We are officially passed the midway mark of the Flyers preseason. Contrary to previous years, this preseason has had a little more excitement with all the battles for open spots in the lineup. But, what have we learned so far?
The Kids Can Play
In case it wasn’t already obvious, a lot of the Flyers prospects have been showing why they deserve to be penciled into the opening night roster. While there is growing concern amongst the fanbase that a player like Chris Stewart will take that spot, it seems highly unlikely at this point.
Carsen Twarynski shined in last nights preseason game against the New York Rangers, tallying a goal and seven shots on net. He was on the puck all night long and could have scored one or two more goals, he was really turning heads. This shouldn’t be a surprise, he was one of the final cuts last year and came roaring in once again.
Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee have been fantastic as well. Both players have played up to par, but just don’t have goals to show for it. Frost was robbed of a sure goal by Jaroslav Halak Thursday night and Farabee couldn’t cash in on a 2-on-0 yesterday. However, both have had their fair share of chances, one will eventually go in.
Their play away from the puck is equally impressive. Farabee, as advertised, is always on the puck if he doesn’t have it. His tenacity and effective forechecking ability can cause havoc for other teams’ defense and we’ve seen this multiple times already. He always has his foot down on the gas pedal.
Frost did what he does best: pass the puck. As far as I’m concerned, he looks like a player who certainly should play in the NHL come October. He has the ability to slow the play down and find an open man. He doesn’t seem to panic when the puck is on his stick and his confidence is growing in each game. As for his size and speed, they are also fine. He isn’t afraid to battle for the puck down low and manages to create tons of separation with his speed.
Other than the players previously mentioned above, a solid case could also be made for former first-round pick German Rubtsov as well as Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Both have been strong in their outings and could very well establish themselves as effective bottom-six forwards if they get a chance. Whether that chance comes in October or later down the road with a call-up remains to be seen, but both have played well.
Special Teams Improvement
Other than the performance by the youngsters, the thing I was most curious about was how the Flyers were going to fix their power play and penalty killing issues. Anyone who has watched Flyers hockey over the past 3 seasons understands that the penalty kill has been abhorrent. This year, they may actually have decent looking units.
Through four games so far, the PK has been perfect. To be fair, they haven’t exactly faced a really good power play yet, but it’s still nice to see. The additions of Hayes, Braun, and Niskanen have been great as of now, disrupting plays and being steady overall. The Flyers are definitely a more aggressive team when they are down a man now. Another key piece to the penalty kill will be Carter Hart. He has also been perfect in the preseason and the team is going to rely on him to make key saves during PK situations, something they didn’t get last year until his call-up.
The power play finally had a breakthrough last night, going 2/5 thanks to James van Riemsdyk and Jake Voracek. The first goal came off a redirection right in JvR’s office that took a bounce off a skate and in. This cemented the theory that Giroux on the right side of the PP could possibly work, but it isn’t the most effective use of his ability as it negates his one-timer and the option for a one-timer pass to one of Voracek or Gostisbehere.
The second goal was a rocket. This time, Giroux started the play on the left side, from the corner. He fed the puck to Provorov, and the threat of him shooting the puck left Voracek wide open for an easy feed and subsequently, a goal. This wouldn’t be the case with Giroux on the right side.
All in all, special teams have looked pretty good, but the real test will be facing teams with legitimate PP and PK units.
Something that immediately jumps out at me is the seemingly instant chemistry between Voracek and Hayes. They seem to complement each other perfectly out there. Both players are big and use that size to shield the puck from opposing defenders, often creating chances or drawing penalties. If you add a player like Lindblom into the mix, that is a heavy line with an excellent ability to control the puck. A nightmare to defend when they are in the zone.
It was refreshing to see Konecny in the lineup, and he clearly hasn’t lost a step. His speed and grit will always be welcomed on the Flyers and his chemistry with Giroux is still there. All they are missing is Couturier to complete the dominant trio.
As it stands, Provorov looks pretty good, but we can’t be fooled by preseason play a second time. Whether he’s paired with Niskanen or Sanheim, he’s been solid. There is still some work to be done though. Braun has been good in every game so far, no matter who he is paired with. He plays a safe, steady game.
As it stands, the Flyers are 1-3 in the preseason, which doesn’t really matter since the games don’t count. But there have been many positives, the only blunder we saw was the bad showing against the Bruins when they essentially lost to their B team with a lot of regulars. But if they can replicate what they did against the Rangers, this will be a fun team to watch. Lots of possession, speed, shooting and hopefully, scoring.
Photos by Kate Frese