Flyers-Sharks thoughts: The Nolan Patrick-led youth movement begins tonight

Flyers-Sharks thoughts: The Nolan Patrick-led youth movement begins tonight

Flyers at Sharks
10:30 p.m. on NBCSN, and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 10
Ready for the real thing?
The Flyers' 2017-18 regular season gets underway tonight with a visit to the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center, opening up a four-game road trip to commence the new campaign.
Thanks to a Nolan Patrick-led youth movement and a current core starting to fight the proverbial clock, this Flyers' season brings a fascinating dynamic to the table (see Fearless Forecast).
How it all unfolds begins now (see predictions).
So, without further ado, here are some thoughts for the season opener:
• Let's enjoy Patrick's NHL debut, regardless of how he fares tonight. The fact he's here is still sort of hard to comprehend. Remember when the No. 2 overall pick in the June entry draft just fell into the Flyers' lap courtesy of immense lottery luck? A little over five months ago, the chances of Patrick wearing orange and black were slim to none.
Now it's actually here.
It sure will be a treat to watch the 19-year-old center night in and night out. He's expected to center the second line between Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. One quote that encapsulates Patrick comes from his uncle, James, in June. "If he's playing with some skilled guys, he will get them the puck, he will make plays," James said. "Put the best players on the ice with him and they will get chances, and chances all night. I think that's what his offensive upside is."
• Claude Giroux to the left wing will always be worth watching, and especially now when the games start to matter. It looks like the Flyers' captain will start the season in the new spot, next to Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Giroux put up four assists but no goals in four preseason games of playing left winger. Still, there were tons of positives and it will be interesting to see how long this change sticks. A quick start certainly won't hurt.
“It's different with ‘G’ on the left plank. I think he can risk a little bit more than when he was at center,” Voracek said last week. “For his advantage, I think it’s real important that he can use the boards because he’s a very smart player. If you know how to use the boards, it’s a big advantage. I think we’ve been very good and we’ve just got to keep going."
• The Flyers are carrying eight defensemen, including three rookies. Two very well may be healthy scratches in the opener, before one of them could be sent back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley soon. Robert Hagg is the only rookie defenseman playing tonight, while Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim will serve as extras provided Shayne Gostisbehere (upper-body injury) is able to go. Hagg will be paired with Gostisbehere. Nonetheless, the defense will be key in both ends. The Flyers are hoping a lot of their offense can come from the blueliners joining the rush and making plays.
• Last season, the Sharks surrendered the fourth-fewest goals at 2.44 per game, which helped outweigh them scoring just 2.67 per game, only two spots ahead of the Flyers. Goalie Martin Jones was strong at 35-23-6 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. San Jose, which was just in the Stanley Cup Final two years ago, is top heavy with formidable names in Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.
• The Sharks went 26-11-4 at home last season, while the Flyers went 14-22-5 on the road. The Flyers have lost four of their last five season openers and 17 of their last 21 matchups to San Jose.
• Keep an eye on the power play, which never found great rhythm or consistency during the preseason and is under new instruction from first-year assistant coach Kris Knoblauch. The man advantage wasn't of great emphasis early in training camp, so some patience may be required.
• Brian Elliott will make his Flyers debut tonight. Elliott was 26-18-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 49 games last season with the Flames.

Wayne Simmonds scores his first goal with Predators

Wayne Simmonds scores his first goal with Predators

Wayne Simmonds had gone goalless in his first eight games with the Predators.

Add on his final 16 games with the Flyers and Simmonds entered Tuesday night with just one goal over his last 24 games.

However, anyone would tell you the Predators acquired Simmonds from the Flyers at the Feb. 25 trade deadline for much more than goals. His impact goes beyond numbers. It's hard to find a better locker-room guy — and that's more than just a cliché; those type of players are valued, especially for contending teams eyeing advantages at the margins.

Jakub Voracek called Simmonds his best friend. Claude Giroux called him the "ultimate warrior" and "best teammate." The Flyers' captain was even at a loss for words when talking about Simmonds following the Feb. 23 Stadium Series win, their final game together.

That night, from the Eagles' locker room in Lincoln Financial Field, Simmonds took the time to shake the hands of media members, who wanted to wish him well.

Classy and respected by everyone.

But Simmonds can still put the puck in the net, too. He did so for the first time with his new team when he lit the lamp in Nashville's 3-0 victory Tuesday night over the Maple Leafs.

To see the joy on his face, it had to be a relief. 

The Predators have won three straight and are trying to catch the Jets for first place in the Central Division.

Soon, Simmonds will be playing postseason hockey.

Don't be surprised to see him right in the middle of things.

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Canadiens 3, Flyers 1: Falling flat in must-win situation during NHL playoff race

Canadiens 3, Flyers 1: Falling flat in must-win situation during NHL playoff race


This is a game the Flyers probably can’t and won’t recover from.

Facing a team they had to catch in the standings, the Flyers fell to the Montreal Canadiens, 3-1, Tuesday night.

Goaltender Carey Price stopped 32 shots to beat the Flyers on Fan Appreciation Night. 

Here are my observations from the Wells Fargo Center:

• Typical first period at the Wells Fargo Center for the Flyers as the Canadiens dictated the pace of play. The one noticeable problem area for the Flyers was their inability to contain Montreal’s speed from the outside. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, blew completely around Shayne Gostisbehere before getting a shot up close on Carter Hart.

• Just because you get a body on Brendan Gallagher, don’t think you have him contained. That was Oskar Lindblom’s issue as the Flyers’ winger sent Gallagher to the ice, in what could have been an interference penalty, just inside the Flyers’ blue line. However, Gallagher never stops on any play. He left Lindblom behind and put home a rebound goal on Hart. There has to be a conscious effort to play physically against Gallagher, especially after he notched his first career hat trick against the Flyers last month.

• Despite Sean Couturier losing the faceoff, it appeared as if the Flyers had the Shea Weber shot defended pretty well. Watch Jakub Voracek race to the middle of the ice to guard against a possible shot from the point. Voracek appeared to be in position to block the shot, but perhaps had other ideas considering Weber can unload a 100-mph slapper. Preferably, I don’t like that shot getting on net.

• Couturier continued his blistering second half by snapping the Flyers' 0-for-17 skid on the power play and pulling the Flyers within a goal. It was Couturier’s 30th goal of the season as he reached the 30-goal mark for the second straight season. He’s the first Flyer with back-to-back 30-goal seasons since Wayne Simmonds (2015-17). In my opinion, Couturier wins the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP.

• Montreal came out the more determined team with more jump and more desperation in its game. Although the players won’t say it, I think they’ve been dealing with this “bug” that’s been going around the locker room — which would explain why Justin Bailey has been back and forth from Lehigh Valley. 

• Montreal also stifled the Flyers' offense by not giving it very much time and space with the puck. Referees elected to swallow the whistle and allow both teams to play. They easily could have called some interference penalties in that second period.

• Unlike Claude Giroux on Sunday, defenseman Philippe Myers felt too sick to suit up in this game and was replaced by Andrew MacDonald, who has been in and out of the lineup over the past three weeks. There’s a belief that MacDonald could be a buyout recipient next season as he enters the final year of his contract, but unless the Flyers are desperate for the cap space, I don’t necessarily see a buyout as the best option. You need depth and MacDonald isn’t a bad option as a seventh defenseman.

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