Takeaways from the Flyers’ 5-3 victory Wednesday night at San Jose in their season opener.
1. While Steve Mason was pulled in Winnipeg after allowing five goals on 20 shots in a 7-2 loss to Toronto, his replacement was doing all he could to steal two points on the road in San Jose. It wasn’t just some of the 32 saves that 32-year-old Brian Elliott made. It was the timing of a few of them, holding onto hard-fought leads and keeping the game tied. Goalie stats can sometimes lie. Last night, they didn’t.
2. The Flyers’ power play was 3 for its first 4, and both units scored. Remember how worried we were about it in the preseason? Silly us.
3. Wayne Simmonds, you are the man. For Game 1, anyway. Simmonds’ hat trick was a thing of beauty for the muckers and grinders of this world. One leaping deflection, one off his stick while he switched from one side of the net to the other, an empty-netter after some spirited work to free the puck from his own zone. If a few of his other plays had been converted – stealing the puck from 2017 Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to set up Couturier alone, converting a pass from Shayne Gostisbehere on the doorstep – the night would have been even more gaudy.
4. Simmonds’ hat trick was the first time in Flyers history that a player notched three goals in the team’s first game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
5. Speaking of Ghost: He looked like his old self last night, skating quickly, passing accurately, elusive along the blueline, collecting three assists in a variety of ways. He still struggled with the puck battles down low, but overall, a nice start for him.
6. Ivan Provorov: 25 minutes, 35 seconds, including nearly six minutes on the penalty kill. This was almost five minutes more than the next closest Flyer, defensive mate Andrew MacDonald. At 20, Provorov is also the youngest defenseman of the six who played last night. Which only adds to the intrigue over why the Flyers chose not to suit up one of two rookie defensemen, Samuel Morin and Travis Sanheim, last night. Rookie Robert Hagg did not stand out last night, but that’s a good thing, right? Both Morin and Sanheim played the preseason with the discipline of veterans. Wasn’t that the idea behind leaving them in the AHL all season, even amid the defensive liabilities that doomed last season? Shrug.
7. Oh yeah, the kid was … all right. In his NHL and professional debut, Nolan Patrick played 13:30, got off three shots and won 5 of 9 faceoffs. Until the third period, when the 19-year-old made a nice pass to Jake Voracek amid a line change and later got off a wide wrist shot, he was mostly invisible, and often a step or two off the play. Chalk it up to rookie jitters.
8. A good start, too, for Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier, whose penalty killing frustrated the Sharks’ power play throughout the night. The Sharks spent most of their man-advantage time looking horribly out of sync, and those two had something to do with that.
9. The thisclose offensive skills of Sean Couturier continue. After Couturier was added to the first line with Claude Giroux and Voracek, he contended that he was a better offensive player than the stats might indicate. Certainly, his role over the years as a shutdown defensive player lends credence to this, but the plain fact is that Coots had a few golden chances to prove his point last night, including a set-up alone in front of San Jose goalie Martin Jones in which he was afforded the kind of moves usually available only in shootouts. In all, Coots registered six shots on goal, twice more than any other Flyer, and had an assist. Oh well, there are 81 more games to prove his point, and the bottom line was that he and that line played last night – all finished with plus games.
10. The bad: The Flyers coughed up a 2-0 lead late in the first period with sloppy play and surrendered a 3-2 edge in the third. After outshooting San Jose early, 6-5, they were dominated over a long stretch from the second half of the first period until midway through the second, getting outshot by 11-3 over one stretch.