No matter where or when its scored, a players first NHL goal is always special.
Very few hockey players, however, can say they scored their first marker outdoors and in a baseball stadium, let alone in front of nearly 47,000 fans. Brayden Schenn, the Flyer whos arguably had the worst luck on the team this season, can claim that feat.
At 12:26 of the second period of Mondays Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park, Schenn slammed home the rebound of a Matt Carle shot to break the games scoreless tie and get a great amount of pressure off his young shoulders.
It feels great, Schenn said. Scoring in a big game like that is pretty exciting. At the same time, it would have been nice to win that would have made the goal even better.
Despite earning a two-goal lead in the second period, the Flyers dropped the game, 3-2, (see story) to fall four points behind the Rangers, who hold the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference lead.
I wanted to get the goal for a long time, Schenn said. But you want to do both win and score. Obviously, it would have been nice to win. The points are huge.
Schenn, still technically a rookie despite playing eight games for the L.A. Kings last season, has had a tough year and thats putting it lightly. He started the season with the Flyers AHL affiliate Adirondack Phantoms because of a shoulder injury. Then, after he finally fought his way back into the NHL lineup, he fractured his foot in a game against the Montreal Canadiens in October.
When he finally returned from the foot injury, he lasted just two games before suffering a concussion against the Phoenix Coyotes. He missed nine games and worked his way back to complete health before finally returning Dec. 27 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The goal, basically a year and a half in the making, couldnt have come at a better time for the 20-year-old center.
Its pretty cool to get your first NHL goal at the Winter Classic, Claude Giroux said. I think he deserves it. Hes been working hard. Hes had injuries here and there, and for him to get this goal, coming back from a head injury, Im happy for him.
Expectations in Philadelphia have been high for Schenn since he arrived here, coming to town as part of the trade that sent ex-captain Mike Richards to the Kings. The Flyers had him penciled in as third line center before he even took the ice for training camp. General manager Paul Holmgren said that Schenn reminded him already of a young Richards.
To finally get the first goal out of the way certainly removes the proverbial monkey off Schenns back.
Maybe a little bit of pressure, he said. Obviously, you want to get that first one. I guess its over with now, and I can just move on and move forward. It was good to get it.
He added, I want to use it as a building block and hopefully keep on going.
In a game seemingly full of coincidence (if you dont know the circumstances surrounding Ranger Marc Staals return to the lineup, theyre worth checking out), Schenns goal actually brings about another. In the Flyers first Winter Classic appearance, in 2010 at Fenway Park in Boston, another Flyer scored his first NHL goal. That time, it was Danny Syvret.
To say your first NHL goal was at the Winter Classic is a pretty special thing, Braydon Coburn said. I think of all the goals Ive heard of guys scoring, I think Schenns was probably one of the more memorable ones.
Schenn, as he said after the game, has had a bit of trouble blending in with his teammates, most of whom have played about three times as many games this season as he has. Its a funny choice of a phrase, considering he stood out from his teammates in the Winter Classic, and in a very good way: Schenns 75 percent faceoff win percentage led the Flyers.
The only player on ice to have a higher winning percentage was Ranger Brandon Dubinsky, and he only took a single draw.
Unlike the circumstances surrounding the goal, Schenns success in the faceoff circle was no coincidence.
Just confidence in faceoffs, a lot of confidence, he said. Youve got to be strong. Thats actually one of the biggest things coming from junior to the NHL, guys are strong. They know how to win faceoffs. Ive been working on them lately.
With the new year comes a chance for the Flyers to find some normalcy. After a month spent mostly on the road culminating in the Winter Classic, a sense of routine will be welcomed by the players.
And that certainly goes for Schenn, as well a player whose teammates believe is finally on the precipice of living up to lofty expectations.
Thats a big goal for him, and thats the first of many for sure, Matt Read said. Hes a great player. One little bounce and he was in the right place at the right time. He couldnt ask for anything better. Hopefully he can continue with his success.
E-mail Sarah Baicker at email@example.com
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