Derick Brassard (and the fans) celebrate Cam Atkinson’s game-winning goal 58 seconds into the third period of Philadelphia’s 6-3 victory over the Boston Bruins. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 3: BOS 3, PHI 6 – Debeauts

The more things change, the more they stay the same — but this time, it’s all good! The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 6-3, doubling up a Boston Bruins them that bullied them for most of 2020-21. The Flyers didn’t exactly take it to the B’s in front of a national audience; they were badly outshot and out-chanced at 5v5 and blew a two-goal lead in the second period. But behind solid goaltending from not Carter Hart, a trio of power-play goals, and a red-hot second line, the Flyers pulled away from Boston for good with three unanswered in the third.

Usually, most teams get most of their new players’ debuts out of the way on opening night. But that wasn’t the case this year in Philadelphia. Forward Zack MacEwen and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen suited up in Orange and Black for the first time Wednesday. And goaltender Martin Jones made his first start as a Flyer after backing up Carter Hart for the team’s first two games. Ristolainen was returning from a brief injury after coming over in a trade with Buffalo over the summer, while MacEwen was waiting on a work visa after being claimed off waivers from Vancouver on Wednesday.

One of the constants across Philadelphia’s first two games was their fast starts. In the first period against Vancouver and Seattle, the Flyers held a 30-9 edge in shots on goal and outscored their opponents 4-0. That’s dominant. That wasn’t the case on Wednesday when the Flyers were dominated out of the gate. The first look TNT viewers ever got of the Flyers was a team on their heels, as the Bruins were swarming for the first ten minutes. The result was a dreadful 20% expected goals share for Philadelphia in the first period; the Bruins seemed to be winning every race and created chances like clockwork. There was no easing Martin Jones into his new team; the 31-year old had to be sharp right from puck drop.

Thankfully, he was just that. And naturally, the first goal of the night belonged to the Flyers, because of course, it did. Seemingly out of nowhere, Cam Atkinson found himself on a 2-on-1 with Joel Farabee and did what he does best: shoot. Jeremy Swayman got a piece, but not enough, and the Flyers improved to three for three in scoring first this season. The Bruins’ fourth line copied that plan later in the period, though, and eventually found similar success. It took a little bit more effort, as their first two bids to test Martin Jones were blocked. But the second one bounced off Travis Sanheim right to Karson Kuhlman, who took advantage of the lucky break and tied the game 1-1.

The Flyers didn’t realize it at the time, but they actually caught a lucky break immediately after. The first period almost ended three minutes prematurely due to a malfunction with the Flyers bench door; but just as the teams started for the locker room, the referees called them back. Charlie Coyle, agitate after taking a big hit on the forecheck from Ristolainen, tripped up Sanheim to send the Flyers to a late power-play. It didn’t start strong, and it didn’t look like it would end well when Ryan Ellis duffed a shot with 10 seconds left in the frame. But the bouncing puck found the Beezer in front, and Farabee fired home his third goal in as many games with just 8.9 ticks left on the clock.

Philadelphia stretched their lead less than two minutes into the second, all starting with a Keith Yandle stretch pass. Yandle saw James van Riemsdyk had a step on the Boston defense and fired the puck down from his side of the red line, hitting van Riemsdyk for the intended bounce pass. JVR’s angle shot produced a big rebound that the Bruins overskated, but it didn’t miss Scott Laughton’s tape. After failing to finish on quite a few excellent chances on Monday, Laughton swept the rebound through Swayman’s five-hole, giving the Flyers a commanding 3-1 lead.

