It was preseason hockey this afternoon in Boston, and if you didn’t spend your Saturday afternoon watching the game, well, the headline alone probably was enough to tell you that you didn’t miss much. However, preseason hockey still gives insight into exactly what our expectations should be going into the regular season, so if you want to know exactly how low to set the bar, here’s your recap against the Boston Bruins.
Early on, there wasn’t much action going on. It’s preseason, and it’s matinee hockey. A slow start should be expected in these kinds of games. There was a brief exchange of penalties, with Cam York going to the box for cross checking followed by Fabian Lysell for hooking, leading to a little 4-on-4 action.
Zack MacEwen drew a tripping call against Jack Ahcan giving the Flyers a full two-minutes on the power play. One of the many, many, many things this Flyers team needs to improve upon is the power play, and the unit that was out on the ice here could very easily be power play regulars going into the regular season: York, Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Frost, and Owen Tippett. Instead, the power play looked as much of a mess as Flyers fans have come to expect from last season.
The Flyers went on another power play when Connor Clifton was called for interference. Again, the power play wasn’t very effective. Rome wasn’t built in a day, especially John Tortorella choosing to observe this first batch of preseason games instead of coaching them, but seeing progress in this area of the Flyers’ game would have been a nice sign going into the regular season.
When the period rolled to an end, the game was still scoreless, but the Flyers controlled the shots 8-2. The ice was tilted much more heavily in the Flyers’ favor, which is to be expected when a team has three power play chances in one period (even if the first one was shortened). Even when not on the power play, the Flyers still had their fair share of extended time in the Bruins’ zone. These were smaller positive details that stood out as the Flyers worked to establish themselves going into the next two periods.
Originally, the plan for this game was for Felix Sandström to play half the game and have Troy Grosenick go in somewhere during the middle of the second period. Instead, Grosenick went in net to start the second. It was later announced that Sandström would be out for the rest of the game with a lower body injury.
With 16:58 remaining in the period, Lysell went down with an injury. Rasmus Ristolainen skated backwards into Lysell to deliver a check, but the angle of the hit sent Lysell straight into the boards. Injuries during the preseason are rough to watch no matter the circumstance, but to see a young player who is fighting to make the Bruins’ opening day roster get hurt adds an extra layer of tragedy to the situation.
Up to that point, the Flyers were dictating the tempo of play through the start of the period, with shots on goal being 12-5, but then the Bruins got the upper-hand on the Flyers while on the power play and broke the scoreless game. Mark McLaughlin
Billerica kid puts the B's on the board pic.twitter.com/2bO7MWtkFd— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) October 1, 2022
A fight broke out between MacEwen and Nick Wolff during the second half of the period, and it wasn’t that surprising to see. After all, MacEwen’s game has always been the physical kind, and for someone who is figuratively fighting for a roster spot, literally fighting for one as well comes hand-in-hand.
Nick Wolff and Zack MacEwen drop the gloves. pic.twitter.com/r6fwsDJKa3— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) October 1, 2022
Not in that video was the TD Garden DJ playing Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” as MacEwen and Wolff sat in the box before play resumed. Stick taps were in order for that song choice.
If there was any hope that the Flyers would be able to take the intermission to reset and get back to dominating the pace of play like they had in the first period, it was swiftly dashed away. The Bruins had gained the momentum and didn’t look like they planned on letting it go anytime soon.
However, it did go back to more of the slower pace of the first period. There were no fights or big hits to give a break from the dullness of the majority of the period. The only thing that brought some jolt back into the game was another goal from McLaughlin. Grosenick wasn’t able to get a proper grasp of the puck and the Bruins were able to pounce on the opportunity it provided.
Second effort, second goal. pic.twitter.com/h2egOwzdMU— NESN (@NESN) October 1, 2022
Not even a full four minutes later, the Bruins scored again. John Beecher tipped in a shot from Derek Forbort that came out from the far edge of the zone and zipped right past all the Flyers players on the ice. No one being able to get their sticks in the way to block that shot was disheartening.
Johnny Beecher gives Boston a 3-0 lead after deflecting a shot from Derek Forbort. pic.twitter.com/1RQEiVsVOQ— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) October 1, 2022
The Flyers later pulled the goalie while they went on the power play to give them a 6-on-4 advantage, but that strategy didn’t work for them. In fact, it only hurt them. While York chased down his man, Beecher was just a step faster and was able to secure the shorthanded goal on the empty net.
Good speed from Beecher, as expected. pic.twitter.com/wCR03Tfiqc— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) October 1, 2022
With that, the game ended in a 4-0 shutout loss for the Flyers.
In the preseason, the motto is that the games are made up and the points don’t matter, because every team is skating combinations at this point made up of AHL players, fringe fourth-liners, and a hodge-podge combination of their regular skaters and goaltenders.
However, the preseason also gives coaches the ability to evaluate the talent that is on hand. This game certainly didn’t give the impression that there is any talent on hand for the Flyers. Even when the team iced units that were made up of players that could be locked up as opening-day roster spots, the gas wasn’t fully in the tank. There were spurts of it at the beginning of the game, but that was it. When your likely top center for opening night in Kevin Hayes has the best showing of anyone on the team but even he can’t get a goal scored? It shows that there are going to be many issues that need fixed going into the start of the season.
Tortorella came into Philadelphia with a mission to make this team reach a new standard for itself. The preseason is showing the Flyers’ baseline, and it’s carrying with it a lot of the same flaws from last year. There’s much work that needs to be done to get this team anywhere close to what Tortorella envisions it could be.