Flyers 5: Takeaways from Monday’s Flyers-Bruins Preseason Game
It wasn’t quite the opening night preview that was seen on Saturday, but the Flyers still presented a veteran-heavy lineup against the Boston Bruins, who brought in more of their ‘B’ team as well. Despite that, the Flyers were locked in a tight battle that ultimately required overtime.
A big part of that was the performance of Jeremy Swayman, who looked excellent in making 34 saves. On the other hand, there were moments where you could still see how the Flyers are a work in progress as time starts to dwindle on the preseason action.
Here are five takeaways from the Flyers 2-1 overtime win over the Bruins.
1. Hart Stays Solid
It’s going to be the most important area of focus throughout the early part of the season. Can Carter Hart be the goalie he was prior to last season? So far, all signs indicate that he can.
Hart was sharp once again, the only goal he allowed coming on a rebound on a Boston power play, as he made 24 saves in the win. He wasn’t tested often, but his positioning remained sound, his tracking was on point, and he continues to show confidence in goal. In addition to getting the victory in the game itself, Hart also made three saves in the postgame practice shootout.
“He looks dialed in,” Alain Vigneault said. “He is focused and is assertive around his net. He looks very confident. Made a couple of key saves in the game when we were down by a goal and we were able to battle back with that power play goal at the end of the second. I don’t want to say it was a sloppy period, but there weren’t a lot of great plays on either side in the third. We had one good play in overtime, which won us the game.”
“I feel solid. Practice has been good. Right now, I’m just focusing on the little details and trying to be as prepared as I can for opening night,” Hart said. “We got a couple of more games to tune ourselves up and get ready for the 15th.”
2. Provorov-Ellis Continues to Stand Out
It’s no secret that the biggest piece needed in the offseason was a defensive partner for Ivan Provorov. The acquisition of Ryan Ellis was that piece, a player brought in with similarities in his game to Matt Niskanen, the player the Flyers just couldn’t seem to replace a season ago.
Ellis has looked every bit the part, and Provorov looks a lot better for it. Both members of this pairing look so smooth in their execution and are quickly getting on the same page.
“He’s been good so far. He’s a great player. Can do everything well out there,” Provorov said of Ellis. “I think we’ve been spending a lot of time together, trying to get the chemistry and I think it’s been working so far.”
“I like that pairing. There is a lot of communication going on,” Vigneault said. “Both smart and as they get more time together, the chemistry will become stronger. You can tell right off the hop that it is a pair that has a tremendous amount of possibilities.”
Having a stable top pairing is going to be crucial, especially considering how much rests on the performance of the goaltenders. There just seems to be an extra sense of calm with these two on the ice, and that can go a long way against the top competition they will face this season.
“I think they have some great chemistry. They compliment each other well,” Hart said. “They’ve been really great in their appearances so far. They really went all out behind the net and I have got to make sure that I communicate to them as well, but they’ve been awesome so far.”
3. Forming Power Play Chemistry
The Flyers power play was 1-for-5 in Monday’s game, and while that conversion rate isn’t ideal in a game where calls were lopsided in favor of the Flyers, there was some puck movement and scoring chances that show that there is some chemistry building there for the Flyers.
After two power plays that didn’t generate much, the Flyers did everything but score on their third power play. A penalty on Ellis ended that power play, but the Flyers were able to cash in on their fourth power play late in the second period.
The goal was scored by Sean Couturier, and once again power-play quarterback Keith Yandle was right in the middle of it. On Saturday, Yandle blocked a clearing attempt that led to Claude Giroux’s goal. In this one, Yandle received the puck off the skate of a Boston defender and got a pass into the wheelhouse of Couturier for a one-timer.
While this unit isn’t the exact one that will be on the ice on opening night most likely, Yandle has pretty well established himself in his role on the power play. He’s been so efficient at moving the puck and maintaining possession, it’s led to multiple scoring chances. The goals will come if the opportunities continue to present themselves.
4. Work in Progress
Percentage-wise, the penalty kill has not been great so far. In fact, in each preseason game, the Flyers have allowed at least one power-play goal. That said, the personnel on the ice wasn’t equivalent to what we’ll see on opening night for Boston’s lone goal on Monday.
With Ellis in the box, Wyatte Wylie joined Provorov on the ice. Wylie was beat to the inside as both Oskar Steen and Jack Studnicka were able to get to the net. Steen’s bid hit the post. Studnicka batted home the rebound.
It’s an area that is a work in progress for the Flyers, as are several others. There appeared to be some fatigue setting in as the game progressed, part of the reason overtime was required.
“We are like all teams right now, a work in progress,” Vigneault said. “Still evaluating some of our players and trying to see the chemistry between different d-men or different linemates. We have one game tomorrow and then our last one on Friday in Washington. We are going to continue the process of training camp and getting our rhythm.”
5. Roster Hopefuls Drawing Attention
There were a few players that had games worth noting. Early on, Nicolas Aube-Kubel was the Flyers best forward. Aube-Kubel is certainly not a roster hopeful at this point, but as a role player on the team, he showed a lot of what you need to see. He had several strong bursts of speed on rushes and was really back to playing the north-south game that made him so effective two seasons ago.
There were also a couple of players in the bottom six that will likely not figure into the starting group, but could become useful later this season. Connor Bunnaman looked much better in this game than his last. While he’s still probably nothing more than a potential fourth-line replacement at this moment, the coaching staff knows what to expect from him and can easily slot him into that role. Given the injuries the Flyers have, he could be a leading candidate for the 13th forward role.
Another player that has given solid showings over the preseason is Max Willman. Willman is pretty much destined for the AHL at this point, but he’s always in the game and shows a high level of compete. He’s the type of player that can really turn heads when he’s on and could earn some attention mid-season as a potential call-up option if he continues to put together really strong games at the AHL level.
Finally, Elliot Desnoyers played in his first preseason game at the NHL level and was noticeable multiple times. Right away, you see his motor and energy level. But there was also a side on display that was much more unexpected. Late in the second period, Desnoyers dropped the gloves with John Moore. It was Desnoyers’ first fight at any level. He’ll be heading back to juniors soon, most likely, but he sure looks like a nice mid-round find from last year’s draft.