Will the first two Philadelphia Flyers games — one a solid effort, the other a clunker — be a microcosm of their season?
Don’t be surprised.
There will be more ups and downs than usual, a product of young players trying to get their footing and a suspect defense that needs much more seasoning — and misses the injured Rasmus Ristolainen.
Up: The Flyers’ penalty kill was 4 for 4 in Thursday’s 4-2 win in Columbus.
Down: The penalty kill was just 2 for 5 in a 5-2 loss Saturday in Ottawa, whose power play is much more lethal than Columbus’.
Up: Travis Sanheim, in his first game as the Flyers’ No. 1 defenseman, was superb in the opener.
Down: Sanheim, 27, was schooled by 35-year-old Claude Giroux and others in Ottawa.
Up: Egor Zamula was one of the Flyers’ best defensemen on Thursday.
Down: Emil Andrae, 21, another promising young defenseman, had some bad moments Saturday in his NHL debut.
The Philadelphia Flyers, who face Vancouver in their home opener Tuesday, looked speedy and cohesive in Game 1, slow and disorganized in Game 2. A lot of it had to do with the competition they faced, and the fact that forwards Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson will have their ups and downs as they return after missing last season because of injuries.
Never mind that Couturier and Atkinson are proven veterans. They will need time to regain their rhythm after long layoffs.
All of the above figures to cause lots of inconsistent play in the season’s first few months. Maybe longer.
Unlike the win in Columbus, the Flyers had little attack time in Ottawa. The Senators controlled the game from the start. They were the better team in all situations — even-strength, power play, penalty kill, and in the faceoff circle.
“They had the puck most of the night,” said Flyers coach John Tortorella, whose team was outshot, 31-21, including 24-9 before garbage time in the third period.
Ottawa’s five power-play opportunities played a big role.
“We don’t even give ourselves a chance by taking so many penalties,” Tortorella said.
Left unsaid: The Flyers had six power-play chances of their own, but converted just one — Travis Konecny’s 5-on-3 goal, his third tally in two games.
The Flyers did little in most of their other power-play opportunities. Maybe getting the creative Bobby Brink back in the lineup will help the power play in the near future?
“We’ve got to get more shots,” rookie right winger Tyson Foerster said.
Foerster put just two shots on goal and had an assist in his season debut Saturday. He has one of the team’s best shots and needs to shoot more often. He’ll get there. He’s 21 and his future is bright.
So is the future of many young players on this team.
It’s just going to take some time before they get there.
Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called Bullies: A Love Story. Carchidi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.