Two days ago it was 90 degrees, and it felt more like July 2 than October 2.
Back on July 2, we were perplexed about the Flyers. What exactly was their offseason plan? Overpaying for Kevin Hayes? Trading for marginal-at-best defensive upgrades in Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun?
Fast forward three months and after a less-than-inspiring training camp that culminated with a loss to a Swiss League team, albeit in an exhibition game, the season was slated to open and new Flyers coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t happy with his team.
The lines he tried in preseason? They were changing. The defensive pairings? Yeah, they were changing too.
Couple that with the tumult of not being able to have more than 20 players on the opening day roster because of some unfortunate management of the salary cap, and well, the feeling was that there was going be more of the same-old, same-old that we had seen from the Flyers in the past seven years.
But then something happened. The winds of change rolled in. The temperature dropped nearly 30 degrees. It felt like hockey weather for sure. And with that feeling, came a Friday afternoon season opener as the Flyers took on the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague as part of the NHL’s Global Series, the annual sojourn for games elsewhere in the world besides North America.
And wouldn’t you know it, the Flyers changed, too.
They played a very solid brand of hockey, dominated the possession for much of the game, and came away with a well-played 4-3 victory over the Blackhawks to win their opener for the fourth straight season.
Of course, the last three seasons didn’t inspire much in the way of positive hockey after those previous opening wins, but there were some things that were shown in this game against Chicago that might give you the inkling that this time could be different.
After all, it’s crucial for the Flyers to get off to at least a decent start this season. Anything less will leave fans apathetic. With a lot of buzz around both the Eagles and Sixers as potential championship contenders this season, the Flyers could quickly slip into the realm of irrelevancy if they don’t start well.
Which is why they should be happy about what happened Friday in Prague.
Travis Konecny scored two goals. He was great. We’ll get to him. Oskar Lindblom had a power play goal – on the second PP unit – something that never happened last season (OK… “never” is a little misleading, but without looking it up, if the second power play unit scored seven goals last year, that would have been a lot) and Michael Raffl’s insurance goal proved to be the game-winner, but on the list of things that impressed me most, those are further down the rankings.
Six things I saw that I think will be more indicative of the Flyers’ play moving forward, rather than just the guys who got on the scoresheet after the jump: