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Flyers vs. Capitals recap: Winning is fun, even in preseason

Hockey's back! The Flyers take their first game of the preseason by a score of 5-4 over the Washington Capitals. And they got to be unbeaten for all of twenty minutes, too.

Bruce Bennett

The 2013-14 Philadelphia Flyers had a formula for success -- dominate on special teams, limit the damage at even strength. And after four months of rest and roster moves... the Flyers won their first game of the preseason on the back of their still-potent power play. Four out of their five goals on the night were scored on the man advantage, with Mark Streit having a hand in each of them.

The Capitals were able to cut the deficit to one with two third period goals, but could not score the equalizer as Rob Zepp held on for the win. The Flyers were unbeaten in the preseason for all of twenty minutes, but let's focus on the win, right?

Ten more observations on the game:

  • Out of the three top defensive prospects, Travis Sanheim was the obvious standout. He's rail thin and nowhere near ready physically for the NHL, but his potential is tantalizing. The best adjective to describe Sanheim is "calm" - calm behind the net in puck battles, calm in his breakout passes, calm in his smooth strides up ice to jumpstart a rush. The composure was pretty remarkable for an 18-year old playing in his first professional game. When asked his opinion of the performance of the young defensemen in tonight's game, Berube singled out Sanheim by name, and Sanheim alone. You can easily see why the Flyers "reached" to take him 17th overall.
  • Shayne Gostisbehere certainly had his moments. He was key at initiating the breakout during the Flyers' dominant second period, nearly scored a first period goal on a well-timed pinch deep into the Washington zone, and even threw in one of his spin-o-ramas that he used so effectively during the Frozen Four. At the same time, he got lost a bit on John Erskine's first period goal, and struggled at times to defend during quick moving rushes. The skill is obvious, but if tonight is any indicator, there's definitely some cleaning up to do on the defensive side.
  • Robert Hagg was the least noticeable of the three top prospects, but he certainly did not play poorly. Hagg delivered a few on-the-tape cross ice passes that helped to spring the offense, and he was far more physical than Sanheim or Gostisbehere. He's the easiest to envision as an NHL player in his current form, and he delivered a mostly uneventful, controlled game - never a bad thing for a defenseman.
  • Brayden Schenn was active all night. He kicked off the game with a monster hit rightfully whistled for charging by the referee. The effort seemed more appropriate for an AHL tweener than a potential first liner like Schenn, but considering how important this year is to Schenn's development, it might be a great thing that he's placing this much value on the first game of the preseason. He later scored on a 5-on-3 with a slick deflection in front of the net.
  • Mark Streit most likely will take Kimmo Timonen's role at the point on the Flyers' top power play unit, and the Flyers can only hope that he's this successful all season long. Streit racked up four points on the night, all of them on the power play, including a blast of a slapshot that tied the game in the second period. The Streit-Sanheim pairing, to my eyes, also looked like the best pairing at even strength.
  • The narrative surrounding Jakub Voracek this preseason is that he has totally bought into Craig Berube's emphasis on fitness, and has lost weight due to the diet and exercise. It certainly hasn't affected his ability to be nearly impossible to knock off the puck. He drew an early penalty by lugging the puck into the zone around a challenging defenseman, and scored the Flyers' first goal of the preseason from his usual spot on the power play. Jake's still awesome.
  • Unable to move him in the offseason, the Flyers clearly are hoping that Vincent Lecavalier delivers a bounceback season after his horrific 2013-14. In this game, however, Vinny looked just as he did last season - decent on the power play, but a liability at even strength. He took an early penalty, turned the puck over, and looked all of his age as he was repeatedly muscled off the puck. It's way too early to write him off for the season, but it would be nice to see something from him at 5v5 before the preseason is done.
  • Out of the "not quite prospects" playing in Philadelphia tonight, Andrew Gordon was a clear standout. He scored the Flyers' only even strength goal of the night, and really did not look out of place beside Schenn and Voracek on the top line. He's been a consistent scorer in the AHL, and he should be a big part of helping the Phantoms move towards respectability in Lehigh Valley.
  • Mark Streit led the team in ice time tonight with 24:09 minutes. Lots of power play time definitely helped, but the Streit-Sanheim pairing beat out the Coburn-MacDonald duo in terms of even strength ice time as well. Something to keep an eye on.
  • R.J. Umberger was fairly invisible in his first game back with the Flyers. Didn't see him fall down once, though.