ALLENTOWN -- On Monday the Lehigh Valley had its first taste of (fake) NHL hockey as the host of the Flyers preseason opener against the New York Islanders. Allentown was treated to a show from the Flyers ‘A team’ as the squad split, playing in both Brooklyn and Lehigh Valley.
That A team didn't disappoint, earning a 5-3 win over the Islanders with solid performances from each line.
Rookies like Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov meshed with the Flyers veterans, while former Phantoms were vying for a potential roster spot come the end of preseason. The first line offense had no surprises for fans as Michael Raffl, Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux played like no time had passed.
Konecny was the stand-out star of the night, showing good instinct for a young player and scoring his first NHL goal. Despite it just being preseason, the 18-year-old said his first goal felt just as good.
"Obviously it would be nice to get that real one in the NHL but it’s definitely a good start," Konecny said. "You have to be a sponge and soak up everything you can. Watch [the veterans] and learn from them and when you get the opportunity on the ice you take advantage of it, and make sure you make an impression every time you’re on the ice."
Vinny Lecavalier went as far as to compare the winger and his speed to Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson.
Cole Bardreau, a late 2015 signee was on the same line with Konecny and easily put on 15-20 pounds in the offseason. At just 5’10 the center bulked up and looked more like an NHL player than he did last year right out of Cornell University.
Newly acquired goaltender Michal Neuvirth played the full 60 minutes in the Flyers split-squad game -- unusual for preseason, but Hakstol said the team wanted the former Islanders goaltender to get a feel for a full 60-minute game before the start of the regular season.
"We want to get him ready for the regular season and to be able to come out on night one and have a regular game day from the time he woke up this morning through the 60 minutes," Hakstol said.
The 26-year old had a less-than-impressive performance, allowing two goals on six shots through the first two periods. He admitted that during the matchup he had to remind himself to focus because of the lack of action in front of the net.
Here's everything Coach Hakstol had to say after the game.
Q: On Konecny’s performance
A: He made something happen every time he was on the ice. He has a lot of hockey sense.
Q: Pregame speech?
A: Not a lot was said. Those guys were ready to go, working hard all summer long, three days of camp these guys were ready to play you could sense that this morning in morning skate guys just wanted to get out there and play.
Q: Was this game special for you?
A: When you’re going through something new, I guess everything is a new experience. I guess there was maybe a minute or a second during the National Anthem that a couple of thoughts passed through your mind but other than that I was excited to be out there but it becomes business pretty quickly when the puck drops.
Q: What did you think of Ivan Provorov and Evgeny Medvedev tonight? First time on the smaller rink.
A: Provorov obviously has been over here and he’s played on the NHL ice surface, for Medi I thought it was a pretty good first night. The game is different on the smaller sheet but I thought he moved the puck pretty well dealing with time and space defensively he’s going to continue to make that adjustment, but overall he accounted for himself pretty well on night one.
Q: How do you think they handled your systems tonight?
A: Systems are going to be sporadic in game number one I think regardless ... there’s some good things there that we can take and use with some video and we can take that and build as we go forward
Q: Umberger, Lecavalier and Gagner line clicked a little bit.
A: I thought each one of the lines had some good opportunities. Everyone chipped in a little bit. When you have a new combination there’s some things you have to work through. It’s a whole different look … I thought those guys tried to do the right things.
Q: Ryan White playing center:
A: Whitey is versatile. He can win a drawl on a PK, he can win a drawl on 5v5… he’s just a versatile player.hes a guy that gives the guys around him on the bench confidence, he’s got that demander to him.
Q: No goaltender switch:
A: We thought it was important tonight to give Neuvirth the full 60 minutes. We want to get him ready for the regular season and to be able to come out on night one and have a regular game day from the time he woke up this morning through the 60 minutes I think is valuable.
A: He said he was a little bored out there tonight -- not enough shots.
Q: You can probably ask any goaltender they like some action around him. He had some quality chances against. There were a couple of pucks especially through traffic that were tipped, one in the third period in particular that I thought he did a good job on so overall I thought it was a good first 60 minutes for him.
Q: Different than the college atmosphere:
A: I don’t know I thought the atmosphere here was pretty good. What a great building. It's my first time in the building, first class from top to bottom, I thought it was a great atmosphere to come in here and play a game. A little different than college atmosphere no question but a great atmosphere.
Q: On shots and chances with a one goal lead:
A: Overall I think we spent a little time in our own zone for one or two shifts but we bent a little, didn’t break on those, we kept everything to the outside and eventually took care of things. Did a pretty good job staying above pucks in the neutral zone and applying a little bit of pressure on the puck area. Overall pretty good job.
Q: Players are really rooting for Vinny this season.
A: That’s what being a good teammate is all about. There’s no question in terms of his skill and ability. I’m looking for compete and effort and guys chipping in and doing their part and I think Vinny did that tonight.