NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Finishing up strong is a message NHL coaches typically preach on the final game of an extended road trip.
You’re tired of living out of a suitcase. Ready to sleep in your own bed. All while acclimating your body to a change in time zones.
Essentially, the Flyers have taken that approach into their game-to-game preparation as they’ve been the stronger team over the final 20-plus minutes in each contest so far.
Even though they’ve been outscored 3-2 in the third period of their first three games, they have outshot their opponent by a wide margin (a 49-20 total). Here’s the breakdown: 17-11 in San Jose, 17-5 in Los Angeles and 15-4 in Anaheim.
So what can this disparity be attributed to for the orange and black? The Flyers on Monday had a number of reasons for being a considerably stronger third-period team early in the season.
1. “Guys came into camp in really good shape,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “We’ve got lots of speed. Guys can skate. When you have fast forwards and you get in on the forecheck hard, you can wear teams down and create more opportunities for yourself.”
2. “I think the depth is a huge part of our team,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “When you take over third periods like that, it’s obviously a team effort, not just a couple lines and a couple of guys. I think it’s huge for us as a team — to come out there and be ready for those third periods and come with a good start.”
3. “I think we’re in really good shape, the whole team,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. “We’re well-conditioned and we stick with it. We had a really good, hard camp — two hard weeks of battling and competing, and I think that prepared us for the season.”
General manager Ron Hextall believes it’s a product of all of those factors.
“I think rolling four lines certainly helps,” Hextall said. “The commitment our players made in the summer to coming to camp in great shape. We had a difficult training camp in terms of the workload, and I think that’s played into our third periods.”
The most impressive of those performances was the effort the Flyers exuded in the game in Los Angeles when they were on the second leg of a back-to-back after flying in from San Jose 24 hours prior.
“Mostly, it’s the players in the dressing room in between periods — just continuing to stay with the game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Having a real mentality to build our game. All three of those games were tight hockey games in the third, so we needed a push in order to get the result we wanted. Hopefully that can become a real characteristic of our team.”
There’s a new goalie in town
The Flyers acquired goaltender Dustin Tokarski, 28, from the Anaheim Ducks on Monday in exchange for future considerations.
Hextall finally found a depth goalie he’d been searching for after losing Anthony Stolarz, who had meniscus surgery in September.
“We just wanted to upgrade our depth. We feel like Dustin has experience in the regular season, the playoffs, and felt like it's an upgrade,” Hextall said. “Number one is he’s competitive, he works hard. He’s a little bit of an undersized goalie (6-foot, 205 pounds). He’s quick, agile, does a good job and we think he’s going to be a good fit.”
In a corresponding deal, the Flyers sent Leland Irving, 29, to the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. Irving was on an AHL-only contract, which made it necessary to complete a deal with two separate transactions.
With Alex Lyon penciled in at No. 3 on the organizational depth chart, it’s worth noting the last time the Flyers utilized four goaltenders in a single season came in 2012-13 (Ilya Bryzgalov, Brian Boucher, Steve Mason and Michael Leighton).
Banner night in Nashville
The Nashville Predators will delay the start of Tuesday night’s game with their home opener festivities that will include a banner raising ceremony as Western Conference champions.
“There will be a ton of energy in the building come tomorrow night, so I’m excited for that,” Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said.
The Predators hope Tuesday night’s game against the Flyers will give them a much-needed boost after dropping their first two games on the road (4-3 in Boston and 4-0 in Pittsburgh).
“They’re a good hockey team,” Hakstol said. “They play with a lot of pace. Their defense presents a pretty good challenge, not only up ice but in the zone.
“They had a hell of a playoff run last year. It’s their home and I’m sure they’ll have a lot of intensity flowing through the building, and we’ll have to be ready to match that.”