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Line By Line: Preseason Game 4, Philadelphia Flyers @ Boston Bruins 9-23-19

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Connor Bunnaman should make this team.

Philadelphia Flyers v Boston Bruins Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The fourth preseason game for the Philadelphia Flyers went along way in getting closer and closer to the team’s opening night roster. Following this loss a handful of notable bubble players were assigned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL and a few remained with the big club based on their production in Monday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins. Taking a closer look at the line-by-line productivity and examining some of the minor plays in the contest one can start to see why some cuts and camp battles may have gone the way they have. Without further ado, let’s break this game down.

James van Riemsdyk-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny

60 unblocked shots-for percentage (15 for, 10 against)
55.55 unblocked shots-for percentage in home plate area (5 for, 4 against)
68.42 shots-for percentage (13 for, 6 against)
57.14 shots-for percentage in home plate area (4 for, 3 against)
Even icing differential (forced 1 icing, iced it once)

For a preseason game that was almost entirely 5-on-5 action where you go up against a line of Charlie Coyle-Brad Marchand-David Pastrnak for most of the evening, a high-event night at the office is expected. In 14:21 of time together at full strength the trio of James van Riemsdyk - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny threw the first punch at Boston’s top line after JVR intercepted Pastrnak’s pass behind the net and found Konecny in front for a goal with a little over seven minutes left in the first period. However, Travis Sanheim’s inability to receive a Konecny pass in the offensive zone led to Marchand’s eventual goal off his two-on-one with Pastrnak against Myers. Although they were also on the ice for the game-tying goal, this line started off strong in terms of limiting opportunities. Zdeno Chara’s shot on goal 1:14 into the contest was the Bruins’ only unblocked shot with these three Flyers on the ice until Marchand’s goal in the second period.

The Little Things

  • Perhaps the toughest part of the game for this line defensively came late in the second period. After a faceoff in the defensive zone with 6:27 left in the stanza, these three along with the tandem of Shayne Gostisbehere and Justin Braun were pinned in the defensive zone for 48 seconds as Boston cycled. As expected it was Coyle - Marchand - Pastrnak doing the damage while the home team compiled four shot attempts and three offensive rebounds in a cycle that was elongated thanks to failed takeaways from JVR and Konecny on Alex Petrovic at the blue line halfway through the zone time. None of the shot attempts were dangerous and the reason why the Bruins retrieved so many rebounds seemed to be because it was the end of a long shift for the Flyers, but the positive is the unit found a way to not give up a goal.
  • To go along with a nice hit to support Phil Myers on a defensive zone takeaway (which led to a 2-on-1 for JVR and Hayes) and a lone forechecking attempt on Chara that forced a neutral zone turnover in the third period, Konecny also decided to block a team-high pair of shots in the third period. Nothing like one of your top-line wingers getting down in front of a Chara slap shot in a game that doesn’t count.
  • Couturier’s ability to muscle off almost any check you could imagine resulted in a power play on Monday. Sean Kuraly was knocked off balance and grabbed Couturier’s stick while he fell to the ice after a failed hit on Couturier in the neutral zone after he delivered a pass to Gostisbehere. Connor Bunnaman scored on the ensuing power play.

Oskar Lindblom-Kevin Hayes-Connor Bunnaman

80 unblocked shots-for percentage (8 for, 2 against)
100 unblocked shots-for percentage in home plate area (5 for, 0 against)
83.33 shots-for percentage (5 for, 1 against)
100 shots-for percentage in home plate area (3 for, 0 against)
Even icing differential (forced 0 icings, iced it zero times)

The line of Oskar Lindblom - Kevin Hayes - Connor Bunnaman thrived in all phases of the game on Monday. The triumvirate of players who seemingly never get as much love as they deserve absolutely steamrolled whatever group of B’s Bruce Cassidy was shuffling over the boards. On top of that, each player seemingly had noteworthy plays on special teams as well. The line spent most of the game going up against Danton Heinen - Kuraly - Brett Ritchie, but it didn’t matter because the only ‘shot’ on goal they allowed was a Urho Vaakanainen clear that went on Brian Elliott from center ice early in the first period. Factoring in that the only other unblocked shot this line faced at 5-on-5 was a miss from Petrovic in the third period, Lindblom - Hayes - Bunnaman didn’t allow a single unblocked shot attempt the entire game to go along with three shots of their own inside the home plate area.

