Finallllly hockey is back home in South Philadelphia. The proud orange clad fans can’t wait to see their beloved Flyers take the ice in their home opener, in a West Coast Showdown against the San Jose Sharks. Both teams split their season series last year, but the good thing is the Flyers are 28-16-6 all-time in home openers. Hopefully, the orange and black can take advantage of this Golden opportunity.
The Flyers are hoping 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. Unfortunately, they will be faced with some early adversity, as a prized free agent signing in James Van Riemsdyk will be sidelined 5-6 weeks with a lower body injury. An injury that he sustained against the Colorado Avalanche this past Saturday, so a reunion for Flyers fans and Van Riemsdyk will have to put on hold. Without further delay, here’s a home opener preview against this West Coast powerhouse in the Sharks.
Rolling four lines against the Sharks 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 Sharks team.
1.) Giroux, Couturier, Voracek
2.) Lindblom, Patrick, Konecny
3.) Weal, Vorobyev, Simmonds
4.) Laughton, Lehtera, Raffl
PP1- G, Coots, Voracek, Simmonds, Ghost
PP2- Misha, Patrick, Lindblom, Konecny, Provy
All four lines seem pretty well balanced at least on paper. However, the top 6 have to get it going, it’s a must for the Flyers to have success. Yes, Hakstol panicked and switched the lines against the Avalanche this past Saturday, searching for any type of spark. However, the orange and black cannot rely on their bottom 6 to bail them out every night, especially against a talented club in the Sharks.
Konecny and Patrick have to get it going. Konecny had a great camp, but hasn’t found the success that he had last season YET. Now of course it’s early in the season so there’s no cause for panic, but the Flyers will need him to beat this powerhouse in the Sharks. While Patrick is young, he too will hopefully find some chemistry with his new linemate Konecny. Patrick is blazing fast, and so is Konecny. This trio in Lindblom, Patrick, and Konecny should work well together, and they should be able to jump start their seasons.
Gudas returns to the lineup after a one game hiatus, in which Christian Folin was just awful. Provorov and Ghost have been just ok to start the season. Ghost has had a few turnovers at times, and Provorov has been ok. Nothing to write home about for both. Sanheim has had a strong start to the season, and really bailed out Folin at times this past Saturday against the Avalanche. However, Sanheim was really good on opening night against the Golden Knights. Let’s hope Sanheim continues to rock and roll against the Sharks, as he tries to become more trusting for Hakstol to use in critical situations.
Hagg has just been terrific to start to the season. He has a goal, an assist, a plus 1 rating, 8 hits, 1 takeaway, and a whopping 0 giveaways on this short season thus far. Hagg has really opened some eyes here, after his dreadful pre-season. MacDonald has had a few turnovers at critical times, and has been seen sprawling on the ice at times for some reason. Overall, he’s been so-so to start the season, so hopefully he steps his game up here against the Sharks.
If it wasn’t for Brian Elliott on Saturday against the Avalanche, then the score could have been a lot worse. He’s off to a great start even though his numbers don’t indicate it, as he could benefit from some help Defensively. Elliott has a 3.03 GAA, and a .898 Save Percentage in the early going, so the Defense needs to step up in a big way against a highly talented Sharks bunch for the Flyers to have a shot at winning this matchup.
As stated earlier, Philadelphia’s prized free agent signing in JVR will miss 5-6 weeks due to a lower body injury. This means that Weal gets his shot impress, and this may be one of his last shots to do so. Nothing is guaranteed in sports, so you have to make the most of every opportunity when you get it. Weal had a good camp, but didn’t push play like the Flyers hoped he would in the pre-season. Fortunately, Weal is young and has been in this situation before, so the Flyers hope he has learned from this.
“Whatever I can do to help the team night in and night out,” Weal stated to me in an interview during Training Camp on his thoughts of playing the Wing. “I’d go to another area if need be, and the second half of last year that’s what every one was doing.”
With the Sharks and the Flyers nearly even in goals for early in the season (7 for Flyers- and 5 for Sharks). Weal has an opportunity to put the Flyers over the top in this one. He will have to be effective from the start as the Sharks have three beasts on the Defensive side of the puck in Brett Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Erik Karlsson.
The Flyers have to remain focused at the task at hand. They cannot get ahead of themselves for a Wednesday night matchup agaist the Ottawa Senators, and play into the Sharks system, or they will be doomed for failure against this West Coast powerhouse. Overall, the main key to beating this good Sharks club relies heavily with playing sound Defense, limiting turnovers, and solid Goaltending. The Sharks are an Offensively talented team, so the Flyers can ill afford to give the Sharks second chances with turnovers. One thing is certain Flyers fans, the future is bright in Flyer land.
Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports