Yes, we're only three games in and, yes, the Flyers have taken six of a possible six points. We're all happy in Flyerville.
Yes, in Philly sports, there is always a but. Right now, it's defensive zone communication. It's a problem I noted in the Flyers' win over Boston, one they seemed to do much better with against New Jersey, but Wednesday night against Vancouver it was back in a large and dangerous way.
The Philadelphia Flyers are a team built on defense. You don't invest $51 million in a goalkeeper and a ton of money and long contracts along your blue line to win games 5-4. This edition of the Flyers is not meant to do that. If it needs to score five goals a night, this is going to be a long season.
Ilya Bryzgalov was not at his best in his new team's home opener, but considering what was happening in front of him, it might have been his best overall performance of the season. While the team paraded to the penalty box in lieu of protecting a one-goal lead late in the third period, Bryz stood tall and allowed Philly to escape.
But how did it get to that point? The Flyers had leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in the first period, and led 4-2 in the second. Eventually, that lead evaporated completely, and the Flyers needed a late goal to salvage the win.
Here's a look at each of the four goals and what went wrong:
Power play goal at 16:35 of the first period scored by Mikael Samuelsson
This was a nice play by Samuelsson, but with better communication shouldn't have been so easy. Working the point, Samuelsson crosses with his teammate, moves to the center of the ice, and then passes back to the left point. Claude Giroux was following him across the ice to the side occupied defensively by Maxime Talbot, who reacted late in picking up Henrik Sedin on the side Giroux vacated.
Samuelsson drifted off the blue line toward the net, and no Flyers player picked him up. Giroux allowed him to skate by and Kimmo Timonen, standing guard deep in the Flyers' zone, was busy in front with Daniel Sedin. That allowed Samuelsson to stand unmolested to Bryzgalov's left as the point shot rebounded to his stick for an easy goal.
Somehow, Giroux and Talbot must communicate better along the blue line. The initial point shot should never have been so clear. Additionally, Timonen must be either more alert or someone must communicate that Samuelsson has joined the fray below the circles.
Even strength goal at 6:41 of the second period by Henrik Sedin
Probably the worst defensive collapse of the game. Braydon Coburn gained possession of the puck below the goal line and looked to outlet. His two options were Claude Giroux, all alone in the middle of the ice, or Jaromir Jagr, who was flanked by two Vancouver defenders.
Coburn picked Jagr, the puck bounced, and chaos ensued. A crazy hop landed the puck in the slot, where Timonen, Giroux and Coburn converged. Jagr hung out by the boards, a costly decision, and more on that in a minute.
At this point, it was 3-on-3 in front of the net. Timonen went down to block a shot as Giroux moved to the high slot. Sedin, meanwhile, remained to the outside, uncovered.
Jagr reentered the play, but for some reason skated to the slot where Timonen and Giroux already were, instead of toward Sedin, who was much, much closer. The Flyers had three players occupying a small square of ice, and no Canuck could be found.
Meanwhile, three Canucks were below the circles facing Coburn and Bryz. A quick pass from Alex Burrows to Sedin made for an easy goal.
This was a breakdown from the start. Giroux needed to make his presence known for the breakout, and the coverage below, which at worst was 3-on-3, should never end in a 3-on-1. Poor communication and a costly goal.
Even strength goal at 15:31 of the second period by Chris Higgins
This is the goal Ilya Bryzgalov would like to have back, though again the quality of the chance could have been lessened by some better communication.
Burrows was holding the puck behind the net and crossed from the Bryzgalov's left post to the right side. For reasons passing understanding, both Timonen and Chris Pronger focused all their attention on him, and ignored Higgins, who was camped out to Bryzgalov's left.
The Flyers forwards were all in solid position, cutting down and shots from the slot or the circles. Much similar to the last goal, they had even numbers down low, 2-on-2.
Eventually, Timonen chased the puck below the goal line, leaving Pronger to mark, well, no one. Burrows took this moment to fire back to the left, just after Bryz moved away from the left post, and Higgins banged the puck by before the Flyers' goaltender could slide back.
Again, Bryz needed to do a better job of recognizing the situation. Burrows was in no position to score, being marked by two defenders and standing behind the net. He should have focused more on Higgins' location, but so should either Timomen or Pronger, who stood side-by-side but apparently were unable to say, "Yo, someone better get that other guy."
Power play goal at 3:39 of the third period by Henrik Sedin
Talbot and Sean Couturier converged on a single Canuck at the point, leaving options all across the ice. The puck found its way to Alexander Edler, who took his time examining a canyon through the center of the Flyers' zone.
Henrik Sedin moved off the goal line to create a passing lane, and Timonen - camped out in front of Bryz - and Couturier were late getting their sticks into the middle of the ice to prevent a clean pass. Sedin did a nice job to settle and release a quick wrister over Bryz to tie the game at 4-4.
This was a nice job of puck movement by Vancouver, but the Flyers' forwards helped the cause by double-teaming one of three Canucks spread across the blue line. One wonders if anyone had been in the same zip code of Edler, would he have been able to make that pass? I think not.
All in all, a win is a win and there was much to be happy about. A Flyers team expected to struggle to score goals put up five against Roberto Luongo. They were also in the "sweet spot" as far as shots go, with 27 (three games, three wins). They killed off four penalties in the third period and went 2-for-5 on the powerplay after entering the game 1-for-12. They won 52 percent of faceoffs after entering the game dead last in the NHL in that category.
But the defensive zone communication has to be better. The Flyers had a lot of roster turnover in the offseason, so it is expected there will be some lapses as everyone figures out how to play with each other. It just has to improve, and the sooner the better.