In the preseason, the results really don’t matter. Hell, Gritty even had a sign for it.
“Welcome to the preseason, where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter,” the sign read. That may be true, but positive results are always nice.
The Flyers didn’t get a victory on Tuesday night, but they did get some positives. For one, every game that passes in the preseason that doesn’t involve adding to the injury report is important. The already battered Flyers achieved that in their preseason opener. Additionally, it was only the first game of many to come for a lot of players getting new experiences on the ice. There are players who are new to Philadelphia. There are players who, as younger prospects, have barely played any competitive hockey in the last 18 months.
With more time on the ice and in game settings, things like timing and chemistry can come. In the preseason opener, you just want to see signs that improvement could be on the horizon after the dismal season from a year ago.
With that, let’s dive into the Flyers 5 takeaways from Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders.
1. Carter Hart
First things first, all eyes were certainly going to be on Carter Hart. For one, he had not played in a game since April 15. Second, if the Flyers are going to have any form of success this season, it depends on Hart playing like the goalie we saw two seasons ago.
From the start, Hart was tested. He was peppered with 12 shots in the opening 20 minutes of play. Right away, you could see the typical focus that Hart possesses. His tracking was on point. His movements were confident. He was challenging shooters and making himself look large.
The only goal allowed by Hart in his two periods of work was a rising shot through a screen by Adam Pelech that was wired to the top corner, off the bar, and in, a near-impossible shot to stop. Other than that, Hart made a great first impression on the preseason, making 17 saves on 18 shots in total and allowing his team that chance to be involved in the game at a 1-1 tie through 40 minutes.
Now the obvious goal is for Hart to string that together over the preseason. He will make two more starts and both of those are expected to be full games played. We’ll see if he can replicate that further.
2. The Provorov-Ellis Pairing
Any newcomers to the lineup were going to get a closer look than others, so let’s start with the most important acquisition of the offseason. If Hart’s performances are going to dictate the Flyers potential record, then perhaps Ryan Ellis and his chemistry with Ivan Provorov will indicate what kind of year it could be for Hart, what kind of support he will have.
When this pairing was on the ice, you can’t help but feel the calmness oozing. Provorov looked smoother and decisive in his play. Ellis remained the steady and effective player he has been to this point in camp. Together, they were constantly on the same page with their positioning and outlets.
Certainly, this pairing was among the many who did not have the best first period. Ellis had a turnover that led to a prolonged shift in the defensive zone, for example. But that said, this pairing made very few mistakes in their preseason debut, and things can really only get better from there.
On top of that, the duo put up numbers in various categories that could easily become regular occurrences in the regular season. Provorov played 25:56 of ice time and had three shots, one hit and five blocked shots. Ellis played 23:43 of ice time with six shots and four blocked shots. Together, they accounted for half of the team’s blocked shots in the game. They also both factored into Maksim Sushko’s game-tying goal in the third, each picking up an assist.
3. Keith Yandle
Next we go to another new Flyers. Keith Yandle is not going to be used in games near as much as he was in the preseason opener. Given some of the other names on the roster, Yandle was technically part of the team’s second pairing and played 17:40 of ice time.
Yandle had one shot, three attempts blocked, one giveaway and two takeaways. That’s nothing earth-shattering, but also not a liability either. Yandle was essentially the player the Flyers need him to be in the regular season. He aided the power play by helping with some good movement at the point and showed off that he still has mobility and offensive awareness.
It’s not known yet how many games he will play this preseason, and while he could certainly use a few more to fine-tune his game before the season, he showed glimpses of how he will help the defense.
4. New Forwards in Lineup
There were also two new forwards in the lineup with the additions of Cam Atkinson and Derick Brassard. Each had their moments in this game.
Brassard was quietly one of the Flyers best players. He demonstrated a high motor and a great sense of awareness. Brassard won the face-off that led to Egor Zamula’s goal and had at least two other set-ups that could have resulted in goals. On the power play, he also had a chance on the doorstep by was stopped as the puck rolled off his stick and back into the netminder.
Overall, Brassard played 15:23 with one shot, three hits, and an impressive 13-for-19 in face-offs.
As for Atkinson, it doesn’t take long to see the staples of his game. In his 16:56 of ice time, Atkinson showed signs of his high energy level. He also showed his willingness to take shots, finishing the game with four on goal, one attempt blocked, and one missed shot.
It’s only one game for these two, but they have a lot that they can build on.
5. Battling for Spots
Alain Vigneault said after the game that all of the younger players in the lineup had their moments but also had areas that he was going to address internally. You could see some of the flashes, and they came from players who could very well factor into this team.
The two goal scorers were Zamula and Sushko. German Rubtsov was 4-for-5 on face-offs and made a good play on the forecheck to keep possession and help lead to Sushko’s goal. Max Willman is more of an under-the-radar prospect and slightly older than most of the guys battling for spots, but showed his smarts and high energy level as well, leading the team with four hits.
Samuel Ersson also had a solid showing in relief. Despite allowing two goals in 20 minutes and the 22 seconds of overtime, he also made nine saves, several of them challenging ones. His poise is there and some quality time in the AHL before bringing him up to the next level should go a long way for him.
Those players certainly had growing pains too, and there were other prospects that didn’t have as good a showing. The line of Connor Bunnaman, Tyson Foerster, and Isaac Ratcliffe spent a majority of the first period stuck in the defensive zone and on their heels. Ratcliffe had a couple of moments where he was able to break up a play or poke check the puck ahead, but had as many challenging moments, including taking a high-sticking penalty.
The next wave of young prospects will get into the lineup on Thursday, and a few more veterans will make their preseason debut or even their Flyers debut. After that game, we’ll see if anything has potentially changed in regards to how we view this roster and what the potential shuffle could be as more cuts and decisions loom in the near future.