By Ryan Waterman
Nearly six months after the Flyers season came to a crushing end at the hands of the bitter rival Pittsburgh Penguins, the orange and black took the ice tonight as they began a new chapter in franchise history. For the most part, the Flyers returned the same team, but managed to use some of their financial flexibility to address a massive scoring need, by bringing back a familiar face in James Van Riemsdyk.
With a lot of buzz surrounding tonight's game, both teams took the ice hot, and full of energy. The Golden Knights, coming off of a Stanley Cup Final appearance, made some key additions in Max Pacioretty and Paul Statsny, and well, we've already touched on the Flyers. The energy in the T-Mobile Arena was palpable, although nothing compared to the biggest fight in UFC history set for Saturday between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurgmagamedov.
Vegas drew first blood, as rising star Jonathan Marchessault found twine at the 6:37 mark of the opening period. Things looked to be shifting in the Knights' direction following that goal, as they became the more physically urgent team with the crowd fully behind them. However, the turning point for Philadelphia was actually a self-inflicted wound. A tripping call that sent James Van Riemsdyk to the sin bin at 8:08 of the first period set up the Flyers penalty killing unit for what would be a game-changing kill. Just over a minute following the conclusion of JVR's offense, rookie Oskar Lindblom found the net with one of the prettiest moves you'll see. Philadelphia secured the upper-hand at the 18:43 mark on a puck that Wayne Simmonds was able to poke past Marc-Andre Fleury.
By Ryan Waterman
🎵🎵 Whoa, we're halfway there! Whoa, livin' on a prayer! Take my hand, we'll make it, I swear. Whoa, livin' on a prayer. 🎵🎵
Philadelphia, it's time to get loud! Game six is headed back your way, with the chance to force an improbable game seven. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's recap how we got to this point.
The storm hit the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Friday Night, but a period later than expected. For the first 20:00 of Friday night's battle, the Orange and Black dominated the ice, entering the locker room with a 1-0 lead behind a late rocket from the Captain, Claude Giroux. The atmosphere given off by the Flyers in tonight's first period was that of a much different team than we've seen the past two games. They were physical, they applied pressure, they were crisp, and most importantly -- they played with the mentality of "one game at a time."
Things got quite dicey in the second period, as the Pens stormed back with authority, scoring a pair of goals to take a 2-1 lead. The momentum had shifted, but the Flyers didn't quit, they were just seemingly outplayed. That was, until Valtteri Filppula, of all people, netted the tying goal -- a short-handed goal, nonetheless. For the first time this series, the Flyers showed serious push-back in the face of adversity. This team felt like a much different team than game's past. They felt hungry, they appeared to want it more. It was a tale of two teams.
By Ryan Waterman
It wasn't long ago that the idea of the Philadelphia Flyers making the postseason was nothing more than a pipe dream. Flashing back to their final game of 2017, the Flyers sat a 16-14-8, a mark that made the playoffs seem almost impossible. However, a masterful 26-12-6 performance in 2018 secured them a spot. It didn't come easy, though, as the Flyers at one point were the lead dog in the Metropolitan Division, perhaps a hollow statement, given that the rest of the division were playing below their level of expectation. This essential gave the Flyers faithful a false sense of hope, as they began to believe that this team could actually make a run. Those hopes, for some, were shattered when the Flyers mediocre March performance left them with a seven-game date with cross-state rival, and two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Game One was a sick punch to the gut, as the Flyers were mortified in enemy territory to the tune of a 7-0 thrashing. They were outplayed, outcoached, and the atmosphere seemingly rattled the majority of the team. Once again, they took the ice at PPG Paints Arena, but the narrative was much different in Game Two. Philly managed to weather the storm, draw first blood, and keep their foot on the throat of the Pens. It looked as though the Orange and Black had all of the momentum heading back home to Philadelphia, in front of what was sure to be a blood-thirsty crowd. The latter end of that statement was true, but the former couldn't have been anymore wrong. Over the course of Games Three & Four, the Flyers put forth a pair of embarrassing efforts, getting outscored 10-1. If you're to ask this writer, their problem was simple -- the team never showed up, as they relied on the crowd to carry them to victory, as they already had their eyes set up shutting this series down in Pittsburgh.