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Flyers 3, Islanders 1: Wins, baby!

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Some observations for your morning...

mood
Heather Barry ©

That’s more like it, right? After a rough start on Sunday, the Flyers were able to right the ship—bringing in some more of their big guns while giving some of the repeat players chances to redeem themselves—and they picked up a pretty sweet win at home last night. And it was fun! Being cranky after the first game of the preseason wasn’t all that fun, so this is much better. Let’s talk about what we learned.

All stats and graphics via HockeyViz, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com

1.Michal Neuvirth was (sort of) in preseason form

A peek behind the curtain: these points come, more or less, in the order that the impressions arrive. Sometimes they get shuffled, but more often than not, we get some chronology here. Today, we’re doing the former. And, since we’re on the first point, we’re looking at an initial reaction. Which is that Michal Neuvirth looked a little rough to start.

Off the opening faceoff, the Islanders were able to get the puck into the Flyers’ zone for two quick chances, and they almost got ugly, as Neuvirth seemed to have trouble tracking the puck and was left looking scrambly, trying to make the saves. The good news is that he did make them, and then was able to more or less stabilize from that point on. The bad news, of course, is that he did this:

He also let in a goal just before the midpoint of the game and the scheduled goalie switch, but this was just as much an issue of him getting beat by a shot as it was of Robert Hagg getting caught out of position and Neuvirth left without full coverage.

But, while we’re here, let’s talk about that goalie switch, and the second goaltender we saw last night. It was Carter Hart time, pals! And he looked good! Admittedly, he didn’t have too difficult of a workload, as the team in front did well to shut down the area in front of the net and keep the Islanders’ shots to the outside. But, all the same, he looked solid. His positioning was good and he was right on it with tracking pucks. It’s more or less what we’ve come to expect from him, but hey, it was nice to see him do it against the next level in competition, in front of the home crowd.

2.Killing penalties

Here we are again. Talking about penalties. As we always seem to be. It was a rough showing for the Flyers’ penalty kill on Sunday, but the good news is that last night was redemption time! Because they made a big turnaround and actually looked very good. Let’s break it down.

When Mikhail Vorobyev took a hooking penalty just 36 seconds into the first period, we couldn’t help but feel like we were in for some kind of ride, but then they did something miraculous. They prevented a goal. It wasn’t a terribly flashy effort, except for one nice rush out of the zone by Scott Laughton, but it saw the Flyers able to tie up the puck and make a couple of clears, and it was enough to get the job done.

The second attempt—this time with Claude Giroux going off for hooking—was met with similar results. Not as clean in terms of making clears, the Islanders were able to maintain a bit of possession, but still found their passes broken up. And again we got a bit of flash! This time in the form of Vorobyev collecting a loose puck and starting a rush out of the zone, ultimately setting Dale Weise up for a shorthanded attempt in close. There was no goal, of course, but it looked nice, and it burned some time.

The final attempt was perhaps their cleanest, as they alternated between full clears and just tying the puck up among themselves, and the Isles barely got a touch in, closing out a solid showing and going three for three on the night.

3.Weal for 3C

Last night also gave us a look at one of the pieces in our 3C battle—that’s right, we got our next chance to see Jordan Weal at center! Centering a line with Giroux and Nic Aube-Kubel, the line, on paper, had the chance to be dangerous. And in reality? Yeah, they looked pretty good. They put up an average adjusted CF% of 81.58 percent at 5-on-5.

Yes, my math is correct. And Weal put up an individual figure of 82.94 percent, tied with Aube-Kubel and leading all Flyers in this metric. And even though they were held off the board, they were knocking on the door a couple of times. And Weal was running the show here, and looking settled while doing it. Nothing like last time, with a big blown coverage and a goal against, just good and solid work. If we wanted to quibble, we could note the few instances where he was pushed off the puck and gave up a turnover, and this would be valid. But, on the whole, he gave us a nice introduction—or, reintroduction—to what he can do at center, showed himself worthy of the praise and trust he’s been getting from the team.

4.Initial pressure is a weird thing

In that, apparently it is very hard to come by for the Flyers. It was a big theme last year, that of slow starts that did or did not see them digging themselves into a hole, but either way was still slow, and it was a trend that reared its head again last night. It left the Flyers hemmed into their own zone early, giving up those first chances that we mentioned in the first section, and looking a little unsettled, like they were battling to start some momentum of their own.

But, oddly, it wasn’t like they were without any pressure early—after killing their first penalty they were able to establish a bit of sustained offensive zone time, but all that came of it were some blocked shots, making it look a little uglier than it was that it took them until inside seven minutes of the first period to record their first proper shot on goal. And, once they were able to get rolling, it was all Flyers, all the way. They ended the game with a 55.17 CF% at 5-on-5, after giving the Isles a bit of a metric thrashing, after taking away much of their space to work with.

And it shouldn’t have happened, really. Last night’s game, in a way, was the exact opposite of Sunday’s, in that this time it was the Flyers putting out more of their veterans—or at least their big guns—against more of the Isles rookies. Realistically, they should have been running the show for longer than they did, given this disparity, but the end result erases some of the frustration that they didn’t.

