Saturday, October 11, 2008
The 2008/2009 campaign started off a little rough for the Flyers, what with Sarah Palin receiving a mountain of boos (click here to see it) and the Flyers falling behind by 4 goals in the first period, but the Flyers were able to fight back to makes things interesting before they fell to the Rangers, 4-3.
The Flyers got more bad news today as they learned that Randy Jones will be having surgery and he will be out for 12 to 16 weeks. Along with Ryan Parent, that makes two Flyers defensemen who need surgery and will miss a significant amount of time. The Flyers already had some questions about their blueline but now they might have a serious issue.
As for the game, the Rangers jumped out early and silenced the crowd with two goals in the first 5 minutes as the Flyers played back on their heels. The defensemen, which had the look of a group simply thrown together, struggled to slow down the Rangers attack as the Blue Shirts added two more goals later in the period. Martin Biron also looked terrible out of the gate, managing only 10 saves on 14 shots. Of course, it's hard for a goaltender to look good when he's being peppered with shots. Biron was pulled for Antero Niittymaki after the 4th goal and Niitty took over from there, stopping every shot he faced and giving the Flyers a chance to make a comeback.
And come back they did. Mike Richards fought near the end of the first period and that seemed to energize the Flyers, who bounced back with 2 goals in the second period, one by Scott Hartnell and the other by the returning Simon Gagne. Gagne made a nice effort in scoring his first goal since January 29th and appears to be playing at full strength with very little rust. Mike Richards later added a goal 5 minutes into the third period as the Flyers made things interesting. Unfortunately they were never able to sustain a strong attack and the Rangers held on for the win.
Three thoughts stick with me after the first game. First of all, the defense needs some help. Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn are the only returning regulars and they are the only two that looked comfortable out on the ice. Steve Eminger, Luca Sbisa, Ossi Vaananen and Lasse Kukkonen all have a lot of work to do to make the Flyers back line a better unit. Sbisa looked shaky in the beginning but got better as the game went on, Vaananen's play was at least acceptable but Eminger and Kukkonen looked really lost out there.
The other issue that I hope doesn't develop with the Flyers is another goalie controversy. Niittymaki outplayed Biron tonight and he also played well for the Phantoms earlier in the week, meaning he's the hot goaltender right now while has Biron struggled so far, but let's hope it's just rust. The last thing we need is another 1 and 1A situation in Philly, because when two goaltenders share time it never works out.
Lastly, to end things on a positive note, the Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Danny Briere line looked great. Let's hope these three stick together because they consistently put together good shifts and showed some solid chemistry.
While tonight's game wasn't the best way to start a season, at least the Flyers showed some fight after falling behind early. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back in their next game. I also expect them to try to find some answers for their blueline because with Jones and Parent out, not to mention Derian Hatcher, things seem awfully thin back there. An 18 year old and a couple of guys who belong in the AHL won't cut it. Maybe they let go of Bryan Berard a little too soon.