penalty Killer.

 

Balanced Scoring
Rolling four lines against a Golden Knights club is a major key to keeping them on their heals. The Flyers have to become less predictable, with only having two lines scoring on a nightly basis last season. If all four lines work cohesively as units, then there is no doubt they can beat this good team in the Golden Knights.

1.) Giroux, Couturier, Konecny

2.) Lindblom, Patrick, Voracek

3.) JVR, Vorobyev, Simmonds

4.) Laughton, Lehtera, Raffl

PP1- G, Coots, Voracek, Simmonds, Ghost

PP2- Misha, Patrick, JVR, Konecny, Provy

For once, all four lines seem pretty balanced. It’s unbelievable what one free agent signing in JVR could do. What once started out as an experiment with Giroux shifting to the left wing, who would have thought this move would become permanent? This shows the Flyers top brass that he is all in on the season. Giroux will do anything for the the orange and black to have another successful season.

Konecny, Patrick, and Vorobyev have all had good camps. Konecny has been all over the ice, and looks possessed at times. While Vorobyev has really opened some eyes throughout the pre-season, he can play the Penalty Kill, and Power Play, as well. He provides much needed depth on both sides of the ice. Vorobyev is committed to a two-way game, and that is a breath of fresh air as he does it well.

 

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Patrick is fresh off his first year in the NHL, and looks like a bolt of lightning. Points will soon begin to flourish for this young stud, so please don’t be alarmed from the lack of his name on the score sheet throughout the pre-season.

This could possibly be a solid fourth line for the Flyers. Raffl previously had a 20 goal season, while Laughton is out to show the top brass that he is a mainstay in the NHL. This line could wreak havoc for opponents. All in all these lines should work in unison with one another for a balanced well-oiled machine.

Both teams could effectively score in 2017-18. The Golden Knights averaged 3.26 goals per game, while the Flyers averaged 3.03 goals per game. Hopefully, the Flyers can pot one more with the addition of JVR, as he provides stability to the second Power Play unit.

The Flyers have to remain focused at the task at hand. They cannot get ahead of themselves and play into the Golden Knights system, or they will be doomed for failure against this West Coast powerhouse. Overall, the main key to beating this good Golden Knights club relies with the Goaltending, however Elliott appears to be up to the task at hand. Both teams can score effectively, so it really comes down to which Goaltender makes one more save. One thing is certain Flyers fans, the future is bright in Flyer land.

 

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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