Welcome to Philadelphia Chris Pronger and Ray Emery.
Emery turned aside all 28 shots faced and Pronger was a cornerstone on the blue line logging 27 minutes, as the visiting new-look Flyers dispatched the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0, Friday in the 2009-10 season opener.
“Ray looks more comfortable every day,” coach John Stevens told the media. “He looks alert, he’s finding pucks, he makes saves on effort. He was tremendous.”
The Flyers controlled play in the first period out shooting the Canes 15-8, but it wasn’t until a double minor by Sergei Samsonov to start the second, that the Flyers turned it on.
Jeff Carter got the scoring started just 25-seconds into the middle stanza, when a shot from Kimmo Timonen rebounded up in the air, landing just off the left leg pad of goalie Cam Ward (25 saves). Carter came from behind the net to jam it home for the 1-0 lead.
Just 23-seconds later on the same power play, Mike Richards, cutting down the slot, redirected a light shot-pass from Simon Gagne off the boards and past Ward. The goal gave the Flyers the stunning 2-0 lead. Rookie James van Riemsdyk earned the first assist of his NHL career on the play.
“We’ve got great depth on this team,” said Pronger. “We can roll two solid units and get back-to-back goals like tonight. That’s a nice luxury.”
The Flyers were very effective on the power play, earning just four but cashing in on two. They were also very active on the other two, with chances early and often. If the Flyers can harness a consistently potent power play, it could spell big things for the rest of the season.
Blair Betts came in and did what Blair Betts was given a contract to do — he won face offs and played terrific PK. Leading the Flyers with 56%, Betts played a forward-high 6:13 of penalty kill time. That kind of hard labor not on the legs of Jeff Carter or Mike Richards could be good news as the Flyers get set to face the New Jersey Devils with no day rest.
Ray Emery and the defense
Emery’s great rebound control and solid positioning was a calming influence on the ice, even with the Hurricanes mounting a fiery comeback. The cool and collected net minding was a refreshing change from the unpredictable caroms of former goalie Marty Biron. Matching Emery, the Flyers’ defense blocked nine shots and limited second chances, completely snuffing out a fairly potent Hurricanes team in their home opener. If the defense continues to be solid, Emery will simply need to be good not great for the Flyers to see big things.
Despite Betts’ 56%, the Flyers were not great on the dot going just 45% as a team. Albeit facing one of the greatest face off men of all time Rod Brind’Amour, who hit for 76% percent (14-4), Mike Richards went 10-11 for 48% and Jeff Carter went a dismal 5-12 for 29%. If this was a focus point to improve in the offseason, the Flyers didn’t do a great job.
Hartnell is one of the bigger and more powerful forwards on the Flyers and should be one of the more physical and active players on a night-to-night basis. But against the Canes, that part of his game was really lacking. Hartnell registered no hits despite 16:08 of playing time. He did a decent job clearing the crease late in the game, but for the Flyers to be effective, Hartnell has to be in the face of the opposition.
It was a problem last year, a problem in the preseason and it is already an issue with just one game played. The Flyers committed an amazing eight minors in Friday’s contest and still managed to hold Carolina to no points. Grasping just a two-goal lead, if Carolina’s man advantage is thriving it could have turned the game entirely around.