(Photo: Mike Kruce)
By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
There were no big surprises at Day 2 of training camp for the Flyers. The same players who were injured did not skate. The same notable absence was still not present. And the line combinations remained the same.
That meant another day of Joel Farabee taking his place on a line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. It’s a situation that Alain Vigneault believes provides an opportunity for Farabee to be a camp surprise.
“That’s what you want in camp. You need surprises,” Vigneault said. “We need some of these young kids to step up and force us into some decisions. That’s how your team gets better and we’re going to obviously an opportunity to do that.”
Farabee didn’t disappoint. He was aggressive in drills, competing hard at both ends of the ice, and that certainly caught Vigneault’s attention.
“If I’m him, I’m really happy I’m playing with those two guys. Today, for me, obviously this is just practice but he showed that he belonged there,” Vigneault said. “He was making some plays, working hard at both ends of the ice. It was fun to see. Obviously, if you’re him playing with two pretty good players, it’s a great opportunity and we’ll see what happens moving forward here.”
“I like the way he thinks the game,” Couturier said of Farabee. “He knows what play to make even before getting the puck. It’s good as a young player to adapt at this speed.”
Farabee wasn’t the only one who stood out to Vigneault. In the first veteran group of the morning, the trio of Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk and Oskar Lindblom had another solid showing. It’s a line that could be seen in the preseason very soon. Vigneault said he likes to give his veterans half of the preseason schedule — which this preseason would be between three and four games — and that they also want to try Lindblom at right wing during the preseason.
“I’ve liked that line,” Vigneault said. “I really liked the way Kevin Hayes has worked and led his two teammates both with and without the puck. I’ve liked their work ethic and I have liked how they competed with so far.”
Each of the three is starting get more acclimated with one another on the ice. van Riemsdyk noted that both players have different qualities that can make the line an effective one.
“He’s extremely versatile. We’ve seen the things he can do,” van Riemsdyk said of Lindblom. “He obviously can play with skill and that mind for the game and that allows him to do a lot of different things out there, whether that’s a shutdown role or offensive role.
“He’s huge, he can hold onto the puck, it seems life, as long as he wants to before he needs to make a play,” van Riesmdyk said of Hayes. “He’s hard to get the puck from. We’re trying to find that chemistry of the different situations where maybe I go support him and others where I let him do his thing and find some quiet ice to get into a scoring area. Ultimately, he’s a smart player and so far I think we’ve done some decent things in camp.”
“It’s going to be a heavy line, maybe not the fastest, but I feel we’ve got a good tempo right now, all of us can score and all of us can pass it,” Lindblom said. “We’ve just got to keep working on it, do our best and hopefully it can be good.”
Through two days of camp, it’s been clear that the pace is everything to Vigneault’s camp. Drills happen quickly, with very little time in between for players. Vigneault and his staff have also been preaching preparation with their own example. Drills are laid out and presented to the players before they get on the ice, something that cuts down on time going through examples during ice time.
“I actually haven’t had a coach be like that since I played at the US program,” van Riemsdyk said. “With the stuff that we have mapped out for us, I think it makes it easy and it lets you go out and play. You get a feel for it, you go through the reps, and just play hockey. I think it’s a good way to develop chemistry and work on your skills and not have them be robotic.”
“It’s been good,” Justin Braun said. “A lot of these drills are new to guys and they're doing a good job giving us the information beforehand, posting drills, going through them before practice so guys are not lost out there.”
“AV seems to be really prepared. He knows what he wants from his players,” Couturier said. “So far, practices have been really high pace, a lot of drills, but high tempo and everyone seems to be in good shape. We’re all just trying to get better every day and give a good impression.”
Hayes knows what to expect from Vigneault’s coaching style. For him, this was nothing new.
“It’s a new coach in the organization, but it’s pretty normal for me,” Hayes said. “I had AV for four years and I know his systems pretty well. The skates have been upbeat, but not too bad.”
Another newcomer to the roster, Matt Niskanen, has been around the Metropolitan Division. As a former Stanley Cup champion in Washington, Niskanen has been on some good teams and the practices have been similar, even this early in camp.
“On the good teams I’ve been on, practices are like this, especially early in the year,” Niskanen said. “The first two days have been good. It had a good mix of structure, some passing, execution type things and then a lot of pace. Everything is with pace, not a lot of standing around out there. That’s the way the league’s going, especially the East. The way Pittsburgh, New York, New Jersey play fast games. The more you can be comfortable at that pace, the better you’re going to be. We’re capable of being dangerous too when we play fast, with this group in here and the talent they have.”
Next up for the Flyers come the final days of preparation before the start of the preseason. The first game is on Monday, and there may be some new line combinations and groupings at practice to give the playing roster for those games a chance to build some chemistry.
But so far, every day has been one step to establishing a winning system, a process that runs through all three zones and playing the game the right way with pace completely.
“It’s just a continuation, we’ve looked at different things we’ve been working on,” Vigneault said. “We’ve looked at our D-zone coverage, we’ve looked at our neutral zone forecheck, today we touched on our offensive zone forecheck. So we’re going through the three zones without the puck. Tomorrow we’re going to touch a little bit more with the puck what we need to do. We’re trying to get everyone on the same page and obviously there’s a process to this and that’s what we’re into right now.”
The Flyers will be back on the ice for Day 3 of training camp on Sunday. Rookies will take the ice for a session from 8:30-9:30 a.m. before the two groups of veterans and some prospects take the ice for sessions that begin at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The Flyers open the preseason at home on Monday night against the New York Islanders.