The Philadelphia Flyers went up to Boston on Thursday night and came away with a disappointing overtime loss. It was the first game for many players, all of which are seemingly locks for the roster, which could explain some of the play. They are just getting warmed up for the season.
There were some positives to take away from it, however. The players that have been playing so far in the preseason are already warmed up and are in the thick of it. The kids battling for roster spots and even some of the younger guys coming back for this season are already taking it up a notch.
Here are the five storylines to come out of Thursday night’s loss in Boston.
Sanheim making strides
Travis Sanheim looks like a completely different player than he did last week. Hell, he looks like a completely different player than he did just a few days ago.
In the Rookie Game last Wednesday and the preseason opener on Sunday, Sanheim looked pretty lost. He looked like a rookie defenseman learning his way through the professional game, but what a difference a few days makes.
It started off on Wednesday night at the PPL Center, where he played all of last season. He was one of the best players on the ice and you could see him exuding confidence late in the game. That continued into Thursday night up in Boston.
Sanheim scored the lone goal for the Flyers, on what was a rather deceptive shot. But that isn’t what made him standout. He was great positionally to keep the oncoming forwards to the outside and he looked poised against an NHL-heavy lineup in Boston.
The play that was most impressive was against one of the best wingers in the league, Brad Marchand. Marchand was coming down on Sanheim one-on-one, but Sanheim calmly stayed with him and negated the chance.
Fatigue wasn’t an issue at all for Sanheim after a busy game the night before in Allentown. He played over six minutes in each of the three periods, and over a minute-long shift in overtime for 20 minutes on the night. It seems that he’s ready to be a top-four defenseman.
Sanheim continues to make forward strides, but so do the two rookie defensemen in front of him in Robert Hagg and Sam Morin. However, Andrew MacDonald made his preseason debut on Thursday night and he was in midseason form. His poor pinch in overtime led to the game-winning goal, and he seemed to make a lot of bad decisions all night long. If Sanheim keeps trending upward, and MacDonald remains stagnant, the student could overtake the “mentor.”
Kids pass the test
Going into Thursday night’s game we highlighted five young players that were facing a test in Boston. Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, and the aforementioned Sanheim all made the trip to Boston after playing in Allentown the night before. It was a chance to prove their physical readiness for the NHL, and they showed they had the stamina.
Patrick was one to keep a close eye on. He missed most of last season with injuries and was never truly 100%. But he was playing in all situations and seemed to make a play on every shift. Whether it be a subtle defensive play to move the puck forward, winning a one-on-one battle, or creating a great scoring chance, Patrick makes his impact felt when he’s on the ice.
Patrick played 16:50 over the course of 25 shifts, including a 40 second shift in overtime. He averaged just over five minutes a period, playing 5:37 in each of the first two periods and 4:56 in the third. He showed no signs of fatigue.
Oskar Lindblom played professionally the past few years in Sweden, but they don’t have the rigors in the schedule or as high an intensity of the NHL. His playing time wavered in the third period after playing over four minutes, and nearly five, in each of the first two periods.
He was given a chance on the top power play unit, but after several failed chances he was swapped out for Valtteri Filppula. He also moved down in the lineup in the third period. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, it seemed like Dave Hakstol wanted to try to get some offense going.
Lindblom played well overall in the game. In the second period he made a great play to break up a two-on-one and then drew a penalty while battling for the puck. It seems that he’ll stick with the Flyers in the top-nine, and get a chance on the power play as well.
The defensemen playing in the back-to-back also continued to play their games. The AHL defensemen had faced back-to-backs, and even three-in-threes all the time with the Phantoms, so this was more about their play against NHL competition in that situation.
Robert Hagg and Sam Morin each played over six minutes in the first period, over four minutes in the second period, but then varied in the third period and overtime.
The extra year of experience Hagg has may have played a factor in his increased ice time. He was active in the neutral zone and played over six minutes in the third, as well as one shift of 52 seconds in overtime for 18:32 on the night.
Morin stood out mostly in his own zone, which is where he typically makes his presence felt. His long reach helps him get his stick on pucks that others might not be able to. He cleared away a chance early in the game, and helped send the game to overtime with a late third period play.
