Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography
The Flyers opened the 2015-16 regular season tonight with a 3-2 loss after a WILD 3 on 3 overtime ended with a Jason Garrison goal for Tampa Bay. Matt Read and Brayden Schenn scored in the loss while a revitalized looking RJ Umberger added two helpers. Steve Mason’s final numbers will not reflect it, but he was solid throughout the game and kept the Flyers in it several times.
Tampa had the best of the first several minutes, with Mason making several impressive saves to keep the game tied. The Flyers settled in as the period went on and controlled action more and more as intermission drew near. Claude Giroux drew the Flyers’ best chance after being awarded a penalty shot. He beat Ben Bishop clearly before being denied by a last-ditch poke check effort.
The second period, which was controlled more often by the Lightning, saw all four of the game’s regulation goals. Jason Garrison opened scoring with a long wristshot that looked like it got tipped by something in front of the net. Matt Read answered for the Flyers on a beautiful passing play from linemates Scott Laughton and RJ Umberger. A Brayden Schenn power play goal from an Evgeni Medvedev point shot gave the Flyers a brief lead until Ryan Callahan knotted things up for Tampa.
The third period, which was definitely just flat out sloppy at times, was characterized by tough neutral zone defense from both teams. At times during the third, the neutral zone defense was impressive from Dave Hakstol’s Flyers. At other times, the puck handling was just straight-up sloppy as the team tried to move things up ice.
The three on three overtime was absolutely BONKERS. After multiple high quality chances, including a failed penalty shot for Scott Laughton, Jason Garrison scored his second of the night to end the game.
All in all, a solid effort from the Flyers against the defending Eastern Conference champs. Let’s get to some Keen Observations.
-RJ Umberger looked pretty good tonight. He added two assists and generally was making himself noticeable in positive ways throughout the night. That said, I’ll need to see a ton more than 13:10 before I decide that Umberger is back to being a useful player. It’s a very good sign to start the year, but nothing more than that.
-The Flyers as a whole were much more aggressive in the neutral zone, which was great to see. The third period especially featured a lot of low event hockey. Refreshing.
-Jakub Voracek is still good. He was held scoreless tonight, but was still all over the ice. So that’s good to see.
-Steve Mason kept the Flyers in this one early. A couple huge saves early on in the second period prevented them from falling behind by two. Mason was much better than his .906 sv% on the night suggests.
-Yevgeni Medvedev had a very rough first period, but settled in pretty well. He looked much more comfortable and effective as the game went on, and added an assist on the Flyers’ second goal.
-The 3 on 3 overtime made it very clear that it will take some time for NHL players to fully understand how to play it effectively. Positioning decisions and ability to play without the puck are extremely important. Defensive mistakes on both sides led to multiple breakaways and constant action. It was a blast.
-If I’m an NHL coach, I’m spending a lot of time practicing 3 on 3 early in the season. There is definitely an advantage to be gained by learning the fine points of strong 3 on 3 hockey early on. It’s a much, much different game, and it will take players some time to learn how it works.