The Little Things

  • Hayes’ work on the Bruins’ 5-on-3 power play and shortened 5-on-4 chance that followed in the first period has to be discussed. With 20 seconds of two-man advantage to kill, Hayes started the shorthanded shift by shooting the puck out of the zone on the faceoff. After the Bruins retrieved the puck and came back up ice, Hayes pressured Pastrnak on a zone-entry attempt near the left point forcing the Boston forward to pass back to Vaakanainen. The blue liner then moves the puck over towards the right point, where David Krejci carries it into the zone. Hayes moves across the ice to pressure the two and after Krejci shoveled it back to Vaakanainen at the blue line Hayes is able to get in the d-man’s shooting lane to block his shot attempt. Hayes managed to clear the puck just outside the blue line, but Marchand decided to take it further into Boston’s end to regather on the man advantage. On the ensuing zone entry from Marchand the puck eventually worked its way to behind Elliott’s cage, where Myers wrapped one high off the glass and into the neutral zone which led to Hayes’ shorthanded 1-on-1 against Vaakanainen, who may have helped him not get a shot off on the breakaway.
  • The former New York Ranger did so many little things right on Monday (aside from the penalty in overtime) that he’s getting a second bullet point. He pressured Petrovic behind Tuukka Rask’s cage halfway through the first period and turned a casual breakout play into a turnover with a chance for Bunnaman in front. The forward also intercepted a Vaakanainen pass clean in the neutral zone early in the second to start a rush, set up Lindblom for a 1-on-1 opportunity late in the second period, and with a one-goal lead he was able to hinder a Marchand zone entry that led to Sanheim stealing the puck from Boston’s diminutive forward.
  • Out of the remaining bubble players Bunnaman may be playing the best hockey. Three of the ten events that took place for this line at 5-on-5 in the loss were Bunnaman shots on goal in the home plate area. The second period is where the 2016 pick made several notable plays. After he drove to the net for a chance after Vaakanainen fell over in the opening seconds of the middle frame, Bunnaman was able to hassle Zdeno Chara as he attempted to carry the puck through his own slot, which allowed for Hayes to come over and steal the puck in support. Hayes then circled around to the left side of the ice and set up Bunnaman for a cross-ice one-timer.
  • I guess I’m giving Bunnaman another bullet point as well. As mentioned above, goals this late in preseason games by bubble players can be a little too magnified. A somewhat flukey goal will have fans mentioning that fringe player’s name as an option to suddenly make the team. It’s easy to see that comparison with Bunnaman’s goal on Monday, but he deserved to be rewarded for making that play. He was attempting to convert a cross-ice pass from below the goal line, which is a pretty damn hard play to defend for a defense or goalie. Trent Frederic may have put it in his own net, but if he doesn’t get a stick on that puck it’s going to Myers all alone in front. Bunnaman didn’t deserve a goal from below the goal line on the play, but even if the puck didn’t ricochet in it was still a smart play from a player who might make the show.
  • Shortly after Carsen Twarynski gave Philly the lead in the third period, Lindblom pickpocketed Pastrnak at the Bruins’ blue line and placed a howitzer on Dan Vladar. Just a casual play that we expect from Lindblom about once a period.

Carsen Twarynski-Scott Laughton-Chris Stewart

46.15 unblocked shots-for percentage (6 for, 7 against)
25 unblocked shots-for percentage in home plate area (1 for, 3 against)
42.86 shots-for percentage (3 for, 4 against)
25 shots-for percentage in home plate area (1 for, 3 against)
Plus-2 icing differential (forced 2 icings, iced it zero times)

The go-ahead goal in the third period may have saved the power forwards’ chances of making this team’s opening night roster. Other than the goal and the fact they were the only line to finish with a positive goals-for percentage at 5-on-5, the line of Twarynski - Scott Laughton - Chris Stewart struggled in the loss. Granted they spent most of their 10:57 against the trio of Coyle - Marchand - Pastrnak, the Flyers’ bottom-six trio failed to muster an unblocked shot attempt from the home plate area outside of Twarynski’s go-ahead tally. Most of the game wasn’t pretty and sometimes both Stewart and Twarynski trailed a bit in defensive zone man-on-man coverage during cycles, but the three skaters did manage to put together a blue-collar shift when the team needed it.

