Ed. Note: Awesome look from Shaun, here. We've bumped it from the FanPosts.
Going into the first pre-season game of the year, I had a more than a few questions in mind. How will Nikolai Zherdev look? Can Sergei Bobrovsky hold his own against NHL-level competition? Will the really annoying in-game host return to make us all cringe during TV timeouts? Just how ugly is the Wells Fargo logo on the side of the arena? Many of these questions were answered last night and I'll outline my thoughts on them after the jump.
In addition to his back-checking deficiencies, he lacks a team mentality. On average the dazzling Russian winger stayed out on his shift for about 20 seconds longer than his line mates, and not because he had to. There were numerous times where Carter and Richards were already on the bench but Zherdev was down in the offensive zone generating scoring chances with 2/3rds of the next line. While this isn't indefensible in the pre-season, it's something that will have to end before it bites him in the keister.
The only other negative I could pull out of Zherdev's game was his hitting, or lack there of. When he wasn't shying away from contact, he seemed to go only for the big hits. In doing so, he would forsake his defensive positioning. Twice he left his man at the point open in order to attempt to level the other Devils blueliner. It didn't cost the Flyers a goal last night, but I can see it doing so further on in the season.
In all, Zherdev was as advertised. He coasted into the defensive zone, moved well with the puck through the neutral zone and showed off his hands down low while maneuvering through the defense. There's work to be done on his game, however his potential is obvious. After more coaching from Peter Laviolette, there's little doubt that he could be a great point producer this year.
Sergei Bobrovsky- While he only played the third period, the overtime and the shootout, Sergei Bobrovsky stole the show last night. While the Devils' third period goalie warmed up with 3 of his teammates shooting on him prior to the opening faceoff of the last stanza, Bob was afforded no such luxury, though it seems he wouldn't have needed it anyway.
His first real test was a cross-ice pass that set up the Devils for what everyone thought was a slam-dunk goal. Bob shot out his right pad and pulled off his first theft of the night. After some left-handed larceny on a breakaway, he had the crowd in the palm of his trapper. There's really nothing like watching a young goalie dazzle in his debut, even if it's only in the third period of a pre-season game. He probably won't beat out Backlund and Boucher for Leighton's back-up but can you really ask for more than a couple of dazzling saves and a W from your prospect goalie? I can't.
Jody Shelley - As he came down the chute for pre-game warm-ups I didn't recognize him. He turned to skate around the goal and I saw on his back was the number 45. Not only did he come to down and force out BSH-favorite Aaron Asham, the man with two girls names had to steal Ash's number as well. That's just cold, Shelley.
When considering things that matter, Shelly was solid. His obvious highlight was the fight he had with Jean Luc Picard Pierre LeBlond, in the battle of too many names vs. two first names. The firsty/firsty won the fight and a couple of fans with his showing in pugilism.
The rest of his play was as to be expected-a lack of offensive prowess offset by good, hard work in his own zone and in the corners. I can definitely see him becoming very well liked in Philadelphia.
Bill Guerin - For a man that sure killed the Flyers on occasion he was basically a non-factor last night. He has obviously lost a step and isn't the player he used to be, however I counted him as a defensive defensemen in the sense that if I noticed him I assumed it would be for something bad. The crafty vet gets a pass, especially because I didn't try to pay specific attention to him.
Ben Holmstrom - When I noticed the number 34 out on the ice for warm-ups I wondered to myself who was wearing that. When I found out it was Ben Holmstrom I wondered to myself "Who the hell is Holmstrom?" Later on in the game there were a handful of times a player I didn't recognize made a good physical play or showed a great amount of hustle. I would wonder "Who was that?" The answer almost always was Ben Holmstrom. This new comer impressed me more than any other, partly because I had no expectations (or prior knowledge of him) but also because he played a damn good game.
Offense - In the first and third periods the Flyers looked to be rolling on many if not all cylinders. The lines, that will in no way stay the same for the most part, were interesting. Carter and Richards continue to struggle with chemistry. Individually they had strong showings, but I don't expect them to stay on the same line for long.
Danny Briere looked downright beastly at times last night. He even threw a pretty big body check in the third period in order to keep the puck from being cleared out of the zone. His newly patented drive-down-the-right-side-wind-up-and-blast-over-the-left-shoulder move worked like a charm, giving the Devils fans in attendance war-like flashbacks to the playoffs last year. However, the most important thing is that his fist-pump is in mid-season form.
James Van Riemsdyk looked strong on the puck and had tons of jump. He looks like he could really have a break-out season this year.
Andreas Nodl played like his job depended on it because, well, it does depend on it. Showing Flyers fans he was capable of solid play last year, Nodl continues his great work by displaying his offensive talent. He was hungry for the puck on every shift and often won the crucial board battles. I wouldn't be surprised to see him win a healthy scratch spot on the team.
Ian Lapperiere looked to be in great shape. It didn't take him long to sacrifice the body in front of a puck from the point and he kept doing it throughout the contest, including a very important shot block in the third to keep the game within reach. He even got his own "Let's Go Lap-Y" chant after a big hit.
Defense - Unfortunately the returning defensmen that I noticed were ones that were out of position, getting beat to the puck or gettting caught pinching in the offensive zone. Well, that is to say besides Kimmo Timonen who had a great game. Specifically I noticed Braydon Coburn and Oskars Bartulis.
Coburn seemed to get beat on numerous occasions while Bartulis seemed a little lost at times. I'm not going to lay too much blame on Bartulis for the frist Jersey goal as it was a great tip, still, he needs to clear the porch better. I'm not too worried by what I saw out of these two as it is early and they had multiple defensive partners during the night. However, if Bartulis wants to make it into the seventh d-man spot, he'll have to play a lot better in his next game.
IN GAME / ATMOSTPHERE
Attendance - There are two ways to judge the crowd at the Wells Fargo (sigh) Center last night, qualitiatively and quantitatively. As far as quantity goes, the crowd was a little disapointing. Sure, it's a preseason game. Sure, the Phils were playing across the street in a game that meant a two game swing in the magic number. But come on people! Hockey has returned!
The quality of the crowd made up for the lack of it. There were a handful of occasions where the arena got louder than you would think it could. A couple of strong "Let's Go Fly-Ers" chants started and died fairly quickly but the energy was there.
In-Game Entertainment - There was a new host, whose name I did not catch. He reminded me of Duff from Ace of Cakes. He seemed very raw but has potential to be the least annoying in-game host in recent memory.
The video packages were few and far between and the ones they did show were not up to snuff. One of the highlight reels ended with a tagline that said something about "rising" that just seemed like it should have never gotten through to actual airplay. In addition to the lackluster video highlight packages we were subject to three terribly read teleprompter speaches by suits in the Wells Fargo organization. They were horribly borring and terribly annoying.
In the third period they dusted out the "I need you to win, Rocky" clip. To me this just seemed ridiculous as it's the first game of the year and PRE-SEASON. But what are you going to do.
They cut to Dancin' Shawny once. My view of his antics were tainted as I realized he was wearing a "BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER, PRONGER" t-shirt. We need to get a campaign going for him to wear one of our shirts. Let's get cooking on that!
Overall the game was totally enjoyable, closer than it should have been and gave me a fair level of confidence for this season. This will be a fun team to watch throughout this year, especially if they decide to play in the second periods.