Hockey is back! It was back with the rookie game on Wednesday but it is even more back now! How great is that to say?
The Flyers kicked off their preseason run this afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum against the Islanders, bringing up a roster overwhelmingly of players whose roster spots remain in the balance. It was fans’ first real look at how these prospects would perform alongside— and arguably against— some of the bubble veterans. And they did not disappoint.
Alex Lyon earned the start, and showed real composure early, facing nearly immediate pressure at five on five. But he held onto this composure, and had to, facing an Islanders power play 4:35 into the period on a Nolan Patrick slash. The Isles kept pressure up, but the Flyers were able to successfully kill off this first penalty.
The first period gave us the chance to have a long look at the special teams units, as the tides would shift, with New York defenseman Kyle Burroughs heading to the box for a slash, and the Flyers finding themselves with the man advantage. With Patrick taking the first faceoff, they were off. The Flyers dominated possession early in the power play, creating a number of scoring chances, but were unable to capitalize on them, even when Jori Lehtera was presented with an almost completely open net. And even with a second Islanders penalty leading to 35 seconds of five on three, the Flyers kept pressure up, but remained without a goal.
The Flyers would face a scary situation, not too long after, when Travis Sanheim allowed a turnover behind the net that allowed for a Mathew Barzal shot attempt. But fortunately for the Flyers, Alex Lyon Looked sharp, and handled the attempt with ease.
The Flyers were brought one more power play opportunity, but with no success, and even less intensity than they brought with their first. The Islanders killed the penalty, holding the Flyers without a goal, still.
With the Flyers having dominated play early in the period, the Islanders came back in the second half to even up the effort. But even with this surge, neither team was able to put any points on the board before the buzzer sounded for the first intermission.
AFTER ONE: Flyers 0 - Islanders 0. Shots tied at 11 apiece.
If the first period was a slow start at five on five, the second was anything but. Just 40 seconds into the period, the Flyers opened up the scoring for the game with a Mike Vecchione tip on a Gostisbehere laser from the point. It was Vecchione’s first goal in a Flyers uniform.
Islanders goaltender Kristers Gudļevskis would continue to face heavy pressure, with a number of chances early and a dangerous shot from Lindblom not long after Vecchione’s goal.
The period also saw an uptick in intensity and physicality, with Michael Raffl delivering a huge hit down in their offensive zone, and John Tavares taking Jori Lehtera into the benches shortly thereafter.
And then a dangerous play! Lyon slipped up, diverting from his earlier fantastic form, was nearly caught outside of the net for what would have been an unblocked shot. It was very nearly a tied game, saved only by Philippe Myers, who tipped the puck into the crowd.
The Islanders headed to their third power play after a slash by noted pest Cole Bardreau. A shot blocked by Scott Laughton’s body kept the Islanders without a goal, and a Lehtera short handed goal on a feed by Raffl extended the Flyers’ lead. But Lehtera would come off the ice, moving gingerly, after sliding into the boards.
The Islanders would bring it within one goal shortly thereafter, still within the power play. After peppering Lyon with a myriad of shots, it was Tavares that would drive it home.
Both teams would each face another penalty to kill, but each would do so with relative ease. Travis Sanheim made his first appearance on the power play unit during the Flyer’s last of the period, and brought some flash to his game in closing out the period.
AFTER TWO: Flyer 2 - Islanders 1
The Flyers dominated early in the third period, despite head coach Dave Hakstol’s expectation that the team might face an energy drop off due to extensive practicing. Instead they turned around and surprised, kept things moving and put pucks on net, keeping the pressure ratcheted up.
But despite the Flyers’ early dominance, the Islanders struck first in the period. Mathew Barzal tied up the game, beating Travis Sanheim on a delayed penalty— what would have been a slashing call on Sanheim — for a five hole goal on Leland Irving.
This pushed the subsequent minutes into a real run and gun, with each team’s lines pushing hard and putting up serious offensive pressure. A four on four with Konecny and Burroughs in the box pushed the intensity up further still. Shayne Gostisbehere took a high stick and the Flyers got the chance to capitalize on another power play. But it all was to no avail. And we headed to bonus hockey.
AFTER THREE: Flyers 2 - Islanders 2
It was a short overtime. Before we could even get settled into the extra period, a turnover by Myers in the defensive zone led to a Tavares goal, and it was all over.
FINAL: Flyers 2 - Islanders 3
So it didn’t quite go how the Flyers wanted, but it was, on the whole, an impressive show and a nice look at the systems working and the chemistry forming for the young team. Early still, they will have time to regroup and recharge before they next face this same Islanders squad.
The Flyers skate again on Wednesday against the Islanders, with half the squad back in New York and the other half in the Lehigh Valley.