The Little Things

  • Besides the goal Twarynski’s performance wasn’t nearly as impressive as his outing on Saturday. He did have a nice hustle play when he beat out an icing in the final minute of the opening period to help Myers with a much-needed clear, but he did also put the team in a pretty difficult situation early. Out on the ice during the penalty kill in the first period, Twarynski failed to clear the puck and instead hit Coyle just inside the Flyers’ blue line, who managed to corral the puck and circled to the slot. The power forward then compounded the problem by whacking Coyle with his stick to put the team down two men.
  • Both Scott Laughton and Stewart found ways to extend the play and prevent a whistle in the seconds prior to Twarynski’s goal.
  • This line pieced together a 19-second cycle with just under seven minutes left in the first.

Andy Andreoff-German Rubtsov-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

72.72 unblocked shots-for percentage (8 for, 3 against)
75 unblocked shots for percentage in home plate area (6 for, 2 against)
57.14 shots-for percentage (4 for, 3 against)
50 shots-for percentage in home plate area (2 for, 2 against)
Even icing differential (forced 1 icing, iced it once)

Their performances in Monday night’s game played a major role in these three going to Lehigh Valley. Andy Andreoff was never going to be on the team, German Rubtsov quietly became less visible over the last couple of preseason contests, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel might still be battling for a spot if it didn’t seem as though Alain Vigneault is leaning towards a physical, gritty forward as the 12th man. Aube-Kubel had the most productive performance of the trio, as his two shots on goal and two misses from the home plate area were four of this line’s 11 events at full strength. On top of that, NAK also provided a pair of shots in the home plate area that were blocked, so the speedy forward wasn’t shy when it came to slinging the disc. This line did do a good job of suppressing attempts, as Boston only saw one attempt go unblocked against this line over the final 26:26 of regulation.

The Little Things

  • A play that illustrates the type of tenacity NAK provides offensively happened halfway through the third period. After he retrieved an Andreoff dump-in, Aube-Kubel shielded the puck from Vaakanainen from the corner to the far post where he backhanded a wraparound attempt to provide a decent chance out of nothing. A play that hurt Aube-Kubel’s chances of making the team, however, may have been Jakub Lauko’s goal. NAK was caught flat-footed in the neutral zone seconds prior to Friedman’s tumble to set up Lauko’s marker.
  • If he was ever going to make the roster, Andreoff needed to play flawlessly. That wasn’t the case when he bobbled a rather innocent outlet pass from Friedman at the Flyers’ blue line before firing an aimless pass across the neutral zone for a giveaway.

Lines On The Fly

55.55 unblocked shots-for percentage (5 for, 4 against)
100 unblocked shots-for percentage from the home plate area (2 for, 0 against)
62.5 shots-for percentage (5 for, 3 against)
100 shots-for percentage from the home plate area (2 for, 0 against
Minus-1 icing differential (forced 0 icings, iced it once)

All things considered the Orange and Black weren’t hurt too much when the lines got a little sloppy. The trio of Bunnaman - German Rubtsov - NAK were on the ice for Lauko’s goal and random Flyers’ trios only managed one unblocked shot attempt over the final 23:45 of regulation, but the forwards were able to prevent a single Bruins’ shot from the home plate area. The lines of Twarynski - Couturier - Konecny and JVR - Hayes - Konecny provided the pair of shots from the home plate area while Andreoff - Laughton - Stewart, Lindblom - Hayes - Twarynski, and Lindblom - Laughton - Twarynski each provided a shot on goal. The Bruins posted shots on goal against the lines of Twarynski - Hayes - Stewart and Twarynski - Laughton - Konecny, as Ritchie registered a missed shot with Lindblom - Couturier - JVR on the ice.

Shayne Gostisbehere-Justin Braun

61.90 unblocked shots-for percentage (13 for, 8 against)
77.78 unblocked shots-for percentage in home plate area (7 for, 2 against)
75 shots-for percentage (9 for, 3 against)
80 shots-for percentage in home plate area (4 for, 1 against)
Plus-2 icing differential (forced 2 icings, iced it zero times)

This pair looks like it might be a force during the regular season. A 75-percent or higher in three of the main four underlying categories mentioned above, out there for two Bruins’ icings, and on the ice for a pair of Flyers’ goals and zero Bruins’ goals at 5-on-5 is nothing short of dominance. With only one shot against in the first 14:11 and only two in the first 24:09, Gostisbehere and Braun might just have what it takes to successfully blend an offensive d-man and with a stay-at-home blue liner.

