BITTER BIRDS
The Flyers Have a Successful Opening Weekend
Finally, we have Philadelphia Flyers regular season hockey! The Flyers opened up their season with a west coast road trip against the Los Angeles Kings and the Arizona Coyotes. Picking up a regulation win in the first game against the Kings and an overtime loss against the Coyotes, the Flyers had a successful start to their road trip. This is shaping up to be the most interesting Flyers season in recent memory. Young guns Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov have both made immediate impacts on the team with Konecny having three primary assists over the weekend and Provorov with one. The Flyers won their season opener for the first time in five years, 4-2, against the Los Angeles Kings. The line comprised of Konecny, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek was the best one of the night for the Flyers. The top line with Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl was shut down by Selke Trophy Candidate Anze Kopitar. Couturier scored two goals, both assisted by Konecny, the second of which was a phenomenal set up by for a one-time goal of Jeff Zatkoff. The Flyers started goalie Michal Neuvirth while the Kings started Zatkoff, in lieu of the injured Jonathan Quick. The Flyers caught a break with Quick being injured for the next few months and getting to play against the Kings backup Zatkoff, who is a NHL journeyman goalie. Neuvirth had a phenomenal night against an always great Kings team allowing the Flyers to pile on four goals in the second period. Drew Doughty blasted a screamer from the point at the end of the second period and the Kings piled on another goal in the third period, but were unable to catch up before the buzzer ended the contest. The second half of the back-to-back came against the Coyotes. The Flyers started Steve Mason, but that was the only lineup change. Unfortunately, this game did not go as planned for Philly. The game started with two back-to-back bench minor penalties for too many men on the ice, and while the Coyotes did not score on either of these opportunities, it put the Flyers behind the eight ball to start the game. Nick Cousins then took a high-sticking penalty and the Coyotes finally capitalized on the power play and Shane Doan scored a questionable at best goal against Mason. There seemed to be some goaltender interference that Dave Hakstol challenged, but the referees did not reverse the call and the Flyers issues with the referees did not end there. Raffl then scored a phenomenal tip-in goal on a shot from Nick Schultz. Shortly after Mason let in a softy of a goal from Martin Hanzal and then the Coyotes scored right after the beginning on the second period shorthanded. Things were not looking good for the Flyers, but Simmonds lit the lamp after a spectacular deke and shot from the captain Giroux. In the third period, Matt Read had a phenomenal deke around Mike Smith to tie the game and eventually send it to overtime. In the extra session, the Flyers troubles with the refs resurfaced. The Flyers were controlling the entire beginning of the overtime period, but gave up a rush to the Coyotes. Once in the Flyers zone, Voracek became entangled with Hanzal and he ripped Voracek’s stick out of his hand right in front of a referee, which was not called. This no call led to Giroux taking a hooking penalty and on the delayed call, Oliver Ekman Larsson slid one right past Mason to end the game 4-3. After the game was over, Voracek was awarded an additional 22 penalty minutes, he received a game misconduct, unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10 minute misconduct. He was obviously living with the no call and rightfully so because instead of giving the Flyers a power play, it led to the game-winning goal for the Coyotes. It was a tough overtime loss for the Flyers, but they cannot dwell on the past because they will be facing the Chicago Blackhawks away this week, which is always a tough test and then open up the season at home against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. My Take: It seems like bad refereeing is taking its toll on Philadelphia sports teams pretty often these days. First the Eagles and now the Flyers. The Flyers had all of the momentum in the overtime against the Coyotes and the no call against Hanzal took that away from the Flyers because they ended up having to play four against two because Voracek was without a stick. That no call directly led to the Coyotes game winning goal instead of a deserved power play. The Flyers could easily have started the season 2-0 but instead get three points out of the weekend. The best part about this weekend is that Konecny and Provorov look like they belong, Konecny is leading the team with three points and Provorov through two games has one assist and is close to leading the team in playing time. It is a good time to be a Flyers fan.