Flyers season preview: Which team will we see?


Flyers season preview: Which team will we see?

So which Flyers crew shows up Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Will it be the one that has the potential to do some damage in the realigned Eastern Conference with newcomers Vinny Lecavalier, Mark Streit and Ray Emery?

Or will it be the one that lost five of seven preseason games and held a lead for less than 14 minutes?

Will it be a team that protects the slot or one that invite chaos in front of its goalies?

Most of all, will this look like an extension of last spring’s Flyers squad that won six of its final seven games and realizes a hot start is absolutely necessary, or will it be a carbon copy of last January's club that started off losing six of its first eight and never recovered?

For Peter Laviolette’s sake, this club needs to be decisively settled into a positive rhythm from the get-go.

“No question we want to get off to a good start,” Laviolette said. “When you put yourself behind the 8-ball, you are burying yourself and you have to dig out of a hole and that becomes difficult. … For us, it remains get off on the right foot, win hockey games, put yourself in position.”

A quick start would prove the preseason was a mirage forged out of the team having just one exhibition with a full, healthy roster.

“You want to have a great start,” Scott Hartnell said. “That is what everyone focuses on. Not just the first game, but the first five to 10 games. You want to get wins, get hot early, get a couple points, get the confidence going in the first part of the season.

“When you are winning games, points are gonna come. … We have to hit Wednesday running and have a quick start. It’s not going to be easy this year.”

Unlike the lockout restart, Hartnell is in shape, looking to turn the clock back two years ago when he had a career season with 37 goals and 67 points.

Thanks to a full-scale realignment, it will more difficult this season. Not just in the East overall, but in the new Metropolitan Division, which is the “old” Atlantic plus Carolina, Washington and Columbus.

That can be daunting for a club that failed to make the playoffs during the lockout-shortened season.

“I’m ready,” 15-year veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. “I feel like I’ve been off a really long time. Too long. To have a year like that last year, sometimes, it’s good to settle down and see what we did wrong together -- everybody. Coaches, players, management, everybody.

“I hate to say it was good that we didn’t make the playoffs, but at least now everybody realizes we have to work even harder and make better decisions. Sometimes, you need [as a team] to go down to come back up again.”

So much is riding on team chemistry -- offensively and defensively -- for a club that seemed to lack both in exhibition play.

Streit was signed to move the puck efficiently and yet he struggled in the preseason, as did young Erik Gustafsson, who looked nervous in his own end.

Only Timonen and partner Braydon Coburn seemed relaxed.

You can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the Flyers to settle down in front of Emery and Steve Mason. A strong defense at the season’s start will allow the offense to catch up. 

“Defense is important everywhere,” Lecavalier said. “You got to be sharp defensively. In practices we do a lot of offense, which is very refreshing. You’re feeling good in the offensive zone.

“Protecting that puck, the difference from last year to this year for me is getting that puck in the offensive zone and keeping it. Not just being a one opportunity and you’re out. Cycle and do things like that.”

Emery figures to be No. 1 in goal. Whether he stays remains to be seen. Neither he nor Mason were sharp in exhibitions amid the chaos in front of them.

“It’s healthy to have competition,” club chairman Ed Snider said. “It’s great. These [players] both know each other, like each other. It’s not any negative type of competition. It works out well for us.”

Lecavalier will center Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. The top line remains intact with Claude Giroux centering Hartnell and Jakub Voracek.

“Just play simple,” Voracek said. “Take care of the puck in our zone. Everything will come if you’re skating. Lanes open up.”

Lecavalier developed some chemistry in camp with Schenn and Simmonds.

“It’s all about feeling comfortable with the guys you play with and I feel comfortable,” Lecavalier said. “I played with everybody last year. So many [lines] I can’t remember.

“It changed one period to the next. Guy Boucher changed lines constantly. I didn’t have anyone consistently with me for the last few years except Teddy Purcell.”

Laviolette was encouraged with Lecavalier in exhibitions.

“He looks like he is in terrific shape,” Laviolette said. “He had Tampa Bay going in the right direction and then the injuries hit the club and hit him. He seems 100 percent healthy and motivated. He’s in shape, and he’s a talented guy.

“I still go back to the first couple times we played Tampa Bay last year. I was so impressed with the way he played the game. His competitiveness. The fact that he fought a couple of our guys. The way he was playing offensively.”

If Lecavalier ignites the offense, there should be a trickle-down effect. Voracek and Giroux were pretty much the only offense last season.

“We have a good balance of players here,” Laviolette said. “We have guys who can score and put up points. What teams do in the summer doesn’t matter as much as what they can build together as a group. The confidence they put into each other and play hockey games.

