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Philly Sports Column: Flyers Fire on All Cylinders in Vegas

The Philadelphia Flyers opened their 2018-2019 season with a 5-2 win against the Western Conference champion Las Vegas Golden Knights. For the third straight season, the Flyers opened their campaign with a win against a western conference opponent—and this was not just any win. Philadelphia decisively outplayed the Golden Knights, a second-year team that went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first year in the league, in front of a packed T-Mobile Arena Thursday night in Las Vegas.

After going down 1-0 early in the first period when Jonathan Marchessault of Las Vegas went top shelf and slotted a goal over Brian Elliott’s right shoulder from the left wing, fans were gritting their teeth. The goal came off of a lazy line change—but then the cards turned rather quickly in the Flyers’ favor.

Only a few minutes later, Travis Sanheim passed to a streaking Oskar Lindblom who calmly skated round the side of the keeper and flicked the puck right in front of the net where a Vegas defender would deflect it into the back of the net. Wayne Simmonds would go on to cherry pick a tap in goal with about a minute left in the period to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.

Simmonds, who scored a hat trick in the season opener last year against the San Jose Sharks, would go on to score another tap-in during the second period off a power play to make it 3-1. Goalkeeper Brian Elliott had some sensational saves in the second period, and the Flyers would go on to score two more goals by Robert Hagg and Scott Laughton. Elliott only allowed two goals on the 25 shots he faced, and Philadelphia would go on to maintain control of the game throughout the third period.

The Flyers finished their 2017-2018 season with a record of 42-26-14 and finished third in the Metropolitan Division. They’ll look to improve on that record in 2018 as the team has added some key pieces for the season. With the signing of James Van Riemsdyk, the organization has let the fanbase know that they are willing to bolster the attack for a deeper playoff push. And while the signing of Riemsdyk adds to the mix of young studs and veteran talent on the offense, the addition of defender Christian Follin is not enough to waive any doubts about the Flyers’ shaky defense.

In the net, it looks like we’ll see a rotation of Elliott and Michael Neuvirth yet again. The recent signing of Calvin Pickard as the team’s third goalie also seem to suggest that fans won’t see any glimpse of the team’s most promising minor league prospect, Carter Hart, until the 2019 season.

This year’s squad will hopefully see the usual, steady production from players like Shane Gostisbehere, Jakub Voracek and the captain Claude Giroux. While this team is no doubt one of the better sides in the league and is perfectly capable of earning a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs—they are still very much a work in progress, and will be hard-pressed to go beyond the conference semifinals.

Andrew Heller is a second-year graduate student majoring in English.

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