The night started off well, as Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was introduced and those who had already trekked from the many tempting food and beverage options behind their seats stood and applauded. Wearing 18 (yes, Mike Richards old number), Pederson walked to center ice for a ceremonial puck drop, shook hands with Tampa captain Steven Stamkos and Flyers captain Claude Giroux (who handed him the puck), and shook hands with well-wishing fans as he exited down the tunnel behind the Flyers bench.
In case you're wondering, yes Richards was the last to wear 18. And it is the 2018 Super Bowl.
Still, 52 was available.
It's a recurring answer given by Flyers coach Dave Hakstol over his two-plus seasons here. Sometimes you wonder what he sees that you don't.
Thursday's first period was not one of those times. The Flyers possessed the puck for almost all of it, truly one of their most impressive periods this season in that regard. They outshot Tampa Bay, 9-3. Turnovers at mid-ice created a breakaway for Travis Konecny and a 2-on-1 for Jori Lehtera and Valtteri Filpulla. Radko Gudas had a close call. They even killed a penalty without allowing a shot.
Great effort. The result was a scoreless first period. Against the highest scoring team in the NHL. Uh-oh.
But it suggested that Hakstol, if he can survive that long, will do much better as much-touted talent like Oskar Lindblom, Morgan Frost, and Philippe Myers replace some of the current names on the roster in the seasons to come.
Provided they are as good as touted of course.
There was a second downside to the Flyers' first period. Michal Neuvirth, who has started three of the last five games, saw just three shots in that first period – and it showed. Neuvirth often thrives when he is kept busy, particularly at the start. Brayden Point's goal to push the Lightning ahead 1-0 was a rather obvious backhander that a better version of Neuvirth handles easily. After third-line winger Yanni Gourde made it 2-0 popping in a rebound, Ryan Callahan swooped around Shayne Gostisbehere and crossed the slot to make it 3-0 — Neuvirth again not quite his agile self. In the third period, moments after Travis Konecny provided hope with a power-play goal from the slot, Neuvirth was beaten by a one-timer that Vladislav Namestiknov got just a piece of, the puck fluttering past Neuvirth's pad for a 4-1 lead. Namestiknov scored a few minutes later to account for the final score
Ten second-period shots, three goals. which led to…
Almost forgot what they sounded like, with the Sixers and Flyers both on hot streaks (8-of-10), and Coach Pederson's wonder boys threatening to make a lasting historical mark. But that's what followed the Flyers off the ice after the second period, and their indifference around their net – especially after such a solid first period – earned every one of them.