-Welcome back to hockey:
-It's good to be back. Has it really been eight months since we last did this? Eight months? Sitting here in the media work room at Wells Fargo Center, it feels like yesterday we were here watching the Flyers ransack the Penguins' defensive zone.
Having spent numerous hours at Southpointe during the lockout, we can tell you one thing. Sidney Crosby is ready. He will be back to the dominant force he was prior to his injury in 2010-11. He's had a full summer to train. He's made the most out of his time during the lockout. If he stays healthy (which sadly, is a big if) he will dominate this league once again.
-Don't forget that Evgeni Malkin guy either. He's been playing in the KHL during the lockout. And he's dominated that league too. He'll have an early jump on most players in this league in terms of being acclimated to game action.
-If you're a Penguins fan, you will fall in love quickly with Brandon Sutter. He's everything a third-line center should be. If Wednesday's scrimmage is any indication, he has found some chemistry already with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy. Additionally, playing behind Crosby and Malkin, Sutter will get to face some third defensive pairings more often than not. His offense will get a boost from those factors.
-Has the Penguins' defense rebound? We're not sure. Frankly, it seems to be a work in progress. They don't seem set on a defensive partner for Kris Letang. Matt Niskanen and Simon Despres have each gotten time with him. One paring which seems set is Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik. They have seem comfortable with one another based on what we've seen this brief training camp. And expect a larger role for Matt Niskanen in a variety of roles this season.
-If there's any sort of mental block about the Flyers, Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't seem to display it this week.
-Expect Tanner Glass to get involved in this game early. He was jumping out of his skin this week talking about this rivalry.
-Another work in progress will be the power play. This experiment with James Neal and Letang is intriguing but it's also risky. How defensively-minded is Neal when it comes to preventing short-handed chances. This set-up will get an immediate test today against the Flyers' sharp penalty killers.
-It will be interesting to see how the Flyers use Ilya Bryzgalov this season considering they sent backup Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus this past offseason. New/old backup Michael Leighton had a strong 2009-19 season and carried the Flyers to the Stanley Cup final, but that was a long time ago. In a compacted 48-game season, can Bobrovsky carry a heavy work-load.
-What does Claude Giroux do for an encore? Now that he's captain, can he surpass his breakout season of 2011-12?
-The Flyers lost Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle this past season. Both were big contributors. But this team has so much depth all over the lineup. Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Matt Read were rookies who took big steps last season. Expect more of the same from them this season.
-A few pregame photos. Today's barn:
-Three and a half hours before the game, the native were tailgating:
-A slightly surprising lineup note today. Dustin Jeffrey will man the fourth-line center position instead of Joe Vitale. Jeffrey spent most of last season in the doghouse. If he's healthy, he offers a pretty wide variety of skills. He can be anything from a winger on the first line or a center on the fourth line. The team has also been using him a bit on the point with the second power play unit. In a season like this, a versatile player like Jeffrey can be invaluable.
-Note:The Flyers' wifi in the press box, much like their goaltending history, is spotty. Updates may be slow. We'll post our usual array of photos later.-A few sights around the Wells Fargo Center. Look at this wonderful Scott Hartnell jersey:
-Several solid former Penguins Flyers jerseys. Rick Tocchet:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Ben Lovejoy and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Flyers' starters are Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Brayden Schenn, Luke Schenn, Kimmo Timonen and Ilya Bryzgalov.
-Their scratches are Bruno Gervais, Tom Sestito and Jody SHelley.
20:00: At 3:39 p.m. EST, the Penguins' season begins with Crosby beating his rival, Giroux, for a faceoff.
19:32: Orpik lobs a writer from the left point at net. Bryzgalov eats it up.
17:32: Letang corrals a loose puck at the top of the slot and snaps it on net. Bryzgalov punches it away with a blocker.
17:13: The Penguins get their first power play of the season as Crosby tries to skate by Coburn but is held up a bit. Coburn falls. Crosby stumbles a bit. Coburn is nabbed for interference. That's not a penaly you would see in the postseason. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Letang and Neal take the ice. Neal and Letang take point. Letang on the left and Neal on the right.
16:32: Sneaking up the right wall, Letant one-touches a cross ice pass to Neal in the left circle. Neal jabs it on net but Brygalov kicks it out. Fancy play.
16:00: Crosby reaches forward for a puck at the red line in front of the benches and is shouldered to his knees by Nicklas Grossman. He's no worse for wear.
15:40: The second power play unti takes the ice. Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen are on the points. Pascal Dupuis, Sutter and Kennedy are up front.
15:20: Right off the faceoff, Martin smacks a slapper from the right point. Kennedy is in front of the cage and re-directs it by Bryzgalov on the far side. What a play by Kennedy. Nice shot to set him up by Martin. Martin and Niskanen get assists. Penguins 1-0.
