Philadelphia took yet another preseason game by a wide margin, as new acquisitions impressed and untested rookies showed signs of sky high potential in front of their much-hyped coach with collegiate origins.
But since these are the Flyers and not the Eagles, unrealistic championship dreams will have to wait a few more years.
Regardless, the preseason has been a success thus for Dave Hakstol's Philadelphia Flyers, both on the scoresheet and in terms of player development. Coming off a victory over the rival New York Rangers on Tuesday, the Flyers took down yet another team based in the Big Apple tonight, defeating the New York Islanders by a score of 5-2.
The team's lack of familiarity with Hakstol's new system reared its head in the first period, as the Flyers looked very choppy in the neutral and defensive zones against a fairly weak New York roster. But they settled down in the second, outshooting the Islanders 12-5 and taking control of the contest.
Shayne Gostisbehere will likely be the big story in the papers tomorrow. Gostisbehere scored yet another goal tonight, his third goal in the past two games. While his work in the defensive zone has not been perfect, the 22-year old prospect was yet again dynamic offensively, at even strength and especially on the power play. While the odds remain against Ghost earning a spot on the NHL roster to begin the season, he's not making the decision easy for Ron Hextall and Dave Hakstol.
Preseason standout Evgeni Medvedev continued to impress, adding two assists as he played a more offensively-oriented game. Defenseman Radko Gudas made his Wells Fargo Center debut, delighting the fans with quite a few big hits. And Brayden Schenn quieted his skeptics by leaving an Islanders defenseman flatfooted as he scored the most impressive goal of the night.
Despite the weak competition, the Flyers can feel satisfied with their preseason performances this week. Now, they'll use the weekend practices to prepare for the final tuneups, when opponents will dress far better lineups. But with the season opener less than two weeks away, it's heartening to see the team trending in the right direction, preseason or not.
A few more observations on tonight's game:
- If the goal was to motivate Brayden Schenn through lukewarm comments and mediocre linemates, consider the message heard loud and clear. Schenn was the best player on the ice tonight, with his highlight reel second period goal as the exclamation point. All game, he was making smart plays with the puck, both obvious and subtle. If Hakstol and Hextall are still frustrated with their young forward, I'm not sure what game they watched.
- Call me crazy, but I'm not that concerned about Gostisbehere's defense. He will get burned on occasion, but when defending one-on-one rushes and engineering defensive zone exits, I see his aggressiveness as providing a net positive for the team. His coverage against the cycle remains his biggest weakness, as he gets shrugged off the puck and can lose track of his assignments. But he really just needs to counteract that issue (which I don't think will ever disappear entirely) with the other strengths of his game.
- Evgeni Medvedev got turnstiled early on (which led to an Islanders goal) but I think this was his strongest overall game yet. He received some criticism on the interwebs tonight for being too offensively-oriented, but I think that's a great sign - he's gaining confidence and taking more risks, which in turn helped his teammates create more offense. I suspect that Dave Hakstol will be fine with the tradeoff as well.
- Quietly impressive tonight was the forgotten prospect, Robert Hagg. But while more exciting players like Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Samuel Morin are no longer at camp, Hagg remains, and he gave us a glimpse as to why the organization has kept him around. Both at even strength and on the penalty kill, Hagg's game was marked by calm and confidence. Hagg will always hover on the line between efficiency and passiveness, but tonight he struck the perfect balance. After an only-decent AHL debut, Hagg's stock appears to be back up, and for good reason.
- He may not have scored an even strength goal (of course not, it was a home game), but Claude Giroux looks ready to start the season. The Islanders could not get anything going with the captain on the ice, and most shifts just turned into extended cycles for the Flyers. Not that anyone was concerned about Giroux, but in his first home action of the season, he was unsurprisingly a standout.
- It's clear that Jakub Voracek did not get complacent after signing his monster extension. Like linemate Giroux, Jake was his old self tonight, weaving through the neutral zone, drawing penalties, and looking basically unstoppable. The days of "I'll play myself into shape" are over for the more mature Voracek.
- Radko Gudas had an uneven Wells Fargo Center debut. While his aggressiveness was a welcome sight, Gudas often struggled with the puck on his stick. It seems like he is in a battle with Luke Schenn for a spot on the third defense pair, and while Gudas certainly has the edge in skating, Schenn's puck skills are a step up from what Gudas showed tonight.
- RJ Umberger may be showing signs of improvement this preseason, but Vincent Lecavalier has looked like the same slow, struggling forward as he was in 2014-15. Again tonight he looked one step behind the play, and his attempts at high-difficulty moves invariably failed. Despite a decent preseason opener, Vinny is quickly regressing back into the player who understandably fell into Craig Berube's doghouse.