Jordan Hall

Flyers-Capitals observations: 3-goal 2nd sparks home-opening rout

Flyers-Capitals observations: 3-goal 2nd sparks home-opening rout

BOX SCORE

The Flyers made clear Saturday it's a new season.

With the Washington Capitals in town for the 2017-18 home opener, the Flyers put an 8-2 whipping on the back-to-back Presidents' Trophy-winning bunch.

A lively Wells Fargo Center witnessed a relentless brand of offensive hockey that never let up, and it wasn't from the visiting Capitals, who had hung a pair of defeats like this on the Flyers last season.

This time, this season, the Flyers showed they're capable of dishing it out, too.

Sean Couturier (two goals, one assist), Claude Giroux (two goals, two assists), Shayne Gostisbehere (three assists), Scott Laughton (two goals), Jakub Voracek (three assists) and Wayne Simmonds (one goal, one assist) all produced multipoint efforts as the Flyers moved to 3-2-0 to commence a five-game homestand.

Impressively, the last time the Flyers scored eight or more goals in a home opener was 1982, when they tallied nine.

The Capitals, playing the second game of a back-to-back set, dropped to 3-2-1.

This marked the first meeting of a four-game season series between the Metropolitan Division teams.

Now, let's get into some observations:

• Voracek looked filthy with the puck in creating a point-blank chance for Simmonds on a second-period power play as the Flyers snared a 3-1 lead. Give Voracek some space with a head of steam, and he'll make plays.

Voracek has nine assists through five games and was buzzing Saturday. Not long after Simmonds' goal, he made a stunning fake for separation and another good look, this one to Laughton, who missed wide. No problem, though, because the Flyers scored moments later when Giroux deflected home his first of the game off a Couturier pass. The first line of Giroux, Couturier and Voracek was thoroughly dominant, and when it is, the Flyers will be tough outs.

• If Giroux has lost a step at all, his vision, however, hasn't gone anywhere. The Flyers' game-opening goal at 7:18 of the first period all started with Giroux making a magnificent cross-ice pass to a streaking Voracek, who found Couturier opposite in front. Couturier's first shot didn't go but he was able to corral the rebound and put it home. None of it happens without an igniter from Giroux, who is one assist shy of 400 for his career. In the third period, Couturier and Giroux each tacked on their second tallies as the rout went into high gear.

There's no arguing the Flyers' big three came up small against this Capitals team last season. Giroux, Simmonds and Voracek combined for two points in four matchups with Washington. The trio was a different animal Saturday, delivering three goals and six assists for nine points. What an answer in the home opener.

• Weal really got after it late in the second period to help extend the Flyers' lead to 5-2. He maneuvered his way into the offensive zone with the puck and then made a nice hesitation to set up Valtteri Filppula's third goal of the season.

Weal is off to a promising start and that goal was important because it came after the Capitals made it a 4-2 game a little less than seven minutes prior.

• Mr. Laughton, take a bow. The rejuvenated fourth-liner netted a pair of goals. Before Saturday, Laughton hadn't scored an NHL goal since April 10, 2016. And good for him, because he worked hard at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley last season and seems to have found himself in 2017-18, adopting his new role.

He made a heady play near the end of the first period by skating hard, attacking the puck carrier and forcing a turnover to score a shorthanded goal, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead. It was eerily similar to a certain goal in the past …

• Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom entered as the NHL's early leaders with 10 points apiece. They combined for just one goal and one assist.

• Brian Elliott was solid in net with 21 saves. Capitals backup goalie Philipp Grubauer was lit up and still made 29 saves. The Flyers were all over him.

• The Flyers held a touching moment of silence for those affected by the deadly shooting in Las Vegas earlier this month. "Vegas Strong" flashed across the ice and chants of "U-S-A" broke out once the moment of silence concluded. Also, all proceeds from the Flyers' 50/50 raffle held throughout the Wells Fargo Center are benefiting victim relief efforts. Beautiful job by the Flyers and fans.

• The Flyers are off Sunday, practice Monday and then host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday (7 p.m./NBCSP) for Game 2 of the five-game homestand.

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Depth creates frivolous numbers

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Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Depth creates frivolous numbers

VOORHEES, N.J. — First, second, third or fourth.

Does it really matter with the lines?

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol doesn't care much for the numbered distinction between his forwards when he makes the lineup ahead of a game.

But what it can do is highlight a team's depth, good or bad.

For the Flyers right now, two exciting first-round picks no older than 20 are being featured on the third line, an example of how far the Flyers have come from recent years past.

So maybe the statuses don't matter, but they can be telling. Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick making up the third unit with Dale Weise marks a positive development for the Flyers even before their home opener against the Capitals has arrived Saturday night (see Flyers-Capitals thoughts).

"I don't label them," Hakstol said after the morning skate. "You guys always label them. I guess I look at the role and how guys are playing on any given night and what they contribute to our hockey team. Everybody's got to go out and do their job on any one given night.

"Nolan and T.K. have been together with Weiser now for a short period of time. They've shown good chemistry, they've created good opportunities offensively, and they've been able to limit chances against. That's been a good line. I don't number them. I just look at whether they're a good line or not."

Two seasons ago, Konecny and Patrick were each eclipsing 100 points at the junior level. That's some serious talent being sprinkled deeper into the Flyers' forwards group.

Similar to Hakstol, Konecny doesn't care about the labels. He said the same opportunities come no matter where you play.

"Our team is pretty deep this year," Konecny said. "I wouldn't consider any line any … like even our so-called fourth has been our best line. I really don't look at it any different than I did last year, I played top six last year. I'm playing with two forwards who could be top six, too, so it's good hockey. We're having fun.