The Little Things

  • The one aspect almost every Flyers’ fan will give Gostisbehere credit for is his ability to create offense given any situation, which he proved he’s still capable of doing earlier this week. With about two minutes left in the first period, Gostisbehere carried the puck from the defensive zone to the other side of the red line through numerous bodies before he placed a dump-in perfectly for Konecny to retrieve with ease for a chance seconds later. Ghost made a pair of crucial plays late in the game, as he gained the zone before setting up Konecny for another chance with a drop pass in the third period seconds before Kuraly’s holding-the-stick minor and also sprung Hayes for his overtime chances on the same breakaway.
  • A negative play that some often associate with Gostisbehere occurred late in the first period following a nice defensive play in the neutral zone. After NAK pressured Josian Didier into a poor clear attempt, Gostisbehere was able to intercept the clear and move play in the other direction. Although he successfully navigated his way through bodies from the left side of the ice to the right Gostisbehere evidently saw Aube-Kubel on the other side of the ice and quickly fired a pass. The only problem was Pastrnak was clearly in the passing lane and there were four (4) Bruins in between Gostisbehere and NAK within stick reach. On top of that, Gostisbehere (as the last man back) came to a complete stop after he let go of the pass with both Marchand and Coyle between him and Elliott. If Pastrnak catches his laser pass or it hits a skate funny and it’s a 2-on-0 in no time. Placing passes in tight windows all over the ice is something we can expect out of Ghost and there’s no reason why he should stop aiming for those high-reward plays, but those who don’t like the American blue liner often point to these types of plays as to why he’s hurting the club.
  • Moving back to the positives on Gostisbehere, he made a handful of subtle plays to help alleviate defensive pressure that often go overlooked. During a shift in the first period Gostisbehere blocked a Petrovic shot into the left corner with the blade of his stick before he failed to get the puck past a pair of Bruins by himself below the goal line. After Boston eventually regained possession of the puck following Ghost’s work, the d-man read and intercepted a Vaakanainen pass from the left point to Pastrnak in the right circle. In the second period Bunnaman put himself in a tight situation along the boards in an attempt to exit the defensive zone with possession. Realizing he was running out of real estate, Bunnaman slings the puck back to Gostisbehere in the defensive slot. With Danton Heinen already charging at him with a full head of steam, the rearguard eluded both Heinen and some traffic in the neutral zone as he carried the puck nearly half the ice through duress before dishing it off to Rubtsov for a zone entry. He also stifled a Boston breakout by taking away time and space in a 1-on-1 in the neutral zone against Ritchie and effortlessly poked the puck away from Coyle in a 1-on-1 as the power forward barreled towards the net early in overtime.
  • What will make this pair work is Braun’s ability to clean up some situations where Gostisbehere may have not received the same defensive support in previous years. An example of that came halfway through the first. After he stood up Marchand at the blue line to force the winger to send a puck deep into Philly’s zone, Braun put stick on puck and bodied Frederic on a wraparound attempt that may have beaten Elliott without his play.
  • It will almost always be about defense with Braun, but that doesn’t mean he has stone hands. Late in the first period Braun lobbed an aerial pass to Andreoff from the left defensive circle that hit the AHL forward right in stride at the Bruins’ blue line.

Travis Sanheim-Phil Myers

60 unblocked shots-for percentage (12 for, 8 against)
62.5 unblocked shots-for percentage in home plate area (5 for, 3 against)
68.75 shots-for percentage (11 for, 5 against)
62.5 unblocked shots-for percentage in home plate area (5 for, 3 against)
Plus-1 icing differential (forced 1 icing, iced it zero times)

On a night where Travis Sanheim and Myers drove play it was a handful of defensive lapses that caused these two to be on the ice for a pair of goals against. Entering this camp it felt like Myers wasn’t necessarily a lock to dress on opening night, but that it would take a lot of dumb shit to happen for him not to be playing against the Chicago Blackhawks. Well, after Robert Hagg failed to embarrass himself on Saturday and Myers collected painful visible errors on Monday, it looks like it may have happened. Sanheim is a lock to make the team and has looked good for most of the preseason, but he also had a costly mistake on the night. Based on the lines at practice yesterday it seems as though Myers hurt his case a bit on Monday.

