After six games and almost 14,000 miles of travel, the Flyers returned to Philadelphia for what seems like a long, by comparison, two-game homestand.
The Orange and Black, by far, had the toughest schedule to begin the year, wrapping up their preseason with the NHL’s Global Series Challenge against Lausanne HC out in Switzerland, then beginning the regular season against the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague a few days later. They returned to the Wells Fargo Center only for their home opener against the Devils, then no sooner left for a three-game road trip in Western Canada that included back-to-back games.
There’s been a fair share of ups and downs already, so here’s a quick rundown of it all with every mile logged along the way....
In their preseason finale, and a showcase between the NHL and the Swiss National League, the Flyers were slow out of the gate and left playing catch up the rest of the way (a familiar sight for anyone who has watched this team in the last few years).
Carter Hart, after a near perfect preseason in goal, was pulled for Brian Elliott when the Flyers fell behind, 4-0, early in the second period. His teammates in front of him, meanwhile, seemed to have had a hard time adjusting to a larger international rink.
Goals from Claude Giroux, Connor Bunnaman and Sean Couturier brought the Flyers back to within one over the course of the last two periods, but they ran out of time trying to get the equalizer.
Yes, it was still only preseason. And yes, this game won’t matter much at all in the grand scheme of things. But boy did it leave a bad taste with the season opener on deck.
Jake Voracek was the hometown hero, but Travis Konecny stole the show.
Konecny scored twice, and Oskar Lindblom and Michael Raffl each had goals of their own to keep the Flyers ahead of the Blackhawks, getting the regular season started on the right foot.
Making the six-year, $33 million extension he signed in training camp look well worth it early, Konecny jumped a pass at the offensive blue line and snapped a shot over the glove of Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford to give the Flyers a quick 1-0 lead in the first period. Then, at 4-on-4 with time winding down in the second, Konecny received the puck on the rush and carried it into the zone, dragged it around the stick of defenseman Duncan Keith and on to the backhand, then launched a shot up over Crawford’s glove again.
Finally home, if only for a night, the Flyers had everything go right for them against a Devils team who, including in their first two games before, had just about everything going wrong.
Ivan Provorov, Kevin Hayes, and Sean Couturier each scored their first of the season, and Travis Konecny carried his momentum over from Prague and scored his third of the year.
The penalty kill came up big, holding the Devils to 0-for-5 on the power play. And Carter Hart notched his first career shutout. The 21-year old goaltender made 25 saves, the biggest being an absolute robbery of the Devils’ Taylor Hall on a one-timer at 5-on-3.
The clip of Hart sliding across the crease to stop the puck with his outstretched glove will be on highlight reels for years to come.
Also, Wayne Simmonds returned. He was cheered at first for everything he did for the Flyers. Then he was booed because he wears another team’s jersey now. (He did ask for that after all).
The first stop on the Western Canadian road trip and the home-stretch of the daunting travel schedule. Carsen Twarynski scored his first NHL goal and Oskar Lindblom, after a deflection from Tanner Pearson put the Canucks up, 2-1, in the second, converted on a cross-ice feed from Travis Konecny to tie the game up with just over five minutes left in regulation.
The Flyers survived an overtime period that had the Canucks at a 4-on-3 advantage with all of their young stars in Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes on the ice at once, but lost in the shootout.
Jake Voracek, with no points through the first four games, was demoted from the top to the fourth line.
The Flyers came out slow and never recovered. Michael Frolik gave the Flames a 1-0 lead two minutes in, Andrew Mangiapane made it a 2-0 game in the second, and Elias Lindholm potted the empty-netter in the dying seconds of the third.
Brian Elliott got the start to begin the back-to-back,while David Rittich had an answer for everything the Flyers threw at him at the opposite end of the ice, with the exception of Matt Niskanen’s third period blast from the slot.
Carter Hart was back in goal for a start in front of his hometown crowd. It didn’t go anywhere near as planned. He was chased from the net with 5:28 left in the second and the Flyers down, 4-1. Some tough lessons were learned, as Ed Barkowitz wrote.
Jake Voracek finally broke through with two goals, and the Flyers piled on shots -- outshooting the Oilers, 52-22 -- but that was canceled out by Connor McDavid being a human cheat code (he had a goal and four assists) and that Leon Draisaitl guy with him being pretty good, too (he scored twice).
The Flyers were heading home back at .500.
Saturday night’s return home started off promising when Sean Couturier scored on a wide-open net thanks to a set up from Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny within the game’s opening minute. But the offense stalled out after and the Flyers dropped their fourth straight, this time against a Stars team that was struggling to produce themselves at 1-7-1.
Dallas’ Roope Hintz tied the game at one, then Esa Lindell redirected a shot on the power play with just over six minutes left in the first to give the Stars the lead. Dallas had only five shots across the second and third period, but Corey Perry’s backhander at the start of the third and Miro Heiskanen’s empty-netter at the end of it were enough to put the game away.
Stars goaltender Ben Bishop, meanwhile, stood tall, stopping every shot after Couturier’s opening mark (38-of-39).
RECORD: 2-3-1 (5 points)
TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED: 13,577 MILES
COUNTRIES STOPPED IN: 3 (4 including Switzerland for preseason finale)
SOURCE: Google Maps