Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Positive Takeaways from the Flyers' Opening Weekend

Dan FremuthContributor IIIJanuary 22, 2013

Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Positive Takeaways from the Flyers' Opening Weekend

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    The start of the 2013 season didn't exactly go the way the Philadelphia Flyers would have liked.

    A season opening 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at home on Saturday was followed by a 5-2 setback at the Buffalo Sabres less than 24 hours later.

    Philly's power play produced just one conversion in nine man-advantage opportunities while the penalty kill for the Orange and Black surrendered four power-play goals against in just nine man-down situations.

    But despite an 0-2 start and struggling special teams, there were still a handful of positive takeaways from Philadelphia's opening weekend. 

    Here's a look at five of them.

Claude Giroux

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    Much is expected this season of the newly appointed Flyers' captain, and Giroux certainly didn't disappoint in his first two games of the shortened season.

    The native of Hearst, Ontario tallied Philly's only goal in Saturday's setback to the Penguins and then bombed in the Flyers' only power-play conversion to date on Sunday.

    He paced all Philadelphia forwards in ice time (21:57) over the weekend, averaging nearly two more minutes in the season's first two games than the team's second most frequented forward (Wayne Simmonds).

    And while he may have only registered six shots on goal, he converted on one-third of those chances and helped to generate countless more scoring opportunities for his teammates.

    A legitimate MVP candidate, Giroux is certainly an early bright spot for the winless Flyers.

Ilya Bryzgalov

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    There may be no Flyers skater with more pressure on him this season than goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

    In the second year of a nine-year, $51 million pact, Bryzgalov must prove he's worth all of those years and all of that money.

    And to be honest, so far so good.

    Against the offensive superpower Penguins on Saturday, Bryzgalov surrendered just two goals against on 26 shots. Pittsburgh's second goal that afternoon was a bit shaky as it squeaked under his right arm off a clean faceoff win by the Pens but generally speaking, the enigmatic netminder looked confident in his denials.

    Then in a quick turnaround less than 24 hours later, Bryzgalov registered 36 saves on an astounding 40 Buffalo Sabres shots.  The Philly net was under siege most of the afternoon and despite allowing four goals against, Bryzgalov looked solid in cage.

    He wasn't stand-on-his-head impressive in the season's first two games but Bryzgalov was certainly good enough to give the Flyers a chance to win both contests.

Scott Laughton

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    Kicking off a five-game trial period with the Flyers, Laughton made an instant impact with the big club.

    He didn't point in first two NHL tilts but did all of the little things you want from a hardworking third line forward. He played with speed and energy and finished virtually every hit on the forecheck.

    He wasn't on the ice for any goals against over the weekend and averaged over 11 minutes in ice time per game while recording 32 shifts over his first two games.

    Selected with the 20th overall selection in last summer's draft, Laughton didn't have the benefit of a prolonged training camp to make an impression on his new coaching staff. With that, he has to make an instant impact in his five-game trial if he hopes to stay in the NHL.

    With as hard and diligent as Laughton worked over the weekend, it will be awfully tough for the Flyers to send their first-round pick back.

Wayne Simmonds

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    Like Laughton, Simmonds demonstrated a gritty determination in the opening games of the season that will go a long way to prolonged success this season.

    After career highs in goals (28) and points (49) last season, Simmonds was expected to take on an even more enhanced role this season, and the early season returns are solid.

    The sturdy 6'2", 183-pound power forward showed a fearless mentality in the season's first two games repeatedly barreling to the front of the net and withstanding non-stop punishment atop the goal crease while on the power play.

    Simmonds had multiple opportunities to convert rebounds at the net front that in time will find the back of the cage. He tied for the team lead with eight shots through the first two tilts, and earned his first point of the season with an assist on Philly's first power-play conversion of the year.

    Only Claude Giroux averaged more ice time among Flyers forwards and deservedly so as Simmonds' physicality and tenacious pursuit on the forecheck will be invaluable tools this season for the Orange and Black.

Forward Depth

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    In addition to the solid start for the three forwards already mentioned, the Flyers displayed an  abundance of overall forward depth in the season's opening weekend.

    Six Philly forwards registered six or more shots in the first two games while 10 different forwards recorded at least 30 shifts last weekend. 

    Among forwards, only Giroux averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time per contest while Eric Wellwood and the now-injured Zac Rinaldo averaged fewer than 10 minutes.

    That forward depth hasn't translated into offensive production just yet (only 3 goals in 2 games) but it should pay huge dividends with the condensed schedule moving forward. 

    Teams will be forced to play back-to-back games regularly and will need all the depth they can to keep key personnel rested and ready for this sprint of a season.