October 12, 2023
The Flyers' "New Era of Orange" – as they've dubbed their rebuild – got underway in Columbus Thursday night, and the process at least is beginning with a win, 4-2, over the Blue Jackets.
Here are five thoughts from the opener...
• The sequence that led to the first goal of the night, and of the Flyers' season, started with a strong defensive play from 23-year old Egor Zamula. With Zach Werenski trying to carry the puck into the Flyers' zone, Zamula made a sweep for it at the blue line that connected perfectly and knocked the puck back to where a Joel Farabee in stride could pick it up in transition. He and Sean Couturier rushed in toward the Columbus net on the 2-on-0, made a couple of passes back and forth, and then Farabee buried it to give the Flyers an early 1-0 lead.
The play was a promising early sign for Zamula, who is one of the Flyers' younger – and at 6'3", rangier – defensemen, and for the past couple of years, maybe the biggest project of all of them.
And it was a promising sign too for Couturier, who after a year and a half of not playing due to lingering back issues, notched an assist in his first game back and generally held up pretty well throughout.
Ditto for Farabee, who finally had a full offseason to get healthy and stronger, and notched that first tally of hopefully many more.
• Travis Sanheim, after a forgettable first year under head coach John Tortorella and a summer where his name flew around in trade rumors but never materialized into anything, was another name – granted, of the many – in need of a bounce back. And in Game 1 on the top defensive pairing right of Cam York, so far, so good.
The 27-year old blue-liner looked a lot more comfortable and confident in his game on Thursday night, helping to pin the puck in the offensive zone while finding the opportunities to sneak further down low to try and generate a chance.
Through two periods Thursday night, Sanheim had a leading 17:59 in ice time and helped keep Columbus pretty quiet whenever he was out there.
Outside of a high-sticking penalty early in the third period, he was arguably the Flyers' best defenseman out of the gate.
• Ivan Provrov made his Blue Jackets debut against his former team following the trade out of Philadelphia in the summer, and had a few things to say about what went wrong with the Flyers ahead of it:
Ivan Provorov said a few interesting things about his time in Philadelphia this morning after Columbus went through its morning skate: pic.twitter.com/7dhQfD94QL— Jeff Neiburg (@Jeff_Neiburg) October 12, 2023
He's got a point about the overall dissatisfaction about the past three years, but the idea that the style of play implemented, which really would've been in flux during that span across three different coaches, making him worse – look, the system probably wasn't the reason he started playing like he was always on an island after Matt Niskanen retired. The system wasn't why he started giving the puck away constantly, and sometimes egregiously, over the past couple of years. And the system now definitely wasn't responsible for Scott Laughton sending him skidding across the ice on the quick stop and pass that led straight to Travis Konecny's goal.
• Speaking of, Konecny's quick switch into the transition and then pass through the neutral zone to Laughton was a great heads-up reaction to a complete flub of a drop pass by Columbus sniper Patrik Laine in the Flyers' zone. Seriously, there was just no one home for that pass, and the Flyers fully capitalized.
Excellent move and patience with the puck by Laughton after to shake Provorov and allow Konecny to skate back into the play, and an even better shot by Konecny to the far side past Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins with his stick in tight and the puck still rolling. It ended up being the deciding goal.
• Outside of Jake Bean's goal for Columbus in the first, scored off a rebound that bounced to him with no one in orange there to cover, for the most part, I was actually pretty satisfied with how the Flyers held up. Bobby Brink skated like there was no tomorrow in his debut; Couturier relied on his smart positioning to get him by and it mostly did; the third line of Konecny, Laughton, and Noah Cates were a forechecking machine; and the bottom PHD line (Ryan Poehling, Garnet Hathaway, and Nic Deslauriers) gave the Blue Jackets little.
It got a bit sloppy, and chippy, with penalties toward the end as Columbus tried to press for the tie, but the Flyers held it together, and fittingly, Cam Atkinson potted the empty-netter – though with some extra clock-killing effort required and one more buzzer-beater empty-netter from Konecny after Laine still managed to score in the final seconds.
Hey, a win's a win. In a process like the one the Flyers are undertaking, take them as they come.
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