That’s a wrap on the preseason, folks! The Flyers closed things out with an overtime loss to the Islanders last night, and now it’s time to shift gears to thinking about the season opener. We’re putting a bow on the preseason, and we’re here to work through some loose ends and lingering thoughts after last night’s game. Let’s get into it.
The curse lives on
Shoutout to Matt who mentioned this in the BSH Slack channel, it’s at once a great and distressing point—it’s really something that Chuck Fletcher’s biggest plan for the offseason was just to run it back with most of last year’s team and hope that they can stay healthier, and already they are not healthy enough to ice a complete NHL lineup for their final preseason game, even if they wanted to.
Just to recap, here’s who the Flyers did not have available: Sean Couturier, Cam Atkinson, Joel Farabee, Travis Konecny, Patrick Brown, Ryan Ellis (remember him?), Rasmus Ristolainen, Ivan Provorov, Artem Anisimov, Carter Hart, and Felix Sandstrom, who all took injuries at some point. Now, not all of those are major issues that they players are dealing with (Konecny and Provorov still practiced with the non-game group yesterday, for example, but the team aired on the side of caution and opted not to toss them into game action).
And we want to say that this is extreme and you can’t really expect nor plan for this level of roster decimation, to be completely fair, but the point does remain that tossing one’s hands up and hoping things will be better next year and then immediately being slapped just as hard by the injury bug is pretty rich. Whatever curse has been put on this organization is simply too strong.
Samuel Ersson is holding up well
We’ll pivot to a bit of a silver lining though. With Sandstrom dealing with what we’re told is a minor ailment, it has opened the door for Ersson to step up, show what he can do with a bit more playing time, and maybe, just maybe, earn himself a spot on the Flyers’ opening night roster.
It’s been a long road for him to get here, and he’s taking this chance and running with it. He’s been very solid through the preseason, all told stopping 54 of the 57 shots he’s faced for a .947 save percentage. Last night was probably the shakiest of his showings—his rebound control wasn’t quite as strong as it has been—but he was still perfect in his half of the game, not allowing a goal, so it was enough to get the job done.
How this all shakes out is yet to be seen, depending on how much longer Sandstrom is going to be out, but even if he is ready to go in time to start the season, Ersson has done just about all he could to impress and make the front office’s decision a difficult one.
Tanner Laczynski breaks out
Given these injury issues that the Flyers are dealing with, there’s not too much that they were able to telegraph with this preseason lineup, but if nothing else, it feels like the four centers they rolled with in this one felt like the four they’re looking at to carry into the start of the season. The good news there, then, is that it means that Laczynski has put himself into strong contention for a roster spot.
And that’s nice to see—on paper we know that he’s probably the best fit for that fourth line center job, but he’s had a quiet preseason up until this point (solid enough, but quiet), but his upside is clear and it’s encouraging to see that he hasn’t gotten lost in the shuffle here.
That said, Laczynski also took last night as an opportunity to really make sure he didn’t get lost in the shuffle. He popped more in this game, bringing good energy, creating a few more good looks, including one on a breakaway that put the Flyers up 3-2. His is quite a well rounded game, and he brings a bit more offensive upside than your average fourth liner (at least on this team), and all of that was well on display last night. It came down to the wire, but he well might have solidified his own spot on the team as well.
Owen Tippett sure is getting chances
I had a whole note typed out in this outline from early in the game that it felt pretty brutal that Tippett still can’t seem to finish on any of these great chances he’s creating.
And then he did score in the third period to tie the game.
That said, the overall sentiment still remains, because with just how many grade A chances Tippett creates, it does feel like he should be scoring at a higher rate than this. And while it does feel a touch too soon to say definitively whether this is just Tippett getting supremely unlucky, and that we should expect upward regression to swing around and help him out, or if he really just doesn’t have the finishing talent to score consistently at the NHL level, the longer it goes on with him scoring around this clip, the more it starts to feel like the latter is the case.
As we said, it’s a bit early for panicking, but a bit of worry is starting to creep in. It’s something to keep an eye on.
Ronnie Attard fought (but why?)
We had a bit of rough stuff playing out last night, a few big hits and temperatures rising, and the big culmination of that was a fight between Ronnie Attard and Ross Johnston. And it went just about as well as you might have expected—Attard got walloped and didn’t really look like he knew what to do to defend himself when things got going, and even if Nic Delauriers gestured like he wanted to step in, he didn’t or couldn’t, and Attard was left to fend for himself.
Now, there’s something to be said for improving all around team toughness, which is something that the team seems to want to do, but having three of your tough guys (Nick Seeler and Zack MacEwen were out there along with Deslauriers as well) on the ice and standing by while one of the kids has to try to stand his ground when he’s well outmatched is not a great look. We don’t need the kids fighting like that. It was just tough to watch.
Scoring did happen
It’s been a tough preseason, that’s no secret, and the Flyers’ offensive woes have been apparent. And while they were able to break away from their “struggling to score more than one (1) single goal in a game” situation last night to score three, and found some nice contributions from a few of their depth players, it’s hard to say that this is convincing, that it feels like them turning a page.
We’d love if it was, at the moment, last night feels like the anomaly. We’ll see if or how things change as they get some of their NHL regulars coming back into the mix, but for now, we’re hesitant to predict that things are about to shift for them in a big way, that a switch is being flipped. If nothing else, it tells us that there’s a bit more that can be unlocked if things break their way, but whether that can happen consistently will be the big question.