The Philadelphia Flyers face a tough test in Western Canada

Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

With their season-opening 2-1-1 homestand behind them, the Philadelphia Flyers will venture out on the road for the first time during this 2021-22 season, a trip which comes in the form of a three-game swing through Western Canada.

This will mark the first time that the Flyers have played north of the border since the NHL’s 2020 “bubble” playoffs, and it presents an early challenge for a club who is playing decently enough so far but might not have the luxury of any early season struggles, thanks to fast starts by literally all of their Metropolitan Division rivals. Carolina has shot out of the gate with five straight wins.

The Rangers are a surprising 4-2-1. The Penguins haven’t lost in regulation yet. Neither have the Capitals. And on and on it goes.

It’s very early, but somehow every single team in the division is over .500. That will settle down eventually as some of these teams play pivotal games against each other, but the Flyers certainly can’t sleep on games like this week’s slate against Western Conference foes, either. The two points on the line are important every night.

Three games in Western Canada will present a big challenge for the Philadelphia Flyers.

The road trip will kick off on Wednesday night in Edmonton, as the Philadelphia Flyers face a 5-0 Oilers club which comes in scoring nearly five goals per game on the young season and who will be extremely well rested. Oh, and they also feature the best player in the world in Connor McDavid as well as perhaps the second best offensive player in the league, Leon Draisaitl. The schedule gods then start to mess with the Flyers by sending them to Vancouver for a game against the Canucks the following night rather than Calgary, which is less than an hour by plane from Edmonton.

The Canucks, while hardly anyone’s idea of a contender, did just spoil the Flyers’ opener at home last week, so here’s hoping that the Orange and Black can exact some pretty immediate revenge. After a day off, the Flyers do eventually find themselves in Calgary for a game on Saturday night against the Flames as they wrap up a whirlwind tour of Western Canada, with three entire games crammed into a window of about 75 hours.

By the time the Flyers are back in the air headed home to Philadelphia, there will be 75 games left in the season, and it will still be far too early to draw any kind of big conclusions about the ultimate fate of the club this year. At the same time, though, you can glean a lot from three games to start to inform your opinion.

What if the Flyers shut down McDavid and Draisaitl and can hand the Oilers their first loss of the season? And what if they have enough jump in the other two games to either win both of them or at least get points out of each contest? Wouldn’t it be a huge confidence booster if Carter Hart, who will presumably start two of the three games, stands tall? Yes, some strong play and something like a 2-0-1 road trip would be huge this week.

On the flip side, what if the Flyers look overwhelmed in Edmonton and things just snowball from there? Maybe their early offensive fireworks from the season’s first week go silent and they find themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 game in Vancouver and/or Calgary. Forgive the neurotic Philadelphia fan for already considering this possibility, but it could feel like the team is chasing the standings before we’ve even gotten to Halloween.

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There are no easy games in the NHL (except apparently against the Arizona Coyotes, whom the Flyers face next week). This brief sojourn north of the border figures to be an early test for a Philadelphia Flyers club desperately seeking consistency. And while this road trip won’t reveal any conclusions, it will start to point the needle toward one of the paths that the Flyers could very well end up taking this season.