Right-handed defenseman Philippe Myers came to camp with the goal of making the Flyers. Okay, wait, so did everybody else; let’s try that again. Myers came into camp with a legitimate shot to make the team, thanks to an off-season injury to Andrew MacDonald, and poor showings from Christian Folin and Robert Hagg through camp and preseason have only increased his chances. However, with both the return of MacDonald last night and Travis Sanheim’s imminent return, there’s suddenly no easy path for Myers to make the team. Now he needs to play well enough to beat a veteran for their spot.
Myers started strong, with a couple of solid plays in the neutral zone like this bank pass to Claude Giroux leading to a zone entry and eventual shot attempt from Mikhail Vorobyev. Myers would continue to excel in the neutral zone all night, while over half of his peers on the other hand struggled throughout.
There was one instance in the first period where Myers had actually lost control of the puck on an entry attempt but was able to react and spin around, allowing him to retrieve the puck again and quickly dump it into the zone. A mishandled entry is nothing to throw praise at, obviously, but the reaction to the misstep is what’s important to note here. While the resulting dump-in isn’t a flashy play, nor what he intended to do, what it did show was a great amount of poise for a rookie entering his second season of professional hockey.
On the defensive side of things, something that Myers uses to his advantage is his reach. At 6’5” he’s able to get to pucks quicker than most, and that’s exactly how he was able to begin one of the Flyers’ breakout attempts early in the second period.
Once Ryan Donato loses an edge along the boards, Myers gets to the puck and has to immediately deal with the forechecking Mark McNeill. He tries to make a pass up the boards to Konecny not only once, not twice, but three times before the puck deflects off McNeill’s skate and towards the faceoff dot. That’s where being just a bit bigger than every else around him allows him to push the puck just a little further, allowing both Hagg and Giroux to pick up the puck almost simultaneously and go on to enter the neutral zone.
Once there, Myers joined the rush a few times, but once he entered the offensive zone he failed to get both his passes and his shots through the Bruins’ defenders.
At 5-on-5, Myers took five shots towards the net, with one registering as a scoring chance, and none of them wound up hitting the net. Three of his attempts, including his scoring chance, were blocked and twice he missed the net entirely. It’s needless to say that moving forward he’s going to need to get the puck through, and on target, more often. While he was on the ice, the Flyers out-chanced the Bruins nine to four, but were only able to generate one high danger chance to Boston’s two.
Continuing with even strength hockey, Myers got just over a minute and a half of ice time at 4-on-4 and it was a situation that he didn’t look all that comfortable playing in, although his one turnover wasn’t entirely his fault.
Michael Raffl had just made his way behind the net and Hagg, reading the route that Raffl was taking, moved deeper into the offensive zone. However, once Raffl and Myers switch and the pass is made Hagg starts back up the ice, both blocking Myers’ skating lane and any possible pass to Giroux. This forces Myers to slow down at the boards and eventually leads to him chipping the puck into the corner where the Bruins easily recover and begin their breakout. He could have adjusted his path as well, it’s not all on Hagg, but he’s already committed to heading that direction before Raffl’s pass is even made and it’s really a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So that turnover might not have been his fault, but there’s certainly one that was. Yup, we’ve finally arrived at the big mistake. The Bruins’ eventual game winning goal, which at the time just felt like an insurance marker.
It was such a disappointing moment to watch unfold because just prior to the pass attempt, Hagg had turned the puck over at the blue line and it looked like Myers was going to defuse the situation. As we all know, he ends up making the situation worse by throwing a blind pass into the middle of the defensive zone and, well, the result isn’t pretty.
You can see what he was trying to do here - he glances behind him and sees Giroux hovering around the middle of the ice, but what he doesn’t realize is that Giroux is moving towards the point to cover his side of the ice. The coverage is troubling, with nobody picking up Lee Stempniak streaking into the zone, but the goal is clearly on Myers. Defensive zone turnovers happen all the time and while the ones that end up in the back of your net tend to get remembered more than the ones where the goaltender bails his teammate out, the reality is that it’s just a play that you can’t afford to make, especially in the midst of a roster battle.
Myers did lead all Flyers defensemen in score and venue adjusted CF at 65.22% and was just okay in the game as a whole. It certainly wasn’t his best game of the preseason, but even after the night he had, he’s still had a better showing than both Folin and Hagg. However, they may already be locked into a spot in the NHL and Myers’ time on the NHL roster may be running out.
Unless a move is made, through either waivers or a trade, there’s no roster spot available for Myers, and after a costly mistake like that, Flyers’ General Manager Ron Hextall might not feel the need to go out of his way to make one for him. Unless he’s a part of the next round of roster cuts he has one, maybe two, more opportunities to force his way onto the team and he’ll need to be at his absolute best to do so.
Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.