They did it! After two somewhat dicey showings to start the preseason, the Flyers were back last night with just about as close to their opening night roster as you could get against the Capitals, and with a pretty strong showing, they were able to pick up their first win of the preseason. It wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly a right direction, and if nothing else, a solid start for what very well could be that opening night lineup. It’s a bit of positivity, and we’ll certainly take it.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
Forward lines are starting to click
If we’re looking for one line that really stood out in last night’s game, it would once again be the top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny. We noted after Tuesday’s game how sharp they looked on the cycle, and they were able to bring another similar performance last night. They dominated their matchup—with an adjusted 71.26 CF% and 58.40 xGF%—and while they weren’t able to break through with a goal, they were looking like a near-constant offensive threat. This line was active and engaged last night, and there’s a lot to be excited about with them.
But we should also toss a nod to the line of Oskar Lindblom, Derick Brassard, and Cam Atkinson, who also put together some good work over their first two games. They’ve served as a nice contrast to the Couturier line—where that one has shown a strength in being able to establish a cycle to generate chances, this one has been a real threat on the rush. It’s certainly added an extra level of dimension to the team’s play, and their good work was rewarded with a goal from Atkinson. With two brand new pieces on that line, it’s nice to see them clicking so quickly, and it seems like they’re still only scratching the surface.
The power play keeps rolling
They’ve looked pretty solid in their first two games, and now with what should be their regular lineup for the regular season with play with, the Flyers were able to keep that good work rolling into last night’s game. They brought a bit of flash and were able to pick up a goal from Claude Giroux in the first period to tie things up after they allowed a goal on the penalty kill, and it was a nice one.
But outside of that bit of flash, there was some other good work that they were able to put together. In 4:51 of power play time, they were able to put up nine shot attempts and five shots on goal, and the east-west passing movement they were putting together had them looking really dangerous. Given how well they were moving the puck, there’s perhaps even more room for them to be funneling more pucks to the net, but at the very least, there’s a solid foundation that they’ve put down already. We’ve seen Flyers power plays run cold quickly, but this time around they do already seem to have a good process laid out from the jump.
The penalty kill takes a step forward
The penalty kill has certainly been one of the weaker points for the Flyers so far this preseason, but if we’re looking for a bit of good news, it would be that they seem to be moving in the right direction again. They did give up one goal in the first period, which wa certainly less than ideal, but it came after something of a weird broken play with the puck bouncing around, there wasn’t too much that they could do there. They were able to buckle down well after that though, and the penalty killers looked a lot steadier from there on out. All told, they limited the Capitals’ power play to just three shot attempts and two shots on goal, largely neutralizing (and making things a bit easier on Martin Jones). They even came up clutch with a big kill in the third, after an extra roughing penalty was dealt after a big scrum (more on that later). Alain Vigneault spoke on that after the game, that they like the intensity and that’s when they really needed a big penalty kill, and they were able to deliver. There’s still a bit of cleaning up that they need to do, but having the regular compliment of penalty killers, now with a game under their belts, was a big asset last night. They’re settling in well.
Martin Jones bounces back
After a tough showing in the first half of Thursday’s game, Jones was tossed right back out there for the whole of last night’s and given a chance to come right back and get himself back on track, and the good news is that he was largely able to do that. The Flyers got the better of the shot share in this one, and put up a pretty good defensive effort, which means that Jones wasn’t tested too dramatically in this one—facing just 22 shots and four high danger shots—but that’s a win in and of itself as well. Jones looked steadier in this one, he was tracking the puck much better and his reactions looked quite a bit sharper. He cleaned up a lot from his first to second game, and that was certainly encouraging.
Now, it wasn’t a perfect performance—there were a few times it looked like he was swimming in his crease a bit, and when he kicked out some dangerous rebounds—but it was a step in the right direction, and that’s just about exactly what you want to see in the preseason.
Passing the vibe check
We’re only three games into the preseason, but before we go, it’s worth dipping into the slightly more imprecise, because this team just feels different. An image that haunts us a bit from last season is that of Oskar Lindblom, freshly back after his cancer treatments, getting cross checked to all hell right in front of the bench to something of a nothing response, and in a season where just about everything was going wrong, the lack of response to, well, that sort of thing was a real complaint. But already we’re seeing things are different this year. When Garnet Hathaway went after Ivan Provorov last night and tried to drag him into a fight, Derick Brassard was flying in there at warp speed as if to say “absolutely not.” Then when a scrum broke out behind the net and someone was trying to mix it up with Joel Farabee, Rasmus Ristolainen was right in there to intervene and pull him out.
Is this something that’s absolutely going to make or break the team this season? Probably not. But there is something to be said for this largely new mix that’s already standing up for each other and not letting opponents take liberties with their best players. Certainly to the players, if nothing else, this means something.