What a difference a day and a few more veterans make.
After a complete dud on Long Island Sunday, the Flyers dressed 10 regulars in a 3-1 win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.
Here are some observations from the Flyers’ preseason home opener Monday.
1. Earlier in the day, general manager Ron Hextall singled out Jordan Weal and Scott Laughton as the front-runners in the competition for the third-line center job. Both players were in action, with Weal having the luxury of centering Claude Giroux along with Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Weal made a real conscious effort to play a strong two-way game, winning faceoffs in the defensive zone and playing the puck below his own goal line as if he was a third defenseman.
2. Fair to say three rookies are getting a strong, hard look at making the opening-night roster. Defenseman Philippe Myers and center Mikhail Vorobyev have participated in all three games so far in the preseason, starting with the prospects game last Wednesday. That’s three games in six days for the rookies. And Aube-Kubel appears to be perfectly suited for a fourth-line role as he brings speed and a physical presence.
3. Vorobyev had an awful opening shift, losing coverage below the goal line, which nearly led to an Isles’ goal. The Flyers' center was whistled for a hooking penalty, but after that he warmed up nicely, playing with skilled linemates. He worked a perfectly executed give-and-go with Jakub Voracek to score the Flyers’ first goal of the preseason. The Flyers’ 2015 fourth-round pick is remarkably talented and if the coaching staff can trust him without the puck, especially defensively, he’s worth serious consideration as the third-line center.
4. Myers makes mistakes coughing up the puck, but with his reach and skating ability, he’s able to cover his tracks quickly. He’s a hybrid mix of Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg. In the opening period, Myers displayed impressive lateral agility with a Shaye Gostisbehere-like move in the offensive end, and he didn’t hesitate driving the opponent into the boards. With Myers, there’s very little hesitation in his game, often playing on raw instincts. Although, once the regular season starts, he’ll need to be more structured.
5. Tyrell Goulbourne is one tough cookie, but he’d probably have better luck picking on someone his own size. The 5-11, 195-pound Goulbourne elected to drop the gloves with 6-5, 235-pound tough guy Ross Johnston. Not only did Goulbourne move up in weight class, he clearly needed a few inches in reach as Johnston nailed him with some solid right hands to win the fight unanimously.
6. I expected Mike Vecchione to come into training camp and make a strong push for a job. However, midway through the second period skating with the puck along the right wall, Vecchione coughed it up. That led to the Islanders’ getting in transition and eventually scoring their first goal. Carelessness with the puck can be the quickest way back to Lehigh Valley.
7. The Flyers’ power play was clicking with the combination of Giroux, Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov. JVR showed he’s not afraid to take some abuse, drawing a two-minute cross-checking penalty, which led to a 5-on-3 man advantage. Like Nolan Patrick, JVR has the hands and the size to be highly effective and completely blinded Thomas Greiss on the Flyers’ 3-0 goal. Dave Hakstol will have some big decisions on how he wants to balance out his two power-play units.
8. Carter Hart replaced Michal Neuvirth after the Islanders scored their first goal at the midway point of the second period. Hart stopped all 11 shots he faced, nothing too spectacular. Outside of some early rebound control, Hart looked much more at ease than he did in the prospects game. His movements and positioning already look NHL-caliber, he just needs some seasoning.
Lines and pairings
Laughton-Corban Knight-Dale Weise
Yegor Zamula-Mark Friedman