“Whether they are scoring or playing defense, winning is the name of the game. I think teams build that. That’s not put together in a summer. That doesn’t build a successful team or a championship team. It will come from the guys in this room … the identity and brand we bring on a consistent basis, that will be the difference between winning and losing.” 

Giroux seems recovered from a right hand injury via a freakish golf accident in August. He led the club with 48 points -- two more than Voracek, who led the team with 22 goals.

Giroux hopes his year carries over into something far more.

“I was playing with a lot of confidence,” Giroux said. “Any player who is playing with a lot of confidence can be a dangerous player. It’s about finding yourself and your game. You go on the ice and know what to do.

“It’s something I want to do, become a dangerous player offensively and defensively.  Jags [Jaromir Jagr] told me if I was going to be one of the best, I would have to also be the hardest working guy out there. I have had that on my mind [all offseason].”

With the Eagles in the tank, all eyes in South Philly shift to the Flyers this month.

General manager Paul Holmgren is a bit on edge as well.

“We need to be better,” Holmgren said. “The players know that. I am sure the coaches laid it out to them that it’s got to be better. I've addressed a couple individuals. In the last couple days, I think the players that we have realized it and picked it up a couple notches in practice.”

Flyers tickets cheapest on resale market since at least 2010

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Flyers tickets cheapest on resale market since at least 2010

After skating to their best record in four years, the Philadelphia Flyers quelled the notion that they would show the growing pains of a rebuilding franchise in 2016. A playoff berth in Dave Hakstol’s first year as head coach brought about the emergence of a new noisemaker in the crowded Metropolitan division, one that stretched the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals to six games in the Quarterfinals.

The Flyers will look to build on the success of last season by relying more on budding players Shane Gostisbehere and Ivan Provanov while veterans Claude Giroux, Mark Streit and Boyd Gordon all look to lead the team back to another postseason. And while excitement continues to build in Philadelphia, fans can find comfort in the fact that Flyers tickets on the secondary market are the least expensive they’ve been this decade.

On TicketIQ, a leading online aggregator that pools both primary and secondary market listings to give consumers the most transparent buying experience, Flyers tickets are averaging $108.32 across all 41 home games at Wells Fargo Center this season. That marks a 12.4 percent drop from the $123.64 average at the beginning of last season. It is the cheapest home average the Flyers have posted since 2010, when TicketIQ began tracking resale ticket data.

While Thursday’s home opener served as one of the NHL’s most expensive games this week, a March 15 matchup with the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins will be the most expensive Flyers home game this season. That game currently owns a $183.16 average, 69 percent over the season average, and the cheapest available tickets are priced for $73 each. Other top-priced games at Wells Fargo Center this season include January 4 against the New York Rangers ($163.62 avg./$57 get-in) and October 29 against the Penguins ($156.36 avg./$90 get-in).

For those looking for tickets to the cheapest Flyers games this season, an October 27 matchup with the Arizona Coyotes is the least expensive home game to attend. Tickets are averaging just $63.50, 41 percent below season average, and the get-in price is $16. Back-to-back games against the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets on November 15 and 17 follow, with tickets starting from just $20 each at both contests.

For the best deals on Flyers tickets this season, make sure to download the TicketIQ app. Fans can save up to 10 percent on all IQ Certified listings in the only engagement-based loyalty program in the marketplace. Download the TicketIQ app and start saving today!

Dale Weise suspended 3 games for illegal check to head of Ducks' Korbinian Holzer

Dale Weise suspended 3 games for illegal check to head of Ducks' Korbinian Holzer

Another Flyers player has been suspended by the NHL Department of Player Safety.

This time, it's right winger Dale Weise, who on Friday was banned three games for an illegal check to the head of Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer during the Flyers' 3-2 home-opening loss Thursday night.

As Holzer was attempting to chip the puck out of his own zone in the second period, Weise lowered his right shoulder and made a high hit to the blueliner.

The NHL Department of Player Safety explained that Weise made the head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable and unnecessary. Weise is a repeat offender, as he lost three preseason games for a hit while playing with the Canucks ahead of the 2013-14 regular season.

With Weise's suspension, rookie Roman Lyubimov, the Flyers' lone remaining healthy scratch, will enter the lineup.

The Flyers have been suspended an NHL-most 12 games. Forward Brayden Schenn served a three-game suspension to start the season for a hit in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, while defenseman Radko Gudas is currrently serving a six-gamer for a check during the preseason.

Weise, who the Flyers signed in the offseason to a four-year, $9.4 million deal, has not registered a point in four games playing on the team's third line.