By Justin Goodhart
On Wednesday night the 2021 NHL season kicked off with the first game being between maybe the greatest rivalry in the sport with the Pittsburgh Penguins visiting the Philadelphia Flyers. A back and forth exciting game that saw the Flyers double up the Penguins 6-3 in an exciting fashion. Let’s dive in to 10 observations seen throughout the game
1-The Penguins might’ve chosen the wrong goalie
The feeling among Penguins fans and ownership was that Tristan Jarry was one of the few bright spots from their disappointing qualifying round loss to the Montreal Canadiens. This resulted in Jim Rutherford, the Penguins general manager, sending Stanley Cup winning goalie Matt Murray to the Ottawa Senators, making Jarry the number one netminder.
Allowing six goals on 25 shots isn’t exactly the way to show your boss that he made the right call. Whether it was deflections, rebounds or just getting the puck stuffed; Jarry was not on his game. The calls for his head would be premature but consider this writer, who already didn’t like the move to choose him over Murray, concerned.
2-Carter Hart shakes off rust
When you think of Hart’s performance tonight, what’ll stick out to mind is his blunder while the Flyers were short handed allowing Sidney Crosby to tie the game at two in the second period. Outside of that, did anything stick out about Hart? I certainly thought he had his typical positioning down. The only goal I thought he should want back was the Tanev goal that knotted the game up at three. The first goal was kind of a defensive breakdown where Jake Voracek and Ivan Provorov just forgot about Mark Janikowski. The second goal is just not going to be a norm… you won’t see that every day. All in all, solid performance from Hart with room to improve.
3-Welcome to Philadelphia Erik Gustafsson
About 6 years ago in the playoffs Erik Gustafsson scored in game 6 to put the Flyers up 3-0 against the New York Rangers… but that wasn’t this Erik Gustafsson. This Erik who had a career year just two years ago with the Chicago Blackhawks flashed the offensive capabilities that once made him a rising star in the NHL. Much like a certain other defensemen in Philly, Gustafsson showed Philly tonight you have to take the good with the bad with him. The good tonight was two assists.
4-The Killer Bee-zer
Joel Farabee probably won’t have 4 points per night, but being on a 224 point pace is not too shabby to start the season. Farabee didn’t look startled by the aggressive Penguins, he actually used it against them and was key in the Flyers powerplay. Could be a huge season for the sophomore.
5-4th Line Holds Their Own Against Crosby Line
Some fans might’ve wondered why Scott Laughton, Nicholas Aube-Kubel and Michael Raffl were assigned the task of dealing with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. This is because Alain Vigneault knows how deep his team is, he knows just how well rounded the Flyers are. The fact that the 4th line was able to do this helped jump start lines one and two for Philadelphia.
6-Phil Myers is elite
Lost in this whole game is the defensive performance of Phil Myers. Locking down guys like Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Brian Tanev was just impressive. His 8.08 CF% Relative backed up what I thought I was seeing. In his second full year, Myers is continuing to show growth and poise as he and Sanheim solidify maybe the best second D pairing in hockey.
7-Crosby Is Greatness
At this stage of Crosby’s career I watch him with a certaine awe. Gone are the days of when I thought all he did was complain and act out. We are watching an artist practice his craft. When you’re battling for a puck in the corner and Sidney Crosby is there, you already know you’ve lost. The man is in his 16th season now and tonight he showed the same elite talent that made him the best hockey player to come out of the 2000s and certainly the best hockey player I have ever watched growing up. Seeing him eight times this year will cause Flyers fans a massive migraine, the bright side is the same can be said for the remainder of the six fan bases that will also have to deal with him.
8-Fix the ice
For a home opener in a cold arena with the outside temperatures in the 30s, the ice sure was choppy tonight. Fix that guys, I didn’t enjoy seeing Ivan Provorov spend 10 years trying to settle a rolling puck.
9-Power Play finally a strength?
Throughout the playoffs the Flyers power play showed as much power as the world’s first light bulb would if you tried plugging it into your desk lamp today. Tonight was an entirely different story as the Flyers went 66.7% on the man advantage, not sustainable but a great sign moving forward.
10-Changing of the Guard
Maybe you didn’t think it… but I thought about how the Flyers in recent years would have crumbled to this Penguins team. I thought about Game 6 in 2018 when the Flyers blew a 4-2 lead to the Penguins and lost the series in embarrassing fashion. I thought about how last year the Flyers lost two of three to Pittsburgh, I even thought about how the Penguins for the last several years have pretty much played bully ball with the Flyers. That is over, tonight the Flyers didn’t just send a message to Pittsburgh; they sent a message to the rest of their division that says “We are not going away.” The Flyers were outshot and outplayed through two periods, yet they held a 3-2 lead going into the third period. The Penguins tied it on two separate occasions, the Flyers made sure to have the answering goal. This Flyers team just does not quit and you can’t beat them into submission. Whether or not they win on Friday against Pittsburgh the message has been sent and now the rest of the division knows.