Well, preseason is still happening and I don’t know how much fun we’re having with it. The Flyers dropped their third game in a row last night and just couldn’t really hang with the Bruins despite, on paper, having the superior roster. After dropping the first goal, Matt Niskanen was able to get things tied back up, but the Bruins had two more in them and the Flyers did not. That’s a pretty tidy loss, folks. And what’d we learn? I’m glad you asked.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com
How’d they look out there?
5-on-5: 33 CF, 30.96 CF%, 41.26 xGF%
We don’t really need to mince words about this—it was ugly, folks. The Flyers were able to get a couple of really nice chances, but on the whole, they weren’t able to do a whole lot in this one. They spent a lot of time hemmed into their own end, letting the Bruins dictate the pace of play, and dictate they did. As has been the case, it’s just seemed like the Flyers’ timing was a little off, and when it looked like they were going to be able to put something together, it just fell apart at the last second. It was a number of players’ first game of the preseason, so we do expect that it will take them a little bit to get the timing back. So it’s hard to get really worked up about this. But, overall, the product wasn’t great
Power play: 22 CF, 7 SF, 1,94 xGF
Do you love watching the Flyers’ power play? Well, you would’ve been in luck. Because they drew five penalties last night, and failed to score on each of their five attempts, so we got to watch the full 10 minutes. How fun.
It wasn’t all bad news, the Flyers were able to generate a fair number of chances on the man-advantage. Morgan Frost was robbed one two very good chances. And the top unit (which may well be at least very close to what we see run in the regular season) was able to get a bit of good puck movement going, Would we have liked for them to close on some of those chances? And might that have made the difference in this game? Sure. But we’ll take the hints of good as well, if it means they might be able to build on it into the regular season.
Penalty kill: 3 CA, 2 SA, 0 CF
We didn’t get to see as much of the penalty kill in this one, and that’s probably a good thing in and of itself. The Flyers were only called for two minor penalties, and they were able to successfully kill both of them off. There wasn’t a whole lot of flash going on here, just some steady defending. The Bruins were limited to just three chances across their two attempts, and couldn’t get much going. The Flyers were able to be quietly pretty disruptive. And it’s hard to complain about that.
1. Morgan Frost
Frost made his proper preseason debut last night after missing the first two games with a lower body injury, and he really did come to play. He tied for second on the team in shot attempts (with three) and scoring chances (with two) at 5-on-5, and certainly came out with some jump. But if we had to pick one word to describe Frost, it would be “snakebitten.” He had a couple of really close chances, but somehow he couldn’t close on them. Just look at these two on the power play.
Morgan Frost comes close to scoring twice in a matter of seconds. Hit the post first, robbed by Halak second. pic.twitter.com/SVd6OTfLek— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 19, 2019
It’s a little unfair, really. It would’ve been nice to see him pot one, but so it goes. It was a solid first game, and we’d like to see more of it, that’s for certain.
2. Justin Braun
We’ve got to say it, folks, we’re liking what we’re seeing out of Braun. He’s the type of player that we would normally say doesn’t bring a whole lot of flash, just a quietly very sound defensive game, but this wouldn’t really be true, at least not last night. I mean, just look at this goal he saved in the third period.
Braun saves a goal! pic.twitter.com/gFBCm111q3— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 20, 2019
Okay, that was just about it on the flash. All in all, Braun seems to be getting adjusted to playing with the Flyers, and his pairing with Shayne Gostisbehere is showing some early signs of looking positive. They’re starting to gel, and it’s nice to see. We weren’t quite sure what to expect out of Braun, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. He’s been steady, and not in the way that we use that to describe defensemen who just aren’t very good. Actually steady. It’s working so far.
3. This one’s a tie. I’m cheating.
Okay, we’re lumping our last two standouts together because I couldn’t choose. And they played on the same line, so we saw them together a whole lot.
Kyle said it pretty perfectly in our slack chat during the first period, that it looked like German Rubtsov and Nicolas Aube-Kubel were the only ones with their feet moving early on in this one, and I’m inclined to agree. There wasn’t a ton of pace and precision that we were seeing early in the first period, but those two seemed to be gelling and pushing the pace of play, even if it didn’t result in anything major .or tangible
Rubtsov sort of started to fade as the game went on—he’s played three games in the last four days, so we understand why that happened—but Aube-Kubel was able to bring a pretty consistent level of effort and energy throughout the whole of the game. It wasn’t his flashiest game, but it was clear that he was trying to keep that pace up and generate chances whenever he could. It was another solid game when he needed one.
Two Loose Observations
1. Notes on goaltending
It was another goalie split game, and it was certainly a mixed bag. Brian Elliott got the start and played the first two periods, and he looked pretty rough at times. Pretty much from the get-go, it looked like his tracking was off, and he was leaky again. He just didn’t have a real sense of where the puck was and where it was going after it hit him. We said on Monday the he had some work to do to get his timing back, and well, this is still the case.
Alex Lyon came in for the third period, and he looked sharp right away, bringing a couple of nifty glove saves. One period isn’t a lot to go on, but Lyon was pretty steady in his time on the ice. The one goal he gave up was unfortunate, as he was beaten one on one with Connor Clifton, and there’s not a whole lot you can get riled up about with that. He could’ve used some help. All told, he saw just under 18:30 of ice time, and he was just fine.
2. “We’re in the process phase”
We’re doing a bit of repeating from our observations on Monday’s game, but we’re going to say that it’s okay, because there was a lot of talk by both the players and coach after this one about the process, the system, and the types of mistakes that were being made.
Alain Vigneault emphasized that, as the section title says, “we’re in the process phase.” The players are stull learning the system, the new guys are getting adjusted, and that means things are going to be a little ugly at times. He felt that this was the case last night—that one of the teams knew their system, knew what they were doing, and one didn’t. And the one that did was more precise and was able to dictate play more noticeably.
There was a bit of resistance to this idea—Sean Couturier felt that the mistakes made were more details and timing than system based, but to each their own I suppose. What it comes down to is that things are still messy. And they may well be messy for a bit longer. And we just have to be prepared for that.
The only damn thing I know
There’s something weird going on in the Wells Fargo Center. On Monday, the horn would sound at the end of the period to signal that it was, well, the end of the period. And it would go for just a beat too long and it stressed me out a little bit. And then last night, they came back, and there was no horn at the end of the period. So weird again.
Is this important? Not really. But it really just feels like even the building is in preseason form. We’re all trying our best out here.