The Little Things

  • Myers’ inability to catch Backes’ clear moments before Wagner’s goal was unfortunate and may have ultimately cost him a spot in the top six for next week. It was a routine play at a critical point in time and ultimately left every other skater on the ice hopeless to disrupt the sequence, as all three of the forwards were caught flat-footed at the red line and Sanheim just missed blocking the cross-ice pass.
  • To go along with the drop, Myers’ decision-making nearly cost Philly in regulation. With just seconds left in the game Myers decided to get deep on a rush and was caught below the goal line when the puck started moving back towards Elliott. He didn’t have any impact on Couturier and Lindblom failing to slow down Pastrnak in the neutral zone, but a slight hesitation from Friedman as he realized it was JVR back with him to defend the rush allowed the Bruins’ forward to position himself better for the potential game-winner.
  • The undrafted d-man also looked befuddled while handling the puck in the neutral zone minutes into the game and was lucky not to earn a boarding minor after he blasted Pastrnak in the numbers with a little over five minutes left in regulation.
  • It wasn’t all negatives on the night for Myers, as he successfully poked the puck away from Marchand and started a zone exit after the forward attempted to beat Myers to the outside driving to the paint. He also managed to pester Kuraly enough on a rush that it allowed Konecny to flatten the energy forward and sprung a 2-on-1 the other way.
  • On Marchand’s goal early in the second period, Sanheim was in the right circle while the Flyers were cycling . The rearguard fumbled a pass from Konecny in the corner which allowed a 2-on-1 to start the other way for Marchand and Pastrnak against Myers.

Samuel Morin-Mark Friedman

56.25 unblocked shots-for percentage (9 for, 7 against)
50 unblocked shots-for percentage in home plate area (3 for, 3 against)
45.45 shots-for percentage (5 for, 6 against)
25 shots-for percentage in home plate area (1 for, 3 against)
Minus-2 icing differential (forced 1 icing, iced it three times)

On a night these two needed to make a statement the two fringe d-men showed they might need a little more time in the AHL. Spending a good chunk of their 13:09 together against DeBrusk - Kuraly - Ritchie, Samuel Morin and Friedman managed to win the quantity battle but struggled in the quality battle. Despite the fact Friedman individually had a pair of misses in the home plate area this duo saw three of the four shots on goal from the home plate area while they were on the ice come off the sticks of B’s. On top of that the tandem made a few big gaffs, a slew of minor mistakes, and iced the puck three times. Both d-men will most likely play their fair share of games in the Orange and Black, but we’re going to have to wait just a little bit longer for that.

The Little Things

  • Unfortunately for Friedman the biggest play of the night for him was Lauko’s goal, where he fell over to set up the tally. On the bright side for Friedman he provided a couple of nice shots from the point that drifted through traffic and did a nice job covering for Morin after Ritchie beat the towering defender in a foot race through the neutral zone on a chance just minutes into the tilt.
  • As for Morin his night consisted of a few minor plays that paint the picture of why he may need a little more time with the Phantoms to iron out some things. Late in the first period Morin possessed the puck in the defensive zone with no Bruin around him. From the right circle, Morin attempted a cross-ice pass to move the puck out of the zone, but Frederic was in the passing lane to poke the puck into the neutral zone where the Bruins gained control. He was also knocked on his ass during a board battle with Ritchie (who is two inches shorter and 18 pounds heavier) early in the middle stanza.

Lines On The Fly

72.72 unblocked shots-for percentage (8 for, 3 against)
80 unblocked shots-for percentage in home plate area (4 for, 1 against)
62.5 shots-for percentage (5 for, 3 against)
66.66 shots-for percentage in home plate area (2 for, 1 against)

Just like with the random forward lines, when the Flyers’ blue line mixed and matched they held their own but were also out there for a goal against. Gostisbehere and Friedman were out on the ice when Lauko opened the scoring. Sanheim and Gostisbehere were on the ice for the most unblocked shot attempts as two of the three unblocked shot attempts that came while on the ice together left Flyers’ sticks. Gostisbehere was also on the ice for a pair of unblocked shot attempts with Morin, both of which belonged to Philly. The duos of Myers-Friedman, Sanheim-Friedman, and Myers-Braun each provided an unblocked shot attempt from the home plate area with no attempts against. Sanheim-Morin’s lone event was an Andreoff shot late in the third period, while Gostisbehere-Myers was on the ice for one shot against.