The Philadelphia Flyers played their last preseason game on Thursday and are heading to Europe to participate in the NHL Global Series. Posting a measly 1-2-3 record, the team conceded losses to the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, and New York Rangers. Head coach Alain Vigneault has been drilling his system into the team with ferocity through practice, and there have been some growing pains. Don’t let the record fool you, however, there’s a lot that the preseason showed us, and a lot to be excited for in the upcoming season.
The Flyers Vets
Vigneault will have to rely heavily on his veterans if the Flyers want to make the postseason. He made a slew of early cuts, noting that he wanted to make sure his top players knew the system better. Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier played a bit more of the preseason this year just to get up to speed. Luckily, they had former Ranger Kevin Hayes to help them acclimate to Vigneault’s system.
Newly acquired Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen seemed right at home playing with the team’s young defenders. Vigneault has even stated the possibility of moving Giroux back to the center position to bolster the middle. The Flyers’ vets will have their work cut out for them but they seemed to pick it up near the end of the preseason.
Carter Hart and Nolan Patrick
Carter Hart’s performance in the preseason has earned him the starting job. He was electric, stopping 56 of 57 shots in his games. He spent most of the offseason upping his conditioning and stamina to handle the workload of a full season and it looks like it will pay off. It’s also worth noting, how ready the team is to defend their starter. A Rangers player slid into Hart during their Sept. 26 contest and Travis Sanhiem jumped to his defense as well as Scott Laughton.
Nolan Patrick recently revealed that he has a migraine disorder. He is considered week to week. This is as a huge blow for the Flyers but I wish Patrick all the best, and a speedy recovery.
Joel Farabee, Connor Bunnaman, Carsen Twarynski are still in the running to make the team as well as dark-horse candidate Chris Stewart. It’s crazy how well these players have performed this preseason to knock Isaac Ratcliffe and Morgan Frost off the roster. Farabee has been all over the ice in every game, tackling defensive and offensive assignments. Bunnaman and Twarynki have brought speed and tenacity to the fourth line, and have chipped in some offense as well.
As of now, Phillipe Myers doesn’t seem to be a