You guys! It’s happening! The preseason is here and hockey is BACK, baby! And we’re back too, with our first game preview of the season.
The Flyers are set to kick the preseason off with a matinee game against the Islanders, meeting at least some of them again, just a few days after the Flyers’ rookies’ triumphant victory in that first exhibition game. That was fun. We’re kind of just riffing here, as this is about the point in the preview where we talk about the state of the teams and where they’ve been at since the last time they met. But this is the first game of the preseason, so we don’t really have any of that. John Tavares is no longer an Islander. That’s all I’ve got for you. Let’s just get right into our three things to look out for. Let’s just do that.
1. TK on the PK
So maybe we’ve jumped the gun a little bit on that section heading, but we just got so excited, okay? We’re not only talking about Travis Konecny, but he’s half of our equation here. It was reported [link] before the start of camp that Konecny would get consideration for penalty kill time this season, and the second day of camp saw him getting some PK practice time in with Mikhail Vorobyev. And the idea of this, we have to say, is pretty darn exciting.
We’re dipping into the realm of the purely hypothetical, here, but it’s the preseason, anything can happen, and we’re throwing caution to the wind. This pairing, on paper, offers some pretty exciting possibility—in watching Vorobyev with the Phantoms and in the rookie game, something that’s really stood out about his play on the PK is how aggressive he is in getting after the puck and breaking up or blocking passes and lanes. And from there we’ve seen him send the puck the length of the ice, tie it up along the boards, things of that nature, but what else can he do now? Chip that baby over to Konecny and send him off on a breakaway (which, word on the street, he’s pretty good on). So the penalty kill goes from “we might as well just concede the goal” to racking up shorthanded chances. It will remain an open question how this pairing works out, if the results are as nice as we envision they might be, but it’s certainly something worth watching.
2. Return on the Stoli[e]
The time has come. The time has finally come. After being sidelined for just about the whole of last season while recovering from a knee injury, Anthony Stolarz is back and ready to beg our attention. With last season seeing Alex Lyon take a step forward, and with Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom nearing NHL readiness, Stolarz has been relegated, in a way, pushed down the depth chart, rightfully or not. But this is his chance to show us just what he is, post-injury. That’s he’s bounced back and is ready to get back on track. He hopes. Perhaps.
It’s not clear yet who will be the starter, between Stolarz and Lyon, but Dave Hakstol said after day one of training camp that it would likely be the two goalies splitting time, so we’ll at least have a respectable look at both of these guys.
And while we’re talking about goalies, we’re looking at what might be a big first game for Lyon too. The backup goalie situation heading into the season is a little tenuous, it doesn’t seem like Michal Neuvirth is a lock for this spot. Could we see Lyon make a serious push for the backup role and push Neuvirth down to the AHL? It’s not out of the question, and this push may very well start today.
3. Myers Watch 2k18
We’ve devoted a lot of time this week to talking about the coming battle for the 3C spot, but let’s not forget about our other big battle! With Andrew MacDonald out for the first couple weeks of the season, that opens up room for a rookie to make the team out of camp. And, I mean, this really shouldn’t be that much of a battle. Realistically, if Phil Myers has a good camp, the spot should be his for the taking. But, that said, he still has to have that good camp.
He’s looked good so far, through rookie camp, the rookie game against the Islanders’ prospects, as well as in the first two days of full training camp. In short, he hasn’t disappointed, but he needs to keep that momentum rolling. It’s still the preseason, and teams won’t be icing all of their most talented players, not at once, at least, but it still serves as the next step up, in terms of quality of competition. We don’t doubt that he has the potential to succeed, here, or that he would be the best and most logical option to slide in as the Flyers’ sixth defenseman on their opening night roster, but, like we just pointed to in the point above with Lyon, this will be Myers’ first shot at proving he belongs, at earning this spot.
This is about the time when we would give you the prospective lines for the game, but we don’t have them yet. The practice lines haven’t held and the group’s been scrambled, but here’s the roster, all the same. The lines will just be a surprise.
Let’s go, the Flyers!