The beginning to last season was a unique one for the Philadelphia Flyers. They began the season in Prague, facing the Chicago Blackhawks. Philly Sports Network’s own, Liam Jenkins, covered the first game of the Flyers season. Back at home base, I worked alongside 97.5 The Fanatic at Xfinity Live, presenting a watch party for Philadelphia fans. In attendance were Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell, who were guests during Jason Myrtetus’ pregame show.
Fans were buzzing as the Flyers were about to take the opening faceoff of 2019-2020. It set the tone for the rest of the regular season. Just under six and a half minutes into the first period, Travis Konecny scored the first goal of the season for Philadelphia. He tallied three points in the Flyers’ first victory of the season. Michael Raffl was responsible for the game-winning goal.
Konecny also led Philadelphia in total points during 2019-2020. Could his performance in Prague have been a telltale sign of things to come? Oskar Lindblom also contributed to the scoring sheet. Both players hoarded points while on the ice last season (Lindblom only played 30 games.) Are there signs from the previous season that indicate who may be the first to light the lamp in 2020-2021?
Lindblom and Konecny could be considered favorites. Both were able to convert shots to goals at a high rate last season. The difference between the two is shot totals. Konecny took nearly double the number of shots Lindblom did (141/72.) Both secured a shot conversion percentage of higher than 15%.
Scott Laughton makes a strong case too. He had the best conversion percentage of any Flyers player with more than 70 shots on goal. No wonder Alain Vigneault captured lightning in a bottle during the early stages of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs with Laughton.
Two more scorers in Philadelphia who have an opportunity to be the first to score a goal in 2020-2021 are Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk. Between the two, Hayes offers a larger chance because of his versatility to score in even strength and penalty kill situations. However, van Riemsdyk can turn into a streaky scorer at the drop of a hat. If you’re Philadelphia, you hope van Riemsdyk displays scoring ability through 2020-2021 as he did in 2019-2020, finishing one point shy of fifth in team scoring.
Strangely enough, I do not consider Sean Couturier or Claude Giroux to be the most likely of options to score the first goal of the season for the Flyers.
Last season, Giroux had a frustrating time scoring goals and while Couturier won the Frank J. Selke Trophy, he is not exactly a prolific scorer. At this stage, I would expect Giroux and Couturier to put more work into making plays and helping Philadelphia gain possession of the puck.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel proved he could be an efficient scorer, but he doesn’t shoot the puck too often. He totaled 48 shots on goal in 2019-2020 but secured a 14.6% conversion rate. Michael Raffl reflects the same kind of efficiency Aube-Kubel does. He picked up the productivity during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Raffl could make an impact in the first game of 2020-2021 as he did in Prague.
One more player who made some noise during the postseason was Joel Farabee. He scored at a higher rate than Jakub Voracek in 2019-2020. If Farabee or Voracek account for the first goal in 2020-2021, it could very well be a powerplay goal. Both of them brought life to an otherwise dead powerplay unit recently in the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
My pick: Who will light the lamp for the Flyers?
Can you imagine the feel-good story of Lindblom scoring the first goal of 2020-2021 for the Flyers? That would be the spark to light the inferno of Philadelphia next season. The Flyers were already flying high, and with so much positivity to build off, a Lindblom goal to start the season could boost a strong start to a short season.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre