The Philadelphia Flyers have won a hockey game! After losing the Rookie Game last week, and dropping Sunday’s game on Long Island each in overtime, the third time was the charm on Wednesday night.
It once again took the extra session, but this time it was the Flyers who scored the final goal. And what a goal it was.
It was an exciting ending, but the 60 minutes prior to that were filled with great play from various players. Let’s get to the storylines from the Flyers’ first preseason win.
Patrick and Lindblom get on the scoresheet
Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom have been consistently consistent with strong performances throughout training camp and the preseason, and they finally got on the scoresheet on Wednesday night. Their assists were the highlights, Lindblom’s on the second goal and especially Patrick’s on the game-winner, they played well all-around in sixty-plus minutes at the PPL Center.
Patrick was playing in all situations and making his impact felt. He was good on the penalty kill, controlled the puck on the power play, and provided two-way play down the middle all night long. He won a one-on-three board battle while his linemates were changing after a long shift. It was an subtly impressive play. His solid night was capped off with a gorgeous sauce-pass across the ice to Gostisbehere for a game-winning one-timer. He’s a lock for the roster.
Lindblom continued his strong play on the puck and along the boards. He made a few great defensive plays in the first period and won board battles throughout the evening. Leier’s power play goal in the 2nd period was the result of a reset and passes from Lindblom to Gostisbehere then over to the goalscorer.
Patrick and Lindblom have had a great few weeks, but everyone was waiting for the star rookies to get on the scoresheet. They did just that while continuing to grind away along the boards and in space. They’re moving their way closer to a roster spot.
Young D securing their spots
Going into the game, most of the eyes were already on the defense. Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, and Travis Sanheim were in the lineup for the Flyers at the PPL Center. And they all played well in the overtime win.
Gostisbehere doesn’t have anything to worry about heading into the season, but he is impressing nonetheless. He has been dipping and deking and putting the shake-n-bake on his opponent through two games now. He is bringing the flash and confidence from his rookie season into this year. The star defenseman picked up an assist on Leier’s goal and of course the game-winner off a great pass by Patrick.
We know what Gostisbehere is about, so let’s focus more on the others.
The next defensemen in line to make the roster are Robert Hagg and Sam Morin. Hagg and Morin both had their shining moments in Allentown, with not much downside to their game.
Hagg was playing his game. Smart, simple, and largely unnoticeable. He played well on the penalty kill early on and was solid with Gostisbehere during 5-on-5 play. In the second period he showed off his strength, something he’s built on in the past few years, by moving veteran forward Anders Lee off the puck. He continued his strong play in the third by blocking a passing lane in the low slot to negate a chance. He and Gostisbehere look better and better together every game.
Morin brought his game back to the PPL Center as well. He was physical, yet smart, and fantastic on the penalty kill. His tall stature and long reach makes him almost look like two people out there while shorthanded.
His best decision of the night was to not fight Ross Johnston after knocking him down in the corner with a big hit. Morin has said that he won’t fight in the preseason to risk injury, and he kept the mitts on to earn a power play for the Flyers. He did the same thing in the rookie game as well. That might not fly during the regular season, but Morin can hold his own if he decides to fight, or he can just keep drawing penalties until finally giving in.
Hagg and Morin have been near-locks to make the roster the whole way, and they are inching closer every day.
Sanheim’s redemption came in the form of a tremendous bounce-back game. He was active in all three zones, and in all three periods. He started it off early, making a great play to keep his man to the outside on the rush with his positioning before using his stick to knock it away and into the corner. He finished off the period with a nice play in the offensive blue line to keep the puck in the zone by reaching with his stick. He did that again later in the first period as well, though it was more subtle.
He continued his great play in the second period, with a long stretch pass to Taylor Leier for a chance. He sent the puck from inside his own zone to Leier at the far blue line quite easily. His patience and vision with the puck is one of the best aspects of his game.
Sanheim was playing well through two periods and you could see that his confidence was growing. In the third period he was going deep into the offensive zone and joining the rush. It almost resulted in a put-away goal in front, but he couldn’t find twine.
Overall it was a fantastic performance for Sanheim, especially after his first week or so in camp. With Hextall and company watching from above, he could have earned his way back to fight for an NHL spot.
Sanheim was on the outside looking in after his first two games, but that may have changed after Wednesday night.
Phantoms shine in the Valley
The Flyers were playing at the PPL Center, the home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, so it makes sense that the Phantoms players played well on Wednesday night. Hagg, Morin, and Sanheim weren’t the only Phantoms from last season that played well.
McDonald came in playing comfortably in his home building. He brought the physicality and was throwing the body around all game long. He was grinding in the corners and it got him bumped up to the right side of Lindblom and Patrick in the third period, where he nearly created a goal on the penalty kill.
McDonald is better than many give him credit for. He’s a great veteran presence in the AHL for the Phantoms, but he can fill in easily on the fourth line in the NHL.
Leier was the headline of the game until overtime came, but you can’t overlook his game. He scored two goals and was named the first star of the game. His goals were great, both on wrist shots, but his all-around game was just as impressive.
Both goals came on the power play, but in different ways. The first one was the result of a bad change by the Islanders, leading to a two-on-one chance with Dale Weise. Weise fed a pass to Leier and he made no mistake about it to put the Flyers on the board. His second goal was another wrist shot, this one after he faked a pass cross-ice he fired a wrist shot into the back of the net.
He had two goals through two periods, but he really could’ve had even more. He was set up for a great chance by Sanheim (mentioned above) that Gibson barely saved, and was the recipient of a Jori Lehtera pass on a power play in the first period that he one-timed off Gibson as well.
Those scoring chances by Leier weren’t by chance. Leier used his speed all game long to create space and help win battles. It’s a shame that the Flyers have so many veterans battling for spots, because Leier definitely deserves a chance to prove himself at the NHL level. Hopefully he’ll stay in camp and get a chance to battle, or at least be one of the first call-ups in case of injury.
Neuvirth near-perfect in preseason debut
Michal Neuvirth played for the first time this preseason on Wednesday night and he was damn near perfect. He stopped 16 of 17 shots in two periods of play, with the lone blemish being a power-play goal.
The Islanders scored a five-on-3 goal, with one of the defensemen (Mark Alt) being out of position due to his skate guard breaking. A wide open pass to the man on the backdoor resulted in an easy goal. But besides that, he was perfect.
They weren’t 16 easy shots either. Neuvirth faced some difficult shots with traffic in front and on the rush. Josh Ho-Sang flew down the ice for a breakaway late in the second period, but Neuvirth stayed with him to keep the Flyers ahead. Moments later he slid across the crease to stone another chance.
Neuvirth has shown that he can go on hot streaks in the past. It’s good to see him back stopping pucks in game action. It’ll be interesting to see how Neuvirth and Brian Elliott split the starts during the season.
The Flyers will be back in action on Thursday night as they travel up to Boston to take on the Bruins at 7:00.
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