A lot has been made about the yesterday’s revelation of Peter Laviolette being the odds-on favorite to be the first man out of a head coaching gig this season based on several online gambling sites and a plethora of season previews scattered about the web. The truth is, based on the Flyers recent history of inexplicable stretches of poor and lazy hockey coupled with their putrid preseason, if they wish to keep their boss behind the bench they will have to buck the trend and start playing some passionate hockey again. And if opening night was any indication, they better be ready to come out firing.
Between the three games played on the first night of meaningful hockey around the league, a whopping 26 goals were scored. Toronto comes into town fresh off a fight-filled affair in Montreal and a 4-3 victory. While they will likely be tired, they will surely be ready to continue their offensive onslaught versus arguably a weaker defensive team in the Flyers. If the home squad wants to take advantage of their opponent they will have to jump on them right away, something they have rarely done over the past few seasons.
One way to do that is to take a page out of the Chicago Blackhawks playbook. When they scored the opening goal in the first period of last night’s win over the Washington Capitals, it was as if they had never left the ice from last season’s magical playoff run. Check it out:
The play started below the goal line, when three forwards went behind the net with authority and forced the issue amongst Capitals defenders to get the puck. What followed was a pass to the point, forcing their opponents to shift focus to the other side of the zone. By the time the winger got to his defensive assignment after dropping down low to support his defender, the puck was going the other way again, forcing the exhausted defensemen to make try and make a play on the Blackhawks forwards that remained around the net causing havoc.
The play resulted in a lead for the home team and a set of tired Capitals defenders. Taking this approach to their puck possession could also open up room for their more creative forwards around the hash marks, putting the puck on their stick in a high-scoring area of the ice. The Flyers would be wise to try and do the same to Toronto early and often in the first period, forcing the travel-weary visitors to use their strength to play defense instead of offense.
After averaging just a shade over two goals in the preseason, the Flyers offense would be wise to keep it simple and just look to generate as many shots on goal as possible. If they focus on one game at a time, they could find things falling into place for them as they slowly work their way into the schedule with just eleven games in the first month of the season. But if they continue to fail to light the lamp, the only people with smiles on their faces will be those who followed the oddsmaker’s advice at the start of the season.
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