5.Myers Watch 2k18

That’s right, guys! Myers Watch continues! And you know what else? It continues to deliver positive results.

Sunday was a rough game on a lot of fronts and for a lot of players, but Myers served as an exception, and after putting up a solid showing on Long Island, built on it as they brought the show home for the first time. He remained active on the rush, as he is known for, as we like to see, and kept his defensive game simple and clean, his gaps tight. He was good on the penalty kill, too, only allowing one shot from the perimeter while he was on the ice.

And, before we get too riled up because His Thing is taking too many dumb penalties and he took a penalty last night, we should note that it was a pretty soft call. I mean, it was interference, but it was the type of little nudge that you almost never see called in the regular season, for what it’s worth. And, of course, let’s not forget about the couple of highlight reel plays he was able to put together, like this dangle, that gave the home fans a real show.

It wasn’t a perfect game, and Hakstol was quick to point that out in the post-game presser, but he (and the rest of us) remained pleased at how he held up in this endurance test, playing in this back to back, and that’s not nothing.

6./walk the moon voice intensifies/ [MISHA], BABY

Man, oh man. Sunday was a good game for Vorobyev, but it looks like he was just getting started. He got the nod to play again in last night’s game, and this time he was given the chance to play alongside what will figure to be our regular season second line wings in James van Riemsdyk and Jake Voracek, and the results were very good. The line as a whole put up an adjusted 51.17 CF% at 5-on-5 and did respectable work in generating quality chances while also shutting down New York’s efforts.

But then, there was also Vorobyev’s pretty stellar individual performance. Let’s get things started with his goal. Because, oh my, was it ever a goal.

After setting up the initial entry, he took the feed and just walked it right in on goal and ripped it, giving us a look at that very good shot that we’ve been hearing about.

His work on special teams, too, was solid, as he worked well on the first power play unit, and served as a continued disruptive force on the penalty kill, as we noted above. On the whole, a very solid game for Vorobyev, and a good next step in his push to earn a coveted spot on the opening night roster. And his chances are looking better and better by the day.

7.Shots and all

Yep, we are still talking about shots here, friends. We already broke down how the Flyers held the edge in the raw shot volume battle, but were pleased to see that they were also able to take home a win in the shot quality battle, as well. Let’s return to our old pal, the heat map.

Looking at the Flyers’ shot locations at 5-on-5, we see that they were doing very good work in breaking down the Islanders’ defense and getting deep into the zone and crashing the net. Their even strength goal came from just this type of effort, an effort that had them knocking at the door a few more times on the night, but those chances were just shut down. Of course, we still have a whole lot of activity coming from that left point, but even tonight the Flyers were doing better to position someone in front and have them work for a tip-in, rather than doing what they did on Sunday, which was blasting away from the outside and hoping for the best, teammate ready in front or not. It was a big step in the right direction, and they were rewarded for it. Funny how that works.

8.Ghost, hello

I know the point of preseason, really, is to be doing a lot of what we’ve been doing so far—to talk about the vacancies in the roster and the kids that might be able be able to fill them, to break down their progress and how they’re matching up against the next level in competition. It is important, and we’ll be keeping up with this, to be sure, but we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the monster game Shayne Gostisbehere had last night. Because… wow.

We can start with the highlight reel, and the fact that he drew two penalties and subsequently scored on the power plays given (a 5-on-3 and then a regular 5-on-4), making use of that bomb from the point that’s become something of a power play mainstay, a serious weapon.

But elsewhere, at fives, we saw him keeping up the same level of energy and flash, going for skates with the puck and remaining his usual quick and elusive self. It wasn’t a surprising performance, but it was one that said, “hey, look at me, I could still use some attention, it’s only preseason, but I’m still getting better, and we’re setting the tone, here. It can be a very big year.”

9.The curious case of Nic Aube-Kubel

We’re going to start winding things down here with something of an interesting case. As we alluded to earlier, Aube-Kubel had a very good game last night—tied for the team lead in CF%, he had a few good looks on that top line with Giroux and Weal, earning pretty direct praise from Hakstol after the game: “he was hard and heavy on pucks, he made good decisions, and [on] most of his touches good things happened, so I liked his game.”

And, of course, on top of the chances taken and skill flashed, there was the obvious physicality he brought to the game, as well. He dished out five hits, earned the great check of the game, heck, our lead photo is him laying into a dude (okay, I did that on purpose. It’s kind of funny too). The good news is that those hits were clean, not late, and often successful in changing possession and opening up a bit of space. But we’re also a little hesitant about this part. With the suspensions last year, can we yet assume that he’s cleaned up his game, that these types of hits are the exclusive new norm? Obviously it’s too soon to say, but it’s a concern that lingers. He’s doing good work to get himself noticed and to push for a spot on the team, but he still needs to keep his game clean. He’s got to find the right balance.

10.The only damn thing I know

I know we dropped this gif way back in the beginning of this article, but we need to talk about it again. Because, while we talked about how it was not a good play and he was almost burned for it, we did not talk about how, in the process of doing all that, he also delivered an absolute mood. I mean, really, it resonates with me so deeply. That’s me trying to do anything. Relateable.