Last spring, the Philadelphia Flyers played a lot more golf than hockey.
That’s what happens when your team fails to make the playoffs.
In the offseason, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher tweaked the roster quite a bit with the obvious goal of returning to the postseason.
The biggest trade was acquiring Cam Atkinson from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jake Voracek. The Flyers also added defenseman Ryan Ellis and center Derick Brassard. There were other key moves as well, but the changes will be noticeable when the puck drops in Friday’s season-opening home game against the Vancouver Canucks.
“Two years ago, we felt like we took a big step forward,” captain Claude Giroux said. “Last year, we took a few steps back. Everything happened pretty quick last year, and it is not the team we want to be. That is not the team we believe we are. We are going to learn from that last year.
“This year the guys already look focused and look like they are ready to go. It’s really exciting.”
Scoring goals was an issue last season.
So was goaltending.
Despite a subpar 2020 season, the Flyers awarded 23-year-old goaltender Carter Hart a three-year contract extension. Hart looked visibly shaken at times last season, but the extension shows that the organization believes in their young goaltender.
“He looks dialed in,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said of Hart. “He is focused and is assertive around his net. He looks very confident.”
The Canucks fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Oilers in Edmonton in their season opener on Wednesday.
Vancouver rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period to earn a point in the first game against a quality opponent.
“It’s always important to get off to a good start, and last year we didn’t get off to a good start,” said Quinn Hughes, who scored a goal. “And it’s always tough when you’re struggling, so to get a point in our first game, it’s encouraging.”
While they hardly played a perfect game, Canucks coach Travis Green was more than pleased to earn a point.
“They obviously have some fast players and I thought we played a hard-working game,” Green said. “To come in on the road and battle back and get a point, I was pretty happy with our effort.”
Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko was sharp in the opener with a 32-save performance.
If the Canucks hope to spoil the Flyers’ opener, strong goaltending will be vital once again.
Last season, the Canucks started slow due in part to poor play in front of the goaltenders.
“You have to be ready to go out of the gate and the start was good with the atmosphere,” Demko said. “I liked a lot of things (against the Oilers). Our attention to detail was really good and guys were working hard for each other to try and limit space for their top line. When you do that, you give yourselves a much better chance to win.”
–Field Level Media