The listed attendance for the Flyers' preseason opener Monday night was 16,570. The crowd was sparse and that comes with preseason hockey.
Kevin Hayes, the team's most notable offseason acquisition who signed a seven-year, $50 million contract, played his first game in front of the new home fans.
There has been some debate over the level of excitement regarding the 2019-20 Flyers and the addition of Hayes, a 6-foot-5, 27-year-old center that doesn't exactly dazzle across the ice.
"I think the fans should be excited — I think they're excited, some of them might not be too excited — but I feel great," Hayes said last weekend. "This is the best I've ever felt and probably the most in shape, most excited I've ever been in my hockey career."
If he doesn't dazzle, he does just about everything else. The Flyers want to win hockey games again and Hayes brings winning qualities — pretty or not.
On Monday night, he showed his game — the puck protection, the utilizing of his size, the disruptiveness on the penalty kill, the potential on the power play (see observations).
Those traits were why the Flyers wanted Hayes so badly and believe he can be integral to the team contending again — you know, generating excitement.
"I'm not a horrible skater, but I'm not the best skater," Hayes said after the Flyers' 3-1 loss to the Islanders. "So I need to get an upper hand somehow and that is the stuff I work on in the summer."
The Flyers need that stuff. They allowed far too many goals last season, far too easily. They surrendered the NHL's third-most markers per game at 3.41 and finished with a minus-37 goal differential. Hayes had a career-high 55 points last season and a career-high 25 goals the year prior. However, he developed a defensive-minded, penalty kill pedigree under Alain Vigneault with the Rangers. Maybe that's not exciting.
"I actually got to the league as not a PK guy," Hayes said. "A.V. put it on me and I challenged myself to become one of the better PK guys in the league and I thought over the last couple of years, I've done that. I try to outsmart the other five guys."
Hayes did his usual work on the penalty kill and made an impressive play to set up the Flyers' lone goal. He played with James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek, making up a line in which possession is the name of the game.
I like those three and that effort from that line. I expect more and more will come as their timing gets better. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone and didn't get probably as much as they would have liked.
But the time spent in the offensive zone was good. Their execution is going to get better, but that is a pretty big line. They get pucks in deep and go retrieve it and make the plays that I think are available, just the execution was a little bit off tonight. But if the plays are available, that could be a really good line.
It doesn't scream excitement, nor does Hayes' style of play.
But if it results in wins, fans will get on board.
It might just take some time.
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