We’re back, folks! We had our first taste of hockey last week with the rookie game up in Allentown, but the preseason officially kicked off last night in Philly, and it’s all becoming really real.
And, because the Flyers really are back, they brought sort of a messy game and dropped their first one at home. Because, as we said after the rookie game, we do love continuity. It was close, at times, but in the end, the Flyers couldn’t get the last minute equalizer and an empty net goal for the Islanders sealed a 3-1 win for them. The good news is we’ll be sort of kind of rematching tonight. But let’s talk about what we learned in this one, first.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
How’d they look out there?
5v5: 20 shots, 26 CF, 59.09 CF%
We want to start this with a massive disclaimer that our confidence in these numbers isn’t super high, because they were having some kind of issue with their stat recording system in this game, and things got a little weird. I mean, it says that Kevin Hayes played like 30 minutes last night, which isn’t quite right. So these might not be perfect, but at least we’ll have something.
Anyway, we see that the Flyers ended up with something of a shot advantage, ultimately, at 5-on-5, but they didn’t exactly do it in pretty fashion. It was a rough start for them, as they struggled to complete their passes and break themselves out of the offensive zone, which means the Islanders ended up with the bulk of the chances in the first period. Thing smoothed out a bit as the game went on, but the Flyers did still seem to struggle with their timing throughout the course of the game, and that had them not able to generate as many chances as they otherwise might have. That’s preseason for ya.
Power play: 4 CF, 1 shot
I made a joke to our pal Charlie during the game last night that I couldn’t help but wonder if the whole concept of power play was cursed by a witch sometime before puck drop, because neither side looked particularly good on the penalty kill. Maybe that’s to be expected—new season, new combinations, and players aren’t super comfortable yet, so the timing is going to be a little off. This seemed to be the case with the Flyers, as they struggled to complete their passes and often founds themselves chased out of the offensive zone and forced to regroup. So it ended up being a whole lot of nothing to show for their time on the man-advantage. Sigh.
Penalty kill: 2 CA, 0 SA
Another disclaimer here: these are just the stats for the 4v5 penalty kill time—there isn’t anything up for the bit of 3v5 time the Flyers had to kill. Alas.
But perhaps the good news here is that the Flyers did do well in killing the Islanders’ two man advantage, even if it did look a little scary. This seemed to be the theme for them—for a bit the Flyers’ penalty killers would look a little passive and we would start to sweat, and then someone would get their stick in a lane or do a little disrupting, and the puck would be moving the other way. A couple of players that really stood out on the penalty kill were Kevin Hayes, Oskar Lindblom (looking quicker this year, to boot!), and German Rubtsov. We liked their ability to disrupt play and start a breakout, and we’d like to see more of it. Thank you for tuning in.
1. Kevin Hayes
It was his first game as a Flyer and okay bud, we see ya. Hayes had himself a strong first game and really, he did just about everything that we might have expected from him. He was strong on pucks, he was able to contribute to a bit of cycling in the offensive zone, he was disruptive on the penalty kill, and he was even able to find a bit of initial chemistry with his linemates James van Riemsdyk and Jake Voracek (possible regular season line anyone?). He, like just about everyone else, took a bit of time to get settled into the game, but once he did, he impressed.
Vigneault said in his presser that he expects that we’ll see even more from Hayes as he and the rest of the team get more comfortable in the system, but this was a pretty good start, if we do say so ourselves.
2. Philippe Myers
In the early part of the game, when most of the Flyers looked a little shaky, like they were still feeling things out out there, one of the immediate standouts was Myers. While a number of players seemed a little shaky with the puck early, Myers seemed confident, and was able to do a bit of wheeling in the offensive zone for a wraparound chance in the first period, which certainly turned some heads. His defensive game was sound as ever, but it’s always fun to see that offensive upside jumping out.
It wasn’t a perfect game for him—he took two penalties and also, while generating a handful of attempts from the point, had some trouble getting shots through to the net. So while he did have a strong showing and continues to prove that he’s an NHL player, he still does have some things to work on.
3. James van Riemsdyk
And finally, it was also a solid first game back for van Riemsdyk! He picked up the Flyers’ only goal of the game, and he did it in what feels like The James Van Riemsdyk Way, in crashing the net, creating a bit of chaos, and capitalizing on a chance in close.
Hayes ➡️ Voracek ➡️ van Riemsdyk pic.twitter.com/qJ7fUybiMj— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 17, 2019
The offense, of course, jumped out, but he brought a pretty well rounded game in this one. Not to be too snarky and mean, but we even saw him backchecking in this one, which, wow.
Anyway, as we noted above, he also found some chemistry with Hayes and Voracek, which is a neat thing to see in the preseason.
Two loose observations
1. Notes on a few less positive standouts
There were enough good performances in last night’s game that we would feel guilty dedicating one section to just ripping on a guy, but because it’s preseason and guys are competing for jobs, it’s worth noting that there were a couple of players who fell a little flat.
Brian Elliott got the start, and he seemed a little rusty. It was a weird start to the game, no one really knew where to go and guys weren’t really talking, as he said, and that makes things a little tougher on the goalie. But at the same time, he didn’t seem to have it all locked down. Some of his reads were a little off, and his rebound control was sometimes dubious. In short, for him, it really looked like his first game back. He isn’t really in danger of losing his NHL job, but he does have a bit of rust to shake off to get himself in good shape before the season starts.
Samuel Morin also seemed to struggle in this one. He brought his usual physical element, but that was just about it. We know that his puck skills aren’t great, we’ve kind of come to expect that he won’t blow us away with that, but last night, those deficiencies seemed particularly glaring. He just looked a step behind when he tried to do really any kind of puck moving. And Morin, in short, as he sits on the roster bubble, needs to do a little better.
And finally, I caught myself thinking in last night’s game that I didn’t really have a single feeling about Chris Stewart’s game, because he didn’t really… do… anything. And then he got crunched and picked a fight, and that was a something. There’s a conversation to be had about the physical element he offers and if the Flyers are indeed looking for that, but we won’t be having that discussion here. What we’ll just note that in terms of actual hockeying, his play left something to be desired.
2. This was messy, y’all
We’ve touched on this already, but it bears repeating because it’s one of the bigger feelings we leave this game with. They got a bit of rhythm forming as the game went on, but still the timing wasn’t perfect, and they really struggled to string together more and a couple of completed passes in a row, which hindered their ability to generate more offense. It was all just a little off.
Vigneault said with a laugh after the game that there were certainly some teachable moments in this game, and really, that’s what preseason is all about. I know I found myself getting grumbly at points about the messiness, but I had to remind myself that this is all about learning and getting adjusted, and this is just something we have to deal with. It’s tough to orient yourself, but we’re doing our best. The Flyers are doing their best too, and we just have to let them work through these hiccups.
The only damn thing I know
I’ve got to be honest with you guys, watching Andy Welinski, our new number 3 for the time being, running around out there delivering bit hits along the boards and throwing bombs in on goal from the point, I couldn’t help but wonder if he hadn’t been possessed by the ghost of Radko Gudas. Maybe the number is haunted. Because that felt a lot like watching Gudas at times. Something might be up, there, and we will remain vigilant.