15:10: The Flyers get a chance to tie it up as they go to the power play. Jeffrey is called for slashing. Martin, Orpik, Cooke and Sutter take the ice.
13:58: Voracek has a clean look at the net from the right circle and snaps off a shot to the far side. Fleury challenges and kicks it out with his right skate.
13:10: The Penguins kill off the rest of Jeffrey's minor. The Flyers didnt' really get too many good looks at the net.
12:40: Right off another faceoff following a commercial break, the Penguins strike again. Malkin wins the faceoff right behind him to Neal. Neal snaps off an IMMEDIATE wrister which hits off a body or two and beats Bryzgalov to the far side. That's their patented play. Malkin gets the only assist. Penguins 2-0.
11:18: Dupuis shuffles a pass to Orpik at the left point. Orpik whacks a one-timer. Bryzgalov kicks it out.
9:37: After a turnover by their own zone, Adams bails him out with a nice steal at the right point.
9:05: Hartnell attempts a wraparound attempt from the right side of the cage but whips it wide and through the crease.
8:14: Despres gets caught flat footed in front of his bench and gets sent to the box. Simmons challenges him with the puck, pokes it behind him and is held up. Despres is called for interference. Orpik, Letang, Cooke and Sutter take the ice.
7:13: Voracek grips and rips a wrister from the right wing to the far side. Fleury punches it out with his blocker.
6:14: The Penguins kill the penalty and immediately send Neal, Malkin and Crosby on the ice.
5:38: Crosby whips a wrister on net from the left corner. Bryzgalov fights it off.
4:58: Niskanen booms a one-timer from the left point. Bryzgalov fights it off.
3:58: Off a faceoff in his own zone, Sutter is called for interference after tripping up Giroux. Cooke, Crosby, Martin and Oprik take the ice.
3:05: Timonen chucks a wrister on net from the top of the slot. It hits off Wayne Simmonds' chest and defelcts on net. Fleury fights it off. Hartnell whacks at the rebound. Cooke clears it away.
1:58: The Sutter minor is killed. Again, not too many clean looks at the net by the Penguins.
0:04: Coburn winds up and booms a slapper from the top of the slot wide to the right of the cage.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 2, Flyers 0.
-A very strong period for the Penguins. They controlled the flow of play for the most part. They limited the amount clean looks the Flyers had at the net. The only negative for the Penguins is the penalties they took. Three is too many for a period, especially for a team with a dangerous power-play.
-The flip side of that is the Penguins' penalty kill has been outstanding. Fleury hasn't really been challenged all that much.-When he has been challenged, Fleury, has seemed confident.
-The officiating has been tight. You would not have seen most of these penalties called during the last postseason. Hopefully this standard last all season long.-Malkin and Neal look like they haven't missed a beat. They're definitely on the same page.-The new top four of Letang-Niskanen and Orpik-Martin seemed very comfortable with one another.
-There hasn't been a great deal of hitting or post-whistle stuff. But it's still a pretty intense pace.
-The Penguins lead in shots, 11-5.-Voracek leads the game with three.
-Niskanen, Neal, Orpik and Crosby each have two.
-Letang leads the game with 8:29 of ice time.
-Timonen leads the Flyers with 7:55.
-The Penguins have a 17-10 advantage in faceoffs (63 percent).-Sutter is 4 for 5 (80 percent).
-Giroux is 6 for 14 (43 percent).
-Martin leads the game with two blocked shots.
19:37: The Flyers don't take long to get on the scoreboard. And guess who did it. Hartnell pushes the puck up the right wing. Martin challenges. Hartnell feeds a pass to the crease. Kunitz is backchecking but attempts to play the puck with his skates. The puck gets by him and Giroux is all alone on the doorstep to punch it by Fleury's right leg easily. Just a sloppy defensive play. Hartnell and Brayden schenn get assists. Penguins 2-1.
18:10: Sutter drops Coburn with a hit in the left wing corner of the Flyers' zone.
17:07 Eric Wellwood cranks a slapper from the right point. Despres blocks it with a thud.
16:12: On a delayed penalty, Engelland whips a wrister on net. Bryzgalov kicks it out. Grossman is called for cross checking Crosby. Crosby didn't exactly get killed on that one. Kennedy, Niskanen, Sutter, Martin and Dupuis take the ice.
15:27: Dupuis cranks a one from the right wing wide to the far side.
15:00: Martin slides a pass from the top of the slot to Dupuis in the right circle. Dupuis booms a one-timer. It deflects out of play.
14:12: The Grossman penalty is killed. The Penguins didn't exactly light things up that two minutes.
13:09: Off a steal on the right wing, Simmonds weaves towards the net and puts a backhander wide.