But despite extending their edge, the Flyers didn’t exactly start playing much better in the middle period; their xG% percentage climbed from a disastrous 20% to a still disastrous 33%, allowing a whopping two expected goals in the second. Eventually, their poor play burnt them. A bad change by Rasmus Ristolainen combined with a slightly asleep at the wheel Justin Braun led to a Taylor Hall breakaway, which went about as well as you’d expect. The Bruins kept the pressure up all period, though it looked like the Flyers might sneak into the second intermission still on top. But Bruce Cassidy threw out the Perfection Line with just over a minute to go following a Sanheim icing, and the Boston’s best capitalized. Ristolainen couldn’t tie up Brad Marchand’s stick at the side of the net or block the puck from sliding to him.

Just like that, it became a brand new game. But then the period began, and just like that, it wasn’t. Or maybe it still was, but different in a much better way this time. Barely a minute into the frame, Farabee and Atkinson found themselves on another 2-on-1 off a neutral zone turnover by Mike Reilly. Farabee, who was denied on a 2-on-1 shot back in the first, decided to find his trigger-happy teammate this time. Atkinson barely got a piece of the puck while being forced to the ice, but it was just enough to squib it past Swayman and push Philadelphia to their fourth one-goal lead of the night.

Speaking of trigger happy forwards on fire to start the year capitalizing off Mike Reilly’s neutral zone mistakes: hey, TK! It was a pretty quiet night for the Flyers’ top line, but Travis Konecny when Reilly whiffed on a bouncing puck in the neutral zone. Instead of Boston pushing to tie the game, Konecny sniped on Swayman to find the Flyers some breathing room. Instead of keeping the pressure up, the Bruins actually helped Philadelphia close the game out. Brandon Carlo went after Sean Couturier following an excellent clock-killing cycle by the top line and was the only player sent to the box. Boston wasn’t able to pull Jeremy Swayman until there was just over a minute to play. He didn’t stay at the bench for long, though; Couturier potted a long-range empty-netter for his first of the year.

This was far from a perfect game for the Flyers. The Bruins had the early job, and while the Flyers sort of stabilized, the dominant stretches from the first two games were MIA on Wednesday night. Then again, it’s scary in the best possible way that the Flyers beat a pretty strong Boston squad by three goals with their backup goalie without even playing their best. The beginning of the season is always a tricky balancing act of process vs. results; the former had some flaws in it tonight, but the result was everything the Flyers could have hoped for. As long as the Flyers focus on improving the former, rather than betting on an unsustainable formula as they did with last season’s hot start, there’s no sense in worrying about tonight’s result.

Lindies

Let’s start with the new guys. Martin Jones was strong all night in the net. He wasn’t at fault for any of Boston’s goals and made quite a few key saves throughout the contest. It helped the Flyers lead for almost the entire night, sure; but that wasn’t the case when Jones was absolutely under siege in the opening half of the first period. Just like with Carter Hart on Monday, it could’ve been a whole different game if Jones didn’t stand strong at the start. Jones finished with a .925% save percentage and +0.13 goals saved above expected (all situations); that will certainly play. Zack MacEwen’s physicality was noticeable; he wasn’t overly impactful, but I liked his game for the most part.

And then there’s Rasmus Ristolainen. Yes, he set off Charlie Coyle with that big hit, which lead to the penalty that Farabee scored on. His physicality was also noticeable. But Ristolainen spent far too much time in his own zone and to me, struggled on breakouts; though AV completed him in that area, so I’ll trust his word there, at least for tonight. The advanced numbers, as they were throughout his tenure in Buffalo, were horrendous tonight; 36% Corsi, 23% xG, and the Flyers were outscored 2-1 with him on the ice. One game isn’t the end-all, be-all, and I’m sure he and Sanheim will develop chemistry over the coming contests. And who knows if his injury is still lingering. But tonight’s game didn’t exactly quell my skepticism.

Part of the reason Boston torched the Flyers last year (6-1-1, +12 goal differential) was their electric power-play. 10/24. The Bruins man-advantage was a super-powered 41.7% (10/24) against the Flyers last season. That includes a simply unbelievable 7/9 (77.7%) in their first three meetings of 2020-21. The most dangerous chance on Boston’s lone advantage belonged to the Flyers; it was the aforementioned 2-on-1 chance where Farabee was stopped.

