PHILADELPHIA – All that talk about the Flyers getting off to slow starts was forgotten, at least for one night, when they heated up the Wells Fargo Center early on Monday evening.
Three goals in the first period and two more in the second gave both players and fans a rare night off from the tension of a close game. In all, six different Flyers scored against the expansion Seattle Kraken on the way to a 6-1, dare we say, laugher decision.
As many fans know, the Flyers couldn’t get the old engine started quickly on many occasions last year. They gave up the first goal of the game a whopping 33 times and managed to win only 11 of those decisions.
Against the Kraken, they wasted little time establishing dominance.
Claude Giroux started the scoring parade at 9:18 of the opening period with a quick shot past goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Travis Konecny chased down his own rebound to score at 12:12 and Derick Brassard made it 3-0 when his shot deflected off defenseman Carson Soucy’s skate and into the net at 14:36.
The Flyers pushed the lead to 4-0 at 7:10 of the second when Ryan Ellis raced in and sent a high shot into the net. Another defenseman, Justin Braun scored at 8:49 which touched off a mini-brawl at center ice.
That was all for Grubauer, who was relieved by Chris Driedger. Soucy finally broke through for Seattle at 17:14 when he chased down his own rebound and slid it past Carter Hart.
Hart recorded the 50th victory of his NHL career.
The Flyers suffered through a miserable second period in an opening night 5-4 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks. The second period against Seattle was much better, as Nick Seeler explained during the second intermission.
“I think we’re just following our game plan,’’ said Seeler, who got into a pretty good fight with Jamie Oleksiak in the middle frame. “We are sticking with the forecheck hard and getting pucks on net and pucks are going in. We are playing really well. Coach has been preaching about starting on time and we are doing that today.”
According to Brassard, a big save by Hart on Seattle’s Jordan Eberle gave the Flyers momentum in the first period.
“I think it started with Carter’s save and after that it gave us some wings and we were all over them,’’ Brassard said at the first intermission. “We’re trying to stay tight and it starts with the forecheck. We are trying to create some turnovers and after that we can make plays. It’s all about movement, you move the puck and you move yourself and you try to get open and we are doing a good job of that so far.”
Hart made two other big saves in the period, including a breakaway.
“In our start we made two major mistakes,’’ coach Alain Vigneault said. “And we got big saves (from Hart) right off the hop. That’s basically the difference – if they score, they get a little confidence, a bit of energy and if we don’t score, they come right back. Those (saves) sent us in the right direction.’’
Hart looked more sure of himself than he did against Vancouver, especially on the Eberle save.
“It’s desperation,’’ he explained, “to try to get over there and throw my body at it.’’
Giroux said building the 3-0 lead was much different than Monday night’s precarious edge.
“Yes, for sure,’’ he said. “In our first game the other night we came out and played well in the first but we didn’t capitalize on our chances but tonight was a different story.’’
>Sticking up for each other
The Flyers continue to stick up for each other. Two examples from this game: Veteran center Nate Thompson started a fight (and won) against Nathan Bastian for taking liberties with Giroux. And Seeler got the crowd going by fighting 6-foot-7 Jamie Oleksiak.
“He’s a big boy so it was a good scrap,’’ said a smiling Seeler. “You don’t want to back down. It was fun tonight. After a fight there’s a lot of emotion. The crowd was great the whole night. I think we fed off that.’’
Seeler displayed some old-time hockey after the fight by raising his arms up and down to get the crowd even more into it.
Added Konecny: “I’ve never heard the building that loud in a long time. I don’t expect anything less. They (the crowd) love us getting into it with the other team. On the bench, we can feel that.’’
Vigneault likes what he sees.
“Any team that has success in this league has got that ‘I’ve got your back’ mentality,’’ Vigneault said. “There’s no doubt tonight they had their back. Seeler, ‘Thomer’ standing up for our captain. That’s a tightly-knit group and that’s what you need to have success.’’
>More offense from defense
The Flyers are getting some offense from their defense and that seems like a refreshing development. Especially with the traded Shayne Gostisbehere and Phil Myers no longer supplying big shots from the point.
“I think hockey now is a five-man attack,’’ Ellis said. “Everyone has to chip in and do their part. I think that’s the way the game is played. It’s not so much what the coaches are saying, it’s just the way the game is these days.’’