The eventful offseason we had here in Philadelphia sets the table nicely. After an extremely disappointing 2020-’21 campaign, it is playoffs (and at least win a round) or bust for the Flyers. It would have been that way even if Chuck Fletcher was not as active as he was. Compared to the summer of 2020, this offseason was a complete 180.
Unfortunately, the fans at Wells Fargo Center will not get to witness the Flyer debut of Rasmus Ristolainen tonight. He has been day-to-day on the injury report, but it is confirmed he will not suit up this evening.
Kevin Hayes, who had abdominal surgery back on Sept. 21 will also miss tonight’s opener and at least the first 10 games in total. He is currently on the long-term injured reserve (LTIR). Zack MacEwen, who was just claimed off of waivers this past Wednesday will not be playing tonight.
These two players are forcing the Flyers to play certain players up in the lineup for these durations. Free agent acquisition Derick Brassard is projected to be the second line center, and Nick Seeler is being paired with Keith Yandle on the third defensive pairing.
Hayes would normally slot in as the second line center, and Ristolainen would certainly not be on the third defensive pairing. Seeler is pegged as the seventh d-man, so he usually would not play. This situation would not be ideal if it was long-term, but thankfully right now it is not.
Without a doubt, this roster is an improvement on last season’s team. For example, Nolan Patrick and Michael Raffl were in the 2020 Flyers opening lineup. This year, better players like Brassard and Cam Atkinson are (with all due respect to Raffl), it’s that simple.
Atkinson (3G in 4 GP in preseason) could really be an X-factor for this Flyers team. He gives a completely new look with his shooting mentality on even strength and the power play, a stark contrast to the passing tendencies of Jake Voracek.
The two main areas of focus for tonight’s season opener for me are the PP and the play of Carter Hart.
Momentum and confidence are important in hockey. If the Flyers powerplay at least looks dangerous tonight, that can be something to build upon early. Yandle and Claude Giroux provide elite passing on the man-advantage, and Travis Konecny is looking to rebound from an 11-goal effort in 2020-’21.
Regarding Hart, he is playing behind a better defense and a better forward unit. It would be fair to say that for the majority of last season, the Flyer defense was a trainwreck. The Flyers were 31st out of 31 teams in goals against in 2020-‘21. So, in theory there is only room for improvement. A good showing for Hart tonight would also do well to curb any premature overreactions concerning his confidence level etc.
The puck drops at 7:00PM later tonight, Flyers hockey is almost back.