This is the first time the Flyers have worn their white jerseys at home since January 3, 2019, a 5-3 loss to Carolina. I hate the look, but I’ll gladly take tonight’s result.

The Flyers newcomers that have played all three games — Atkinson (4), Ellis (4), Yandle (5), and Derick Brassard (5) — have combined for eighteen points so far. Hard to ask for much more than any of those guys so far, especially Atkinson. His line with Brassard and Atkinson was the only Flyers line over 50% in Corsi and lead the way with a gaudy 70% Expected Goals mark. Oh, and they put three pucks in the back of the net, including the game-winner. I didn’t even realize that Brassard and Atkinson played together in Columbus until now; it was only for one full season (and it was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 one at that), but apparently, the chemistry’s still there.

Atkinson and Konecny are the first Flyers teammates to each score in the team’s first three regular-season games. They’ve paved the way for a Flyers offense that hasn’t scored this many goals through three games (14) since 1988.

Tonight marks James van Riemsdyk’s 800th NHL game. It might not seem like it because of his six-year sabbatical in Toronto, but JVR has played nearly half of those games with the Flyers. The exact number is 387, with 190 of them coming since he returned in 2018-19. Here’s to many more like tonight, Reemer!

Nick Foligno was not on the Bruins bench for the third period and never returned to the game; he was officially announced out with an upper-body injury late in the game. The 33-year old registered an assist in his first game as a Bruin on Saturday; hopefully, he’s not out for long. Ivan Provorov was also roughed up a little bit on this Marchand hit in the third but didn’t miss a shift. I think he’ll be fine, if only because I’m still not convinced Provorov isn’t actually a robot.

Bruins rookie (and fellow Anchorage, Alaska native alongside Nate Thompson) Jeremy Swayman has had an amazing start to his young NHL career, which began in Philadelphia last April. But the Flyers finally put some chinks in the 22-year old’s armor; tonight was the first time in his young career (12 starts) that Swayman allowed more than three goals.

Keith Yandle was mic’d up tonight, and the results were as good as you’d expect.

SOUND THE ALARM! During the 2019-20 season, I kept a running tally of each winner of the Flyers “player of the game helmet” that they passed around the locker room after wins. Well, we have a new POG clothing item tonight, which Cam Atkinson is kind enough to model for us. No idea who won it on night one, so it may not be a totally official tally this year. But I’ll work with what I can get.

TK’s background reaction warms my heart.

Finally, some roster housekeeping. The Flyers sent Max Willman down to the Phantoms yesterday in response to Zack MacEwen’s arrival. Nick Seeler, who was sent down on Sunday before being recalled, remains on the roster for now as a healthy scratch. Patrick Brown is still on the COVID list; he may be eligible to return Saturday, but that’s not guaranteed. And even if he is eligible, he may not even enter the lineup.

Ok, finally, finally; for the first time since May 7, we had a double Philadelphia victory night. Not only did the Flyers win, but the Philadelphia 76ers also pulled away from the Pelicans for a 117-97 victory. Make sure to check out all of our great NBA coverage on Vendetta all basketball season long.

Here’s some more information on the Flyers’ newest netminder, who I thought probably should’ve been one of tonight’s three stars.

Alright, finally, finally, finally: if you have a few minutes to spare, use them to watch the TNT panel’s touching tribute and important discussion about the passing of Jimmy Hayes.

3 Stars

3rd: Derick Brassard (PHI) – 2 Assists (3, 4), 5 Hits

2nd: Joel Farabee (PHI) – Goal (3), Assist (3), 5 Shots

1st: Cam Atkinson (PHI) – 2 Goals (2, 3), 4 Shots

Next

BOS – 10/22 @ BUF (3-0-0, W3 – that’s not a joke, by the way)

PHI – 10/23 vs. FLA (3-0-0, W3)

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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick