A Devil of a Time

This is the first in our weekly recap columns, which will run each Friday.

Results this week: Bruins 2, Flyers 1; Devils 6, Flyers 4

Current record: 0-2-0, 0 points

Record at this point last year: 0-2-0, 0 points

Upcoming schedule: Oct 11 vs Montreal, Oct 14 vs Anaheim

The Bruins game went about as expected: arguably the best team in the conference on their home ice on opening night doing what you’d expect them to do. They dominated stretches of play, Patrice Bergeron took Giroux out of the game, and Tuuka Rask didn’t have to work all that hard. It was a game that illustrated the advantage last change provides if used correctly; watching Bergeron work was like watching Couturier erase Geno Malkin during a Pens game in Philly. In the end, the Bruins got a fortunate bounce and potted it, and that was that, a 2-1 loss that probably wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

It wasn’t all bad: Mason looked great again, Bellemare opened some eyes around the nation (more on that in a little bit) and I thought Del Zotto acquitted himself well. Couturier, who’s been charged with generating more offense this year and is now centering the second line, scored the lone goal. The fourth line had some good shifts. Unfortunately, the same old problems sprung up; Coburn egregiously blew a coverage on a penalty kill which led directly to the first Boston goal, Rinaldo took two penalties and drew one, and the Flyers in general seemed disjointed, struggling to manufacture chances and not taking advantage of chances when they did come.

We found out before the Devils game that Braydon Coburn would be out with a lower body injury that was NOT day-to-day. He was introduced on crutches and it doesn’t look like he’ll be playing any time soon. As for the Devils game… well, they went down 3-0 only to tie it with three goals late in the second period with a goal from Giroux and two from Simmonds in less than a minute to virtually close the period. Then they gave up the fourth goal, got the fourth goal right back, then noted Flyer killer Dainius Zubrus beat Mason cleanly (the only goal of the night for which Mason was at fault) and that about did it.

Other observations:

-Repeated defensive breakdowns led to easy goals for the Devils. One of the four goals Mason allowed was his fault.

-Luke Schenn was atrocious; he was on the ice for every non-empty net goal and showed more of the “can’t decide whether to block this shot or get out of the way to let Mason see it” indecisiveness that drove us crazy last year. He was paired with Michael Del Zotto which should probably never happen again.

-Other than his goal, Vinny Lecavalier had some brutal moments (like a turnover in his own zone that led directly to a Devils goal). The Flyers in general are very poor at clearing their own zone right now and need to take care of the puck better.
-Nick Schultz is not the long-term answer for the sixth defensemen. Call up Manning or Alt and let them get some burn. We know this is a rebuilding year but we shouldn’t throw it away entirely.

-Our defense corps in general look like a bunch of guys who haven’t played together a whole lot, which is partly true. They can only get better because I can’t imagine them being much worse right now.

-The Flyers have trouble entering the zone on the power play. If they get set up, it seems like they’ve spent over half the power play getting that way. That’s not going to win them any games.

-Read and Couturier on the penalty kill are still money, though.

-The more I watch Bellemare, the more I think we’ve uncovered a hidden gem. Fans from other teams were messaging me on Twitter and asking me “who IS this guy?”. It reminded me of a couple years ago when Matt Read was scoring on the Pens in the 2012 playoffs and the guys from Pensblog were like “we didn’t even know he (Matt Read) was a person until now”. He’s fast, he looked strong on the puck, and he’s got good hands. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him on the Giroux line; Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl don’t look like the answer there, at least not yet.

-Props to the Flyers for using the Winter Classic jerseys as their third jersey. That’s miles better than that metallic logo monstrosity they used from 2002 to 2007 on their alternate jerseys. The only other acceptable options than the Winter Classic jersey (to me) would have been the darker orange of the 70s jerseys or the black jerseys they used in the early 2000s in which they had success.

-The new goal song is Booyah by Showtek, and according to the Flyers Twitter account, Giroux picked it out.

-Chris Pronger working for NHL player safety? I like it. The man is uncompromising and knows every trick in the book. It’s sounding like the NHL is handling the Flyers salary cap situation in regards to this fairly too; the Flyers will continue to pay Pronger as per his contract, but he will be able to remain on long-term injured reserve and not be forced to retire, where his salary would count against the Flyers cap instead of giving the Flyers cap relief.

-Everyone just calm down. It’s two games. TWO. And we all knew we might get worse before we get better. Just have patience and faith in the plan.

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

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