"I wouldn't even call it a lower role. We have Patty and Weiser on the center and the wing on my line. It's a guy with great vision and Weiser has probably one of the heaviest shots on our team. If we can get on the puck a little bit more, I think that's going to create a little bit more for us."

Konecny and Patrick on a third line can also create favorable matchups against teams not as balanced, making for more chances, resulting in more confidence.

"It's awesome, it's good, we get a lot of opportunities, he creates a lot of offense," Konecny said of playing with Patrick. "He's good at getting the puck out, too, which helps with transitioning from defense to offense, so it's been good so far."

Just don't label them.

Holy 'Ovie'
Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is doing, well, what he does best — score goals.

At 32 years old but in superb shape, he looks as lethal as ever.

"Everybody knows he's one of the most dynamic scorers in the game," Hakstol said. "He's going at a hell of a pace right now, so we've got to do the best that we can. There are some things we can talk about to try to limit and we're going to do that."

All orange
The Flyers will be giving out T-shirts for the home opener.

The atmosphere should be electric. How the Flyers' rookies handle the early energy rush will be important.

"They know what's in store, but again, they have to go through the experience of it," Hakstol said. "They've got good older guys, older veterans around them that will help them with that. If there are some jitters and adrenaline the first couple shifts, that's to be expected. I'm confident those guys will settle in and play the way they play."

Missing Holtby
The Capitals are splitting up their goaltending duties this weekend. Braden Holtby, the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner, played Friday night, so the Flyers will see backup Philipp Grubauer tonight.

That may not be a huge break.

The 25-year-old Grubauer is 2-1-0 with a 1.69 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in four career games against the Flyers.

Lineup stuff
According to a report by Flyers.NHL.com contributor Bill Meltzer, rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim will be a healthy scratch tonight as Brandon Manning inserts the lineup.

Morning skate was optional so it is uncertain how the Flyers' lineup shakes out. Sanheim took part and was one of the final players off the ice, which is notable considering extra work is usually taken by the healthy scratches.

Based on the morning goalie work, Brian Elliott will start in net.

With all that said, here's our best-educated projection for tonight's lineup:

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny   
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg                   
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas        

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forward Jori Lehtera and defenseman Travis Sanheim.

Flyers-Capitals thoughts: Can big boys change trend vs. Washington in home opener?

Flyers-Capitals thoughts: Can big boys change trend vs. Washington in home opener?

Updated: 11:35 a.m.

Flyers (2-2-0) vs. Capitals (3-1-1)
7 p.m. on NBCSP, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6

The Flyers are one of two NHL teams still yet to play a game in their own digs.

But that changes Saturday night.

The 2017-18 home opener is finally here as the Flyers welcome the Washington Capitals to the Wells Fargo Center after opening with four straight road games.

Let's get you set for puck drop with some thoughts before Game 5 of the season.

• Beginning with the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals have become a major thorn in the sides of the Flyers' big boys. In four games against Washington last season, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek combined for one goal and one assist. In the first-round playoff series defeat two seasons ago, the four totaled a pair of goals and four assists in six games.

The Flyers are much deeper this season, but Giroux, Gostisbehere, Simmonds and Voracek remain the offensive focal points. They've been neutralized and outplayed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, while goalie Braden Holtby has represented a nemesis.

Can Giroux and company start to shift the unbalance? It must happen if the Flyers want to be more competitive with the Capitals this season, starting Saturday.

• Speaking of the Capitals, following more postseason failure, they're off to another hot start and look dangerous as usual, led by who else but Ovechkin. The Russian sniper scored 33 goals last season after three straight campaigns of 50 or more. Just when you thought maybe this was the start of him slowing down, the 32-year-old rips off nine goals in his first five games this season. Ovechkin, Backstrom and Kuznetsov are the NHL's early leaders with 10 points apiece.

• One positive for the Flyers is they haven't played since Tuesday. Meanwhile, Washington played the Penguins on Wednesday (lost, 3-2) and the Devils last night (won, 5-2), making Saturday the second game of a back-to-back set for the Capitals. The Flyers should have fresh legs and shouldn't be lacking for energy provided it's the home opener coming off a frustrating 6-5 loss in Nashville.

• Although it's early, we're already starting to see the benefits of the Flyers' improved depth. Through the team's first four games last season, six players had scored goals. This season, nine Flyers have already tallied a marker. Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick playing third-line roles? Those are first-round picks at 20 and 19 years old, respectively, giving the Flyers playmaking threats in the bottom six, something we didn't see much of at all in 2016-17 (see story). Just think about Tuesday's game. The Flyers nearly won a 6-5 slugfest against the defending Western Conference champs without a goal from Giroux, Gostisbehere, Simmonds, Voracek, Ivan Provorov, Jordan Weal and Sean Couturier. That's a good sign.

• The Flyers have lost four of their last five home openers. In order to win this one, they'll want to play with controlled aggression and puck discipline.

"Don't turn pucks over,” Simmonds said Friday of the Capitals (see story). "That's when they hurt you. They have a lot of offensive firepower on that team."

As the Flyers have seen, Washington is a team that doesn't need help to score. When it gets it, it tends to take advantage. The Flyers have already allowed five power-play goals for a 70.6 penalty-kill percentage, tied for 30th in the NHL.

• The Flyers' morning skate in Voorhees, New Jersey, was optional. Brian Elliott took the typical preparation of the starter and was the first off the ice, signaling he'll be between the pipes. Elliott is 6-5-0 with a 3.31 GAA and .888 save percentage in 13 lifetime matchups with Washington. Michal Neuvirth is 1-1-0 with a 3.14 goals-against average and .891 save percentage in three games against his former team. He was strong against the Capitals in the 2016 playoffs.

• Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen suffered an upper-body injury Friday and was placed on long-term injured reserve.