1. Lindblom takes a step up
One of the biggest questions coming into this season looks like it may have been answered last night. With Brayden Schenn’s departure, the question of who would take his place on the first power play unit was pressing. Last night saw Oskar Lindblom added to this unit, and given the opportunity to take a step up, he held his own. He didn’t have the most scoring chances, but we saw him creating opportunities and putting up pressure, holding up against a penalty kill that was first in the league last season.
It’s still too early to say if Lindblom will be a permanent fixture on the top power play unit— or either of the power play units— but he certainly showed that he belongs there. And it was nice to see the coaching staff filling the Schenn void based on skillset, not veteran status.
2. Travis Sanheim finds his rhythm
Coming off a strong performance Wednesday in Allentown, Sanheim kept that momentum rolling into last night’s game, putting up an impressive performance against Boston. After showing an eagerness to jump in on the rush and create shots, he
was finally rewarded, posting the only goal of the game for the Flyers. He seemed— after earlier looking like he was overthinking, trying to do too much— to simplify his approach, keeping everything crisp and simple. He also looked particularly sharp and effective one-on-one against Marchand on a rush in the second period, staying with him all the way, preventing him from even registering a shot on net.
Sanheim still remains a bit of a long shot to make the team out of camp, at this point in time and especially after the solid performances put up by Morin and Hagg, but he has certainly worked hard to prove that he is not so far away as we may have believed, just a few short games ago.
3. Giroux looking sharp, more tenacious
One of the most noticeable figures on the ice, during the first half of the game especially, was Claude Giroux. With fans hoping for this to be a bounce back season for Giroux, attentions were fixed on him, trying to gauge how his movement and performance compare to both last season and two seasons ago, prior to his surgery. Anyone nervous can begin to rest assured, for now at least. Giroux appeared confident, showing greater mobility and physicality than we've seen in a while. He kept up his momentum through just over 22 minutes spent on the ice. He won 20 out of 25 face offs. He wasn't flashy, but he certainly showed a glimmer of his former self.
And, of course, that final overtime shift was a doozy. Giroux was out of position and that contributed to the Agostino breakaway, but let's not also forget that Andrew McDonald failed to check if was in position, before dumping the puck. So there's blame to go around, and let's not let that color what was otherwise a nice showing by Giroux.
4. Big yikes on the power play
Our first look at a lineup comprised overwhelmingly of veterans, comparatively, it provided a move closer to seeing what may be the more permanent regular season lines, as well as, specifically, the power play structuring and systems. The results so far have been, in short, underwhelming. The new four forwards-one defenseman model seems promising. The units have been able to create pressure. They just can’t close.
I keep telling myself it’s still early, too early to get very worked up about much of anything, but failing to capitalize on eight power play opportunities is less than ideal. We can talk about the strength of opposing goaltending, and the promise in the fact that offense is still being created, but there eventually comes a point when you begin to wonder when you’ll start to see some return. And I suspect we’ll soon be creeping up on it.
5. Simmonds- Weal chemistry
One of the more impressive carryovers from last season into last night’s game was the chemistry between Wayne Simmonds and Jordan Weal. After Weal’s late season call-up, and once he and Simmonds were placed on a line together, the two really seemed to click. We saw them getting some reps in together at training camp, with positive results, and this continued over into last night’s game.
Their whole line, centered by Nolan Patrick, looked sharp, was the most productive and electric on the ice. They kept pressure up in the offensive zone through much of their time on the ice. Their production was striking, but Simmonds and Weal still begged attention, just as they did last season. And with all of the shifting about that’s happened between the end of last season and now, it was nice to see a bit of continuity.
6. Let’s evaluate Brian Elliott!
Last night was also our first extended look at new goaltender Brian Elliott. Another polarizing figure, in the face of a pretty dramatically variant performance history, he brought in with him a number of questions about what type and level of play he would bring to the Flyers. And he’s shown some early promise.
In the two periods he played, Elliott faced some high danger shots, some heavy pressure, without always receiving the most or best help, but even when backed up in his net, he was able to stop every shot thrown at him. He did not fluster, or break from formation. It still remains to be seen how the coaching staff will decide to utilize him, but he has, in however brief a time, made a strong case for himself.
7. “How do you say his name? Lyon?”
Alex Lyon, too, looked impressive last night, even in the relatively brief time he played. With the questions surrounding him, as he moved to step in for the injured Anthony Stolarz, he has made his case for both readiness to start in the AHL, as well as for the potential to succeed, given the opportunity and an NHL call-up, sometime in the regular season future.
Lyon held strong in the third period, and into overtime. He controlled the shots he faced, with the goal he allowed in regulation coming after he was heavily screened, and the overtime winner when he was left one-on-one with Agostino on a breakaway. He wasn’t perfect, but he also can’t be expected to do it all on his own. And when he had the support in front of him, Lyon looked strong, and held his own.
8. Defensive pairing weirdness
The preseason is the time, above all, for the coaching staff to do a bit of experimenting with regards to line constructions and defensive pairings. It’s certainly a necessary task, with the influx of new personnel who still need evaluating, but it can lead to some mixed results.
Sometimes you get a pairing like Wednesday’s, with Ghost and Hagg linking up. You get some real chemistry going, a nice balance is found, and things seem to be working.
And then you get, as we did last night, a McDonald-Morin pairing. And I’ll be honest, I’m a little stumped on this one. The two don’t offer each other much in terms of balance in playing styles, and their performances certainly didn’t leap off the page, either. So, obviously, sometimes the pairing experiments pay off, while other times they fall a little flat. Here’s hoping that the flatness of this combination serves as a lesson learned.
9. Branching out
In another instance of experimentation of play, we saw the Flyers doing something that they tended to shy away from, last season. They showed an uptick of generating shots close to the net, specifically those starting from behind the net, then passed up to the crease. This method didn’t lead directly to any points on the board, not last night at least, but it created concentrated, high volumes of shots, which left a lot of potential to open things up.
This shift comes pretty directly in response to some frustrations that, last season, most shot attempts were coming directly from the point, or as rebound on shots from the point. It’s a model that pretty quickly revealed itself as unsustainable, so it’s nice to see the Flyers, even in just the preseason setting, working to diversify their shot generation locations.
10. The only damn thing I know
The preseason can be a little overwhelming, at times, what with the number of new names and faces appearing on the ice. It can be hard to keep up. But worry not, as your guide, I’m here to bring you the most comprehensive information on your Flyers’ prospects. That given, I want to take a moment to introduce you to a new face who may have slipped under your radar.
I’d like to introduce Michael Raffle. A new name to even my ears, Raffle put up a strong show last night, earning distinct and high praise from the Boston commentators. Raffle has been a true sleeper, so far this preseason, so much so that he seemed to come out of nowhere for last night’s meeting against the Bruins. Stats are few on the this guy, but I don’t know, he’s shown some flashes, and I just have a good feeling about him.
So look out, everybody. I suspect we might be seeing big things out of Raffle this season.