Flyers-Islanders Observations: Outmatched at the End
The Flyers have lost the first two games of the preseason. Keyword: preseason.
Yes, the end results have not been as desired to start the preseason, but that means very little before the regular season. There are no points on the line and rosters are not fully constructed. All you had to do was look at the two rosters in Tuesday’s game on the road for the Flyers to see the disparity.
The Flyers dressed just five regulars from last season: Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Carter Hart. That’s it.
Hart only played the first half of the game, as scheduled. The rest were left to try to hold off a veteran-heavy lineup for the Islanders. They nearly did.
Of course, it’s tough to do when you have Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle and Derick Brassard working against you on the opposition. Barzal dazzled with his set-ups on the two goals in regulation. Lee led the final rush and took the shot that gave J.F. Berube trouble, leading to the game-winning goal.
Through it all, there was some good, some bad and we’ll break it down for you right here in our observations.
When Carter Hart starts, you get a sense that all eyes go on him pretty quickly. Hart’s preseason debut was as good as it could possibly be. He made 14 saves on all 14 shots he faced.
What was best about Hart’s performance wasn’t the quality of saves he was making, it was his tracking. Hart appeared to see everything thrown his way, even a few shots through screens and some heavy traffic in the crease. You would expect that the preseason debut for a goalie would require some of the rust to come off before getting into a zone. It didn’t appear Hart had any rust to shake off at all.
Back to Back
Alain Vigneault put four players in the lineups for back-to-back games, but notably German Rubtsov. It was a challenge for the former first-round pick in an effort to see if he could handle the workload.
Rubtsov didn’t disappoint. He nearly scored a goal in the second, hitting the post with a chance, and was strong on the forecheck again for most of the night.
Yes, in the third period, it seemed like everyone started to lose a step, but Rubtsov didn’t have any moments where glaring mistakes showed up. He played a solid all-around game, and in a back-to-back situation, that’s a very encouraging sign for his chances to make the team.
It’s a little unfair to get on the case of the Flyers power play this early in the preseason. Yes, they have gone 0-for-8 on the power play so far in two games and did have a four-minute power play in the second period where they applied a lot of pressure but did not score.
Remember, the Flyers have barely worked on this part of their game in practice and this is not even close to the units that will be used this season. It’s only the preseason and this is part of the learning curve that will certainly see more focus and attention to detail as the roster is narrowed down.
Fourth Line Duo
There has been talk about Scott Laughton being in the running for the third-line wing spot and he will probably get a look on the wing at some point. That said, I like the duo of Laughton and Michael Raffl on the fourth line.
They have great chemistry and can be effective enough to still show signs of production while giving you competitive shifts against the opposition’s fourth line. There will be some experimentation with the lines as the preseason goes on, but keeping Laughton with Raffl seems to work.
It was a pretty solid game for newcomer defenseman Chris Bigras. He had him moments in this game to say the least.
Bigras was the point man who took the initial shot on both goals for the Flyers, both coming on deflections by Raffl and Maksim Sushko.
While Bigras had involvement in both goals, it was a key defensive play in the second period that kept the Flyers in front. Berube let a shot get through him and roll along the goal line. Bigras was there to sweep it away and save a goal.
Bigras isn’t really in the discussion to make the Flyers at all, but he should be a solid piece to the blue line on the Phantoms this upcoming season.