12:27: Coburn snaps off a wrister from the right point wide.
11:11: On a two-on-one with Neal, Malkin takes a pass in the right circle and whips a wrister high over the cage. Have to get that on net.
10:25: Meszaros chucks a wrister on net from the left point. It finds its way on net. Fleury is able to fight it off.
10:15: Letang pops a slapper on net from the left whalf wall. Tanner Glass appears to deflect it slightly. Bryzgalov eats it up.
9:27: TImonen booms a slapper form the left point wide to the far side.
9:12: After stoppage, Simmonds and Engelland exchange shoves after the whistle. Nothing comes of it. That's our first notable post-whistle scrum of the afternoon.
8:31: Giroux races up the left wing, dangles to the outside and undresses Martin. he plays the puck into the crease. It bounces around before Fleury can cover it with his glove.
6:37: Coburn whips a wrister from left point wide to the far side.
6:15: Sutter drops Matt Read to the ice in his own slot with a solid hit.
5:39: After Fleury gets tripped up behind his own net, Grossman has a look at the cage from the slot. He fires a wrister as Fleury scramble back to position. Orpik slides down and blocks. Fleury owes Orpik a beer.
3:23: After a save by Bryzgalov, there's a pile-up of players behind the Flyer's net. Grossman looks shaken up. He gets up and lumbers to the Flyer's bench.
1:51: Kunitz feeds a pass to Crosby in the right circle. Crosby blasts a one-timer. Bryzgalov eats it up. That leads to our first real flare-up of the day. Hartenll, as you might expect, is in the middle of it.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 2, Flyers 1.
-The Penguins are lucky to escape that period with a lead. The Flyers could have forwarded their mail to the Penguins' zone that period.
-That said, the Penguins didn't give them too many clean look at the net.
-Claude Giroux? That guy's still pretty good.
-It won't show up in the scoreboard, but Despres had a fantastic play in this period where he had the puck in his own zone near the blue line. A forechecker was giving him chase. Despres, with his back to the forechecker, was able to peel away from him and turn the puck back up ice. That's such a difficult play to do in this league. Despres looked like Nicklas Lidstrom in that instant.
-Hitting picked up a bit that period, but this is still not a typical Penguins-Flyers game.
-It would be a stretch to say Crosby has stood out today.
-The Penguins have a 19-17 lead in shots.
-Voracek leads the game with four.
-Niskanen, Neal and Crosby lead the Penguins with three each.
-Letang leads the game with 16:39 of ice time.
-Timonen leads the Flyers with 15:39.
-The Penguins have a 24-19 lead in faceoffs (56 percent).
-Sutter is 6 for 8 (75 percent).
-Giroux is 10 for 19 (53 percent).
-Martin and Orpik each lead the game with three blocked shots.
-Simmonds leads the Flyers with two.
18:03: A shot by Simmonds from the left circle is wide to the far side.
16:48: Great play by Martin to force Wellwood into a turnover in the Penguins' right wing corner. He poke-checked it off Wellwood's stick and skated it out of danger.
15:13: Kennedy rips a wrister on net from the left wing. Bryzgalov steers it away.
14:32: A puck bounces out of the left wing corner and deflects to the right circle. Scott Laughton steps up and whacks it on net. Fleury eats it up.
13:48: Hartnell drops Orpik with a meaty hit in front of the Penguins' bench.
11:50: Kunitz enters the offensive zone down the slto and snaps off a wrister wide to the left of the cage.
11:02: Tangradi is on a line with Dupuis and Crosby.
10:56: The Penguins dodge a BIG one. From his own slot, Hartnell fires off a torpedo pass to Giroux at the opposite blue line. The pass sneaks between Martin and Letang and hits Giroux's stick JUST as he goes offsides. He would have had a clean breakaway on net.
9:09: Letang corrals a bouncing puck at the top of the slot and taps a pass to Niskanen at the left point. Niskanen booms a one-timer whch hits a stick in front.
8:19: Neal steals a puck at his own blue line, hustles up the right wing, enters the offensive zone and rips a wrister on net. Bryzgalov fights it off.
6:00: With this game nearing the end of regulation, play has gotten really stagnant.
5:33: Engelland takes a stupid penalty and puts the Penguins on the penalty kill. As Sutter skates the puck away from his own net, Engelland holds up Simmons and knocks him down. That's two minutes for interference. Letang, Niskanen, Glass and Adams take the ice.
4:16: The Flyers force a cross ice pass and Dupuis taps it out of the defensive zone with his stick.
3:35: Adams pushes the puck out of his zone and slides it down ice to kill off the rest of Engelland's penalty.
3:16: After Kennedy fumbles a puck in his own zone, Reach has a chance in tight tbut can't get a clean shot off. Fleury covers the puck.
2:27: The Flyers will get one last chance. Malkin high sticks Grossman near the Penguins' bench. That's two minutes. This is do or die here for the Flyers. Orpk, Marktin, Sutter and Cooke take the ice.
2:07: From the right circle, Groux snap of a pass to the left circle. Simmons has a wide open net and taps it wide to eh far side. He raises his hands to his face in disbelief.
1:40: Bryzgalov is pulled.
1:02: Four on four. Letang tries to settle a puck in his own zone. GIroux trips him up with his skate. That's two minutes for tripping. Flyers call a time out. With the faceoff in their own zone, Bryzgalov is back in net. Four on four for 35 seconds.
0:50: With the puck in the Penguins' zone, the Flyers are able to pull Byzgalov again. Five on four.
0:27: Malkin returns to the ice. Five on five.
0:11: Off a neutral zone steal, Kunitz steals airmails it from just outside the blue line into the open cage. Martin gets the only assist. Penguins 3-1.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 3, Flyers 1.
-Talk about a reversal. This was a totally different type of game compared to last spring. This was closer to a playoff game than... you know... the playoff series between these two teams. This was tight hockey.
-The big story today was the Penguins' penalty kill. After getting eviscerated by the Flyers last postseason, it shut things down by killing all five power plays it faced. The Flyers just couldn't really set up very well and they didn't get too many clean looks at net.
-That said, we would have liked to have seen what the Flyers' power play could have done with Daniel Briere.
-Don't overlook the Penguins' power play. It went 2 for 3. Granted, the second goal was on an empty net, but the first goal, a dirty deflection by Tyler Kennedy, was beautiful in its simplicity.
-It would be a stretch to say Sidney Crosby stood out today. His game was rather ordinary today.
-Paul Martin was outstanding. He needed a game like that. He needed to start like this. Teamed with Orpik, he helped shut down the Flyers deep offense. He seemed to have confidence which was absent most of last season.
-Brandon Sutter looked like he had been a member of the Penguins for five years. He was poised, comfortable and just fit in. He routinely saw a lot of time against the Flyers' top two lines and also helped limit their chances.
-If there's one area of concern, it's the dispersal of ice time among the Penguins' top four defenders. Letang (27:03) Martin (24:07), Niskanen (23:12) and Orpik (22:12) each ate a ton of ice time. In comparison, Deryk Engelland (10:52) and Simon Despres (10:26) barely saw the ice. In a season like this, you have to have confidence in your team's depth.
-The officials called a very tight game. Every penalty today was legit by the book. But several of these infractions, like Grossman's crosscheck or Engelland's interference, would not have been called in the last postseason.
-On the officiating, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said, "I thought the officials did a good job. They were consistent. Word had gotten down to us that they were going to call the game down through the final second and they held true to that."
-You have to wonder if the stagnant play we saw today was due in part to the long layoff due to the layoff. Will it take some time for the NHL as whole to get up to speed?
-Marc-Andre Fleury had a strong game. He wasn't challenged a great deal, but he looked confident. He didn't battle the puck. He made saves seem easy.
-Eric Tangradi didn't exactly blow the world away during his time on the Evgeni Malkin-James Neal line. That said, he seemed to tie up a defender on the Malkin/Neal quick draw play which led to a goal.
-Flyers forward Scott Hartnell admitted on the goal, "Their second goal, I think we fell asleep there off the draw.
Malkin wins it to Neal and he shoots. It’s a little bit of a knucklepuck."
-Tanner Glass seemed to step right in and play comfortably. He's a natural fit for this system. He's a banger and crasher who is aggressive on the forecheck. He pressured the Flyers' defense quite well today.
-Claude Giroux was outstanding. He was probably the best player in this game. He tilted the ice anytime he had the puck. It's a shame for the Flyers' sake he didn't have much help.
-Ilya Bryzgalov was okay today but not spectacular.-Let's not forget how close the Flyers came to tying this game. Simmond's bungled that wide open net late in regulation and Giroux had a near breakaway called offsides in the third period.-Shots were tied, 27-27.
-Neal wasn't shy about shooting. He led the game with seven shots.
-Jakub Voracek led the Flyers with six.
-Letang led the game with 27:03 of ice time.
-Kimmo Timonen led the Flyers with 23:52.
-The Penguins controlled faceoffs, 35-27 (56 percent).
-Crosby was 17 for 20 (65 percent).
-Giroux was 13 for 25 (52 percent).
-Martin and Orpik each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Nicklas Grossman and Wayne Simmonds each led the Flyers with two.
-In a bit of a troll move, Fleury and Neal each came out and waved to the Flyers crowd for the three stars.