He got six shifts in each of the three periods, but his time on ice varied from 6:11 in the first, to 4:13 in the second, to 4:25 in the third. The Flyers were likely looking to go more offensive in the third period, which is where Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim went to work.
Hagg and Morin continue to look like the leaders in the clubhouse for the two roster spots on the blue line. Sanheim is creeping up, but as I mentioned above one of these two would have to falter for Sanheim to have a chance at overtaking them rather than MacDonald or even Brandon Manning.
Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny know how the handful of players looking to make the roster feel. They were in the exact same position last season. Now they’re coming into this season looking to avoid the sophomore slump, and so far, it looks like they might be able to.
Provorov played a game-high 25:24 against Boston. He got nearly 10 minutes (9:10) of power play time with the top unit, as well as 14:24 at even strength and 2:20 shorthanded. He also got the rush started that led to Sanheim’s goal with a tremendous diving play.
This was his second game of the preseason after making the trip to Long Island on Sunday. He has looked good so far in both games, but he really stood out against the Bruins.
Travis Konecny has been buzzing all preseason long as well. Unlike Provorov, Konecny has played in all three games, which means that he too was playing in a back-to-back situation.
Konecny suffered a scare in the first period when he got caught up high on his very first shift, causing him to miss nearly 15 minutes of game time. Luckily he came back, and it seemed like he was back with a vengeance. He instantly got into the game by creating two scoring chances. First he hit Sanheim on the rush then later on that shift he fed Michael Raffl for a chance.
He kept it going in the second period. He sauced a beautiful pass to Sean Couturier crashing the net, but Tuukka Rask stood tall to rob him.
Konecny has been showing off his wheels in every game so far, and it looks like he’s ready for a strong season after a full offseason of training. Patrick and Lindblom are getting all of the attention, but Konecny will be fun to watch this season as well.
Shaking off the rust
Nine players were making their preseason debuts for the Flyers in Boston. Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, Claude Giroux, Valtteri Filppula, Jordan Weal, Jake Voracek, Radko Gudas, Andrew MacDonald, and Brian Elliott all saw their first game action of the fall on Thursday night.
Four of those names make up the Flyers’ first power play unit, which had to shake the rust off as the Flyers had nine opportunities against the Bruins, but failed to net a goal on the man advantage. It’s not too worrisome, however, as the Flyers haven’t really worked on systems or special teams in camp yet, rather they’ve been focusing more on conditioning and battle drills. With the Flyers trimming the training camp roster to 36 on Thursday, they may now start getting into the nitty gritty.
The Flyers’ nine power play opportunities were the result of a NHL-wide crackdown on penalties. They are now strictly calling any stick infractions including slashing and tripping, as well as holding and face-off violations. Four of the Bruins’ 10 minor penalties were slashes, with two interferences, a face-off violation, high-sticking, holding, and hooking in there for good measure.
The Flyers had some penalties of their own as well, with three slashing minors and two tripping minors being called on the orange and black. It might just be a coincidence, but four of the five players called for penalties were playing in their first preseason game. They had yet to have first-hand experience seeing the new rules and could’ve perhaps played a role.
Either way the Flyers top guns shook off the rust a bit in their first game, and will hopefully be ready to fire on all cylinders by next week.
Elliott’s perfect debut
Michal Neuvirth was near-perfect on Wednesday night in Allentown, with his lone blemish being a 5-on-3 goal against. But Brian Elliott one-upped him with a perfect performance in his preseason debut, which was also his Flyers debut.
Elliott played the first two periods and stopped all 18 shots he faced. He looked strong in the net, and his mask looked even better on the ice than in pictures. He was the team’s best penalty killer during a stretch in the second period as he preserved the tie game through two periods of play.
Neuvirth and Elliott will be splitting the starts this season for the Flyers, but no one really knows how that might be broken down. I’m sure they each have an idea of what they may want, but it seems that a true tandem may work best.
Neuvirth has shown that he can get hot, but works good as a 1a or 1b as he can’t take the wear and tear of a long season. Elliott is the same way in that his best years have come when he wasn’t relied on as the number one starter.
Each goalie has thrived in a tandem before and they’re both off to promising starts through their first forty minutes of preseason hockey.
The Flyers have an off day on Friday and will be back in action on Monday night in New York against the Rangers.
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