The San Jose Sharks followed up a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals by seeing a high-powered offense fall back to the pack as the team failed to navigate its way out of the first round of the playoffs last spring. The Sharks look to locate their offensive rhythm right from the start on Wednesday as they host the Philadelphia Flyers at SAP Center in San Jose in the season opener for both teams.
Reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns had little difficulty contributing at the offensive end last season, recording a team-best 47 assists and 76 points to go along with a career-high 29 goals. Captain Joe Pavelski matched Burns in goals, but San Jose will need to overcome the loss of Patrick Marleau, as the franchise fixture opted to sign a three-year contract to join Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs. While the Sharks scored just 2.67 goals per game last season to reside 19th in the league, Philadelphia (2.59) struggled in that department as well en route to missing out on the playoffs for the third time in five years. Veterans Wayne Simmonds (team-leading 31 goals), captain Claude Giroux (club-best 44 assists) and Jakub Voracek (team-leading 61 points) will be looked upon to provide leadership as the younger members of the club gradually get their feet wet, most notably second overall pick Nolan Patrick.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN
ABOUT THE FLYERS (2016-17: 39-33-10, 6th in Metropolitan Division): The focus in Philadelphia has long centered around mediocre goaltending, save for Bernie Parent and perhaps even current general manager Ron Hextall. Offseason acquisition Brian Elliott, who signed a two-year, $5.5 million, is hoping to recapture the form that he displayed with the St. Louis Blues in 2015-16 as opposed to the inconsistent performance he put forth in Calgary last season. Elliott is expected to battle for No. 1 goalie honors with Michal Neuvirth, who inked a two-year, $5 million extension in March. Defensemen Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere both experienced trials and tribulations during their respective young careers, and will be looked for guidance as Philadelphia ushers rookie Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim into the fold.
ABOUT THE SHARKS (2016-17: 46-29-7, 3rd in Pacific Division): While Philadelphia has long since been searching for a goaltender, San Jose knows what it has in Martin Jones. The 27-year-old logged 65 games for the second straight campaign and has posted 72 wins, a 2.33 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in two seasons since becoming the club’s starter after backing up Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles. Veteran Joe Thornton saw his offensive production take a significant dip with just seven goals and 50 points last season, although it was reported that the now-38-year-old gamely played with a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee during that postseason series.
1. San Jose boasts a 9-1-0 mark with one tie in its last 11 home encounters with Philadelphia.
2. Simmonds told reporters that he might take a knee during the national anthem on Wednesday while friend and Sharks F Joel Ward reportedly considered doing so before opting against making that display.
3. Flyers C Jori Lehtera, who was acquired from St. Louis in a deal involving Brayden Schenn, is looking to rebound from a seven-goal season.
PREDICTION: Sharks 4, Flyers 1