Another preseason game, another loss. There were a lot of positives from this game however, and some early signs that there are things to like in Alain Vigneault’s system. So, what did we learn from the 3-2 loss at the hand of the New York Islanders?
1. Mikhail Vorobyev continues strong preseason
The man known as Misha was strong yet again last night, and furthered his case to make the NHL roster come October. Vorobyev’s puck protection abilities continue to be strong; he’s able to control the puck for extended time in the offensive zone. Extending plays and creating scoring chances were things Vorobyev did consistently last night, and both of those along with his size will surely keep him in consideration to make the Flyers.
He lead all forwards last night in Corsi, posting a 62.11 percent when adjusting for score and venue. For the second consecutive season, he’s put together an impressive preseason. The question now becomes if he can keep this level of play and intensity if he does indeed make the roster.
2. Carter Hart looked sharp
Although he only faced 14 shots, Hart stopped all of them and looked as crisp as ever. He was calm, cool, and collected in net as we saw for so much of last season. Although we only got a very brief look at the Flyers’ new starting goalie, he looked strong and that’s always a positive after a long offseason.
3. The breakout
Last season it was no mystery: the Flyers were struggling on the breakout. This was was surprising given the great puck moving defensemen this team has in the likes of Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Shayne Gostisbehere. In just two games under Alain Vigneault, there appears to be a much better system for breakouts, at least by the eye test.
The forwards are staying much closer to the defensemen attempting to exit the zone, and in doing so, the Flyers were able to exit the zone much better than last season. Of course, there were still some persisting issues with some defensemen (cough, Robert Hagg) using the off the glass and out method, but generally there were clear positives.
4. Hanging in against NHL veterans
While a loss is a loss no matter what, context is always important. In the first preseason game, it was the Flyers dressing more of their NHL players than the Islanders, and last night it was vice versa. Although it’s a loss, this Flyers team, comprised of mostly Lehigh Valley Phantoms players with a few NHL players mixed in, held a lead in the third period over an Islanders team that featured the likes of Mat Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and Anders Lee. The fact this game was even close could be considered a victory in itself.
5. Too many point shots down the stretch
In the first period and a half, the Flyers actually did a good job of limiting their point shots, and were looking for open men in the slot more often than not. Alas, as the game went on they appeared to focus more on getting shots through from the perimeter which resulted in quite a few blocked shots. Perimeter shots can be effective with traffic in front, but they have to get through to be effective, and the Flyers simply didn’t do that.
Is this a concern? No of course not, it’s the second preseason game and it was an AHL lineup for the most part. In the preseason opener they found the slot much more effectively and generated a ton of shot attempts from that area. I do hope however, that if point shots are going to be a thing to fall back on in Alain Vigneault’s system, they spend a lot of time preaching to get shots through.
5v5 Corsi: 37 CF, 47.44 CF%, 52.43 CF SVA
When looking at the raw Corsi totals, the Flyers were outplayed. However when adjusting for the fact the Islanders trailed most of the game, the Flyers come out with the slight edge. The first and second periods were productive for the Flyers as they held a 31-24 edge in shot attempts through two periods of play, and that’s where the wheels fell off. The third period saw the Islanders out-Corsi the Flyers 17-6, and when digging into the shot quality metrics, it doesn’t get any better.
5v5 shot quality: 13 SCF, 7 HDCF, 1.22 xGF, 40.55 xGF%, 45.28 xGF SVA
While the possession metrics show the Flyers didn’t really fall apart until the third period, the shot quality metrics show a quicker regression. After an opening frame that saw the Flyers edge the Islanders 9-6 in scoring chances-for, 5-2 in high danger chances-for, and 0.53 to 0.50 in expected goals-for, the second period was a much different story.
The Islanders won each battle, with a 10-3 edge in SCF, 7-1 in HDCF, and 0.87-0.49 in xGF. This goes back to my point about how the Flyers started off strong with finding the slot and getting attempts from high percentage areas, but then fell off as the game went on. It didn’t get much better in the third with the Islanders again winning each battle, this time 6-1, 3-1, and 0.42-0.20.
When adjusting for score and venue there is a fairly sizable increase in their xGF, but not enough to give them the edge over the Islanders.
1. Mikhail Vorobyev
Although I already touched on how good Misha was in this hockey game, it bears repeating. This is a guy who didn’t show much in the limited time he got in the NHL last season, and he looks determined to prove he belongs this preseason. If he continues to put performances like this one out there, he very well could and should make this team.
2. Chris Bigras
The surefire AHL defenseman had himself a really nice game for the Flyers, assisting on the first goal scored by Michael Raffl, and scoring the second one himself with a seeing-eye point shot with a nice screen from Maksim Sushko. Bigras also had a nice night in the metrics department, with a 56.78 CF SVA, and a 53.49 xGF SVA. There’s essentially zero chance he makes this team, but he should be a solid blueliner for the Phantoms this season.
He also had a fantastic goal line save that kept the Flyers up 1-0.
Bigras with a goal line save pic.twitter.com/E1OBWcE8kx— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 18, 2019
3. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
The man we call “NAK” had himself a very nice game overall as he battles for a spot on the Flyers roster. He was physical, he showed strong decision making and puck protection skills, had great passing vision - you name it he was doing it. He finished directly behind Vorobyev in Corsi with a 61.63 CF SVA, and posted the second highest xGF SVA with a 58.42. If NAK is going to make this team, performances like this one will greatly help his cause.
He did almost take Connor Bunnaman’s head off though. Maybe don’t do that again, NAK.
Off of Bunnaman and off the post. Close!— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 18, 2019
And ouch. pic.twitter.com/KuuWBgld6s
Nice work by Aube-Kubel to get the puck down low to Bunnaman here. pic.twitter.com/9CZeLEkHGe— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 18, 2019
The “That’s so Flyers” moment of the game
It’s gotta be J.F. Berube making a relatively routine save and then simply having zero idea where the puck is, as Mason Jobst puts it past him for the OT game winner. If there’s a more “Flyers” way to lose a game, I’d love to see it (not really, I really don’t want to see it, win games please).