The close of the preseason is in many ways a relief. It’s a relief to get through the preseason schedule and make it through the final game without injury. It’s also a time when you can finally throw away the hypotheticals and just focus on the regular season.

The games from here on out matter. The breakdown of these games will become much more critical. The time for learning and tuning up for the season is almost over and it’s go time.

GM Chuck Fletcher had called the week between the preseason finale and the regular-season opener a critical one on Thursday. For the Flyers, the final preseason game showed a lot of areas that need to be worked on in the upcoming week and just how critical it will be for them to be ready.

Here are five takeaways from Friday’s 5-3 loss to the Capitals.

1. Execution

For several players in the regular lineup, this was the fourth preseason game for them. By this point in the preseason, you want to see things executed with more precision and much less sloppy play.

The Flyers had several stretches where they couldn’t consistently generate pressure. There were a lot of one-and-done rushes and a lot of sloppy breakouts that kept them spinning their wheels.

This may not be something that is completely cleaned up in even the month of October, but the teams destined for the playoffs will find their rhythm in short order, if they haven’t already. The Flyers will need to use practice time this week to really get on the same page from an execution standpoint.

2. Special Teams

Perhaps outside of the goaltending and just what kind of performance you get in net on a regular basis, this is the biggest area of concern going into the season.

The Flyers power play has looked solid at times and generated chances. It hasn’t been able to finish very often, going 0-for-4 in the preseason finale and 4-for-24 as a whole in the six games. That won’t cut it in the regular season. Good puck movement and dominant possession has to result in goals.

On the other side, the penalty kill has still struggled to hold the opposition off the board. While there have been a few goals this preseason on the penalty kill that have been out of everyone’s control, the numbers speak loudly. Opponents were 8-for-20 on the power play, a success rate that is way too high. The Flyers also allowed a power-play goal in each preseason game, so there wasn’t even a night where this was an area that stood out in a positive way.

Fletcher stated regularly that the Flyers needed to be at the very least back in the Top 15 of both special teams categories to really be a factor for the playoffs. This percentage will put them right where they were a season ago.

3. Defensive Structure

For two periods, despite allowing two goals, the Flyers were mostly playing in a solid defensive structure. Washington scored off a failed clear and right off a face-off, but the Flyers had seemingly let the game come to them and grabbed a lead.

Then in the third period, all of that seemed to go out the window. The defensive structure was virtually gone and the solid defensive play had vanished.

Again, much like on special teams, this is a critical part of any success the Flyers will have this season. They need to maintain their structure in front of the netminder as much as possible. There will be moments where you need a save or where mistakes happen. It’s how regularly they happen. The third period of the sixth and final preseason game showed just how much this area is a work in progress, particularly with six new players that weren’t on the roster last season in the lineup.

4. Sticking Up for One Another

One area where the Flyers may have come out of this game a winner is that they didn’t have any other injuries from this game. Washington can’t say the same, as Alex Ovechkin went down with a lower-body injury early in the first and did not return.

That said, this was a physical game where both teams certainly threw caution to the wind. There were two fights. There were multiple scrums. It feels like a rivalry is brewing here.

With that in mind, the Flyers have displayed, really all preseason long, that they are willing to defend each other and stick up for their teammates. There’s been a clear emphasis on that, and that can go a long way later in the season if they can execute at a high level. A team that is close and then gets rolling can be tough to beat.

As an area that wasn’t on display much last season, that’s a pleasant sign so far.

5. Let the Games Begin

The preseason is always a tightrope walk between evaluating where a team is at and trying not to overreact to what you see in games that don’t really matter on the scoreboard. It’s why it’s great that it’s over now.

The six games of the preseason are almost more about making it to the start of the season with as much of your lineup still healthy as possible. The Flyers have done that in this final week. There are no new injuries from the last couple of games and they are ready to take the ice with the group they have.

It’s also a really difficult area to evaluate because not everybody plays in every game together. The Flyers dressed what was close to the opening-night lineup we will see in a week twice in the preseason. In each game, there were small differences with the lines. It’s hard to truly know what this team will be based on that.

That feels like the message of the entire offseason though. The Flyers made changes in every area. They brought in a bunch of new faces. They made their bets and now it’s time to see if they pay off. The speculation and wondering about what this team will be can finally end. We’re about to see it all unfold. Let the games begin next Friday.

Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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