These first few games for the Flyers in October are going to involve a lot of introductions to new faces. A few of them made their presence felt in the first win of the season on Monday night.
After spending more of the first six minutes in their own zone, a few key saves turned the momentum. Once the Flyers got going on the scoreboard, they were off and running. Three goals in the first, two more in the second, and one more to cap off the third helped propel the Flyers to a 6-1 win against the Seattle Kraken.
But it was more than just the contributions from new faces and plenty of familiar ones on the scoresheet. It was another early indication that this team is already tight with each other and willing to go to battle and defend each other.
Here are five takeaways from Monday’s win.
1. Hart’s Spectacular Stop Sets the Tone
With the way Carter Hart’s second period went against Vancouver on Friday, there were certainly some skeptics out there regarding his possible turnaround this season. One game will certainly not define the entire year one way or the other, so you can take Monday’s game as a whole in the same way you did Friday’s game until there’s a noticeable pattern.
However, Monday’s result likely doesn’t happen if not for the way Carter Hart played in the first period. The Flyers rolled through their four lines the first time with some mostly positive results. There wasn’t much being generated yet in terms of shots, but there was good energy once again. Then things started to shift Seattle’s way.
Joonas Donskoi got a breakaway. Hart stopped it. Ryan Donato got inside positioning and a clean path to the net just a few minutes later. Morgan Geekie set him up and the shot was fought off by Hart with his shoulder.
Then came the biggest save of them all. A point shot by Adam Larsson was stopped by Hart, but left a big rebound for Jaden Schwartz. Schwartz made the backdoor pass to Jordan Eberle at the side of the net, and as Eberle transitioned to his backhand, Hart dove across the crease and was able to rob the chance with his glove.
All three of those chances could have just as easily been goals. The Flyers could have been looking at a two or three-goal deficit less than 10 minutes into the game. Instead, their goaltender was the best player on the ice when he was needed most, because those saves, particularly the last one, turned the momentum back in the Flyers favor.
2. Top Line Sparks Scoring
It didn’t take long after the Flyers got that massive save by Hart for the offense to kick in and get rolling. Right at the forefront was the top line, specifically Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny.
The final two goal scorers of Friday’s opener that helped get the game tied in the final three minutes of the third happened to be the first two on the board on Monday in reverse order.
Giroux opened the scoring with a scorching one-timer, set up by Konecny. Less than three minutes later, Konecny took a deft feed from Keith Yandle and fired a shot that left a rebound. He got to it himself to score his second goal of the season.
Specifically, Konecny’s play in the first two games has shown a player with renewed confidence. There was a sense of relief in Konecny’s celebration after his first goal on Friday. The play he made to score on Monday was one from the player that announced his presence as a scorer in the 2019-20 season. Konecny stays with the play the entire time, gets to the puck ahead of the defender and puts home the rebound.
Following his set-up on Giroux’s one-timer to open the scoring, it was a clear statement from the Flyers top line that they were going to be in position to bury multiple opportunities.
3. Second Line Buzz
After the top line got things going, the second line of Joel Farabee, Derick Brassard and Cam Atkinson really stole the show.
First, Brassard scored his first goal as a Flyer with some help from the skate of Carson Soucy. An angle shot banked in off the Seattle defender, giving the Flyers a 3-0 lead in the first. Brassard also had the primary assist on Ryan Ellis’ first goal as a Flyer. After Farabee won a board battle, Brassard essentially made a blind pass to the front where Ellis was wide open.
In the third, for good measure, all three got in on what would be Farabee’s second goal of the season. Brassard got the puck ahead to Atkinson, who simply put a shot on net. The rebound shot right out to Farabee and he didn’t miss, going upstairs to make it 6-1.
Outside of the scoring, this line has always shown signs of clicking basically from the start of training camp. Atkinson and Brassard already have great chemistry. Farabee’s motor never stops either. It’s a trio that’s been very difficult to play against so far this season, because they have been able to generate quite a few chances and capitalize on several, now that Farabee has struck for a pair of goals and both Atkinson and Brassard each have their first as well.
4. Rough Stuff
This wasn’t really much of an aspect of the game throughout the first period and through the first few minutes of the second, but after the Flyers took the 5-0 lead, it really started to boil over.
It started right off the face-off after Justin Braun’s goal. Claude Giroux and Nathan Bastian start a scrum and everyone joins in. That simply sent the two players to the box for two minutes, but the fire was ignited. A cross-checking penalty by Nicolas Aube-Kubel produced another scrum, this time at two different spots on the ice.
That led to 6’2” Nick Seeler stepping in to drop the gloves with 6’7” Jamie Oleksiak. The size difference showed and Oleksiak was really able to start throwing once he got his hand free, but it was Seeler’s reaction after that really fired up the building.
Then at the midpoint of the third, more physical stuff. With Bastian back on the ice, Nate Thompson took matters into his hands and started hammering Bastian. And it was all in a response to defend their captain.
That is a carryover from the preseason. It’s been very clear that the Flyers are not going to get pushed around and will do what it takes to stand up for a teammate.
“Any team that has success in this league has got that 'I’ve got your back’ mentality, and there’s no doubt that everyone had their back, from Seels doing what he had to do, to Tommer,” Alain Vigneault said. “I mean that’s a tight knit group and that’s what you need to have to have success.”
"There’s still some improvement that we can do. We're going to face some really good teams coming up, but when teams are coming here in Philly we want to make sure they know it’s going be a hard game and tonight was a great answer by Seeler and Thompson," Brassard said. "There’s a lot of emotion around the building and it was a good hockey game and I’m looking forward to playing better against two good teams coming up.
"Like I said I think guys stepped up and a guy went after our captain and we answered the bell so I think it was a really good team win tonight."
"We just want each other's back," Giroux said. "There's five guys on the ice. Whatever happens, we stick together, and that's basically the message."
5. Sign of Potential
Up until the closing moments of Friday’s game, the 4-2 margin against Vancouver warranted the reminder that it is only one game and there were a lot of new faces on the team. A 6-1 victory in the early going is deserving of the same reminder. It is only one game.
That said, the potential of what this team could be has now been placed on the table. Six different goal scorers – two defensemen among them – showed that you can get scoring distribution from around the lineup. Defensively, you saw much better structure. The penalty kill was pressuring the opposition more, perhaps a sign that they are capable of making adjustments and performing at a better rate. And Hart’s performance in goal showed that he can deliver that result that you want to see.
So the potential is there. This is the team that can easily compete for a playoff spot and potentially make a run. It’s how often they are on display that will determine that. And what better way to see where this team is at this early in the season than with two challenging Atlantic Division opponents later this week?