Wade Allison made his NHL debut for the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night in Pittsburgh and he did not disappoint.
The Flyers won the game 2-1 in a shootout in a much better effort.
By all accounts, Allision was pretty impressive in his debut. He had a few scoring chances, was solid defensively, and brought the energy on the forecheck.
“For a player coming in and not having a practice with us, I thought, for the most part, he played how he was described: strong on the puck, goes to the net,” Alain Vigneault said. “[He] had some opportunities tonight. It was a good start for him.”
Let’s take a shift-by-shift look at Allison’s impressive debut.
Allison opens with energy
From his first shift, Wade Allison showed that he’ll play hard whistle to whistle –– or beyond. On his first touch, the Flyers were whistled for offside while Allison chased after the puck in the corner.
Allison got in hard on the forecheck after the ensuing faceoff as he brought good energy on his first NHL shift. He then forced the Penguins into a bad pass in the Flyers zone to get out of danger and finish off his first shift.
“I was crazy nervous before the game,” Allison said after a strong debut. “But as soon as you go out there and you get your first shift then it’s the same game of hockey.”
On his next shift, Allison forechecked hard again after another faceoff in the neutral zone. This time, he made contact with the puck and forced a turnover.
Oskar Lindblom got the puck to him in the slot and Allison batted it down. The rookie then got to the puck and slid a nifty no-look backhand pass to Lindblom in the slot for a great scoring chance.
It was the first of many great plays by the rookie.
“They’re both pretty sweet players. They both make tremendous plays,” Allison said of Patrick and Lindblom. “It was real easy for me to just slide in there and try to contribute.”
He then went to work in the defensive end. Allison broke his stick in a battle along the wall, but that didn’t stop him.
Allison stayed directly between Mike Matheson and the net, not allowing any sort of shooting lane for the Penguin.
It was only two shifts –– 105 seconds –– and Allison already made a great first impression.
Allison’s next shift started on the power play. He took Nolan Patrick’s spot in front of the net on Claude Giroux‘s unit.
The power play was disorganized, however, so Allison didn’t really get any looks here. He did enter the zone with around 20 seconds left on the power play to help get things set up, but the Flyers didn’t get a shot through.
Allison got one more 21-second shift in the first period, but it was uneventful.
That was it for Wade Allison’s first NHL period.
“Tried to keep my feet moving, tried to play my game and not stray away from what do,” Allison said. “Just keep pushing.”
He played 3:25 (1:04 on the power play) over the course of four shifts in a solid period.
Wade Allison settles in in the second
His first shift in the second period was spent almost entirely in the defensive zone after he failed to clear the puck.
It wasn’t an overly egregious mistake and he positioned himself well defensively after that, but in providing analysis of his entire game, this is included. Granted, it’s not too shabby to have a failed clear along the boards be one of the few mistakes in your NHL debut.
Allison showed that good defensive positioning on his next shift to force Kris Letang into making an ill-advised pass. Nolan Patrick took it away and cleared the zone. Brian Dumoulin thought he had an easy play to make, but Allison lifted his stick to create a rush for his line.
Allison and Patrick then went to work and won a battle below the goal line.
However, the Penguins got the puck back and the duo didn’t follow Sidney Crosby on the backcheck.
Crosby went to the bench for a new stick then cleaned up the loose puck in front to open the scoring.
This isn’t on Allison, though. Nolan Patrick is the center and needs to be better defensively on Crosby. Furthermore, Carter Hart did himself no favors with his play in the crease on this one.
Allison’s next shift was another uneventful one. He got to the puck in the corner –– around the same position he failed to clear from prior –– and cleared the zone before going off on a change.
He gained the zone with control on his next shift but sent the puck to no one in the slot.
It was a good show of asking for the puck and making himself available before entering the zone. He must’ve thought Robert Hagg would keep moving forward or expected Lindblom to cut to the slot sooner. Those things will come with time and chemistry.
The shift was split between even strength and power play for Allison. He stayed on the ice and nearly scored his first NHL goal.
He kicked a cross-ice pass up to his stick but Tristan Jarry got just enough of it.
Allison gave Jarry a little nod after the save.
That was one of several great chances for Allison in the game.
Allison’s power-play unit got back on the ice for the final minute or so of the man advantage. It wasn’t anything special, but Allison kept the puck alive behind the net by batting it to the slot after a missed shot.
He had another great chance on his final shift of the second period. He backhanded the puck on net then went around the cage and put it back in the crease.
It was a tremendous second period for Allison to follow up a solid showing in the first. He played 4:25 (1:01 on the power play) across six shifts in the middle frame.
Wade keeps working in the third
Allison started the third period with some more energetic play. He went in hard on the forecheck and the fourth line was able to control the puck.
The shift ended with a scary moment of Nolan Patrick getting hit in the head with a shot. Patrick left the game and did not return.
Allison went right back to work on his next shift. Scott Laughton sent the puck into the corner where Allison won the race to the puck. He then won the battle alongside Lindblom.
Not only did he win the battle, but he also came out front and put another shot on net. Again, however, Jarry had the answer.
Allison really wanted to get that first point in his first NHL game.
His next shift was back-and-forth with the teams trading dump-ins. Not much to see there.
Allison’s penultimate shift was another hard-working one. He won a battle and showed off his board play to get the puck back to the point.
His final shift came with over five minutes left in the game, which was a bit curious. He did most of his hard work in the offensive zone on Thursday night, but he was at it in the defensive zone on his last shift.
Allison tied up Zach Aston-Reese in the slot, not allowing him to get a deflection or rebound chance, then helped the Flyers get out of the zone.
That was it for the rookie. Allison played hard all game long and had a few great chances.
Allison played 3:23 (all at 5-on-5) across five shifts in the third period. He totaled 11:13 (9:01 at 5-on-5) across 15 shifts in his first NHL game.
Allison was tied for the team lead with four shot attempts –– three of which were on goal –– at 5-on-5 in the game. He was tied with Joel Farabee with three scoring chances (all high-danger) in the game, but his power-play chance made him the only Flyers player with four high-danger chances in the game.
“Couldn’t buy a goal, he had some great opportunities, but couldn’t buy one tonight,” Vigneault said. “Hopefully, next time he can buy one.”
Allison didn’t seem too concerned about being snakebitten.
“I’ll get a bounce here soon, it’s not something I’m worried about,” he said. “I’ll just keep doing the same thing, playing the game right, taking care of the defensive zone, and one’ll pot for me I’m not worried about it.”
It was an incredibly impressive debut for Allison.
Allison dealt with a lot of injuries after being drafted. He dealt with injuries in his four years at Western Michigan and missed the start of this season with an ankle injury.
“It’s been a long road. There’s been a lot of ups, a lot of downs, but I did it,” Allison said of his NHL debut. “It’s pretty cool, something I’ll remember forever, something that nobody can ever take from me. It’s pretty special.”
If Allison keeps playing how he did on Thursday night in Pittsburgh, his “pretty special” debut will be the first of many games he has in his NHL career.
Photo via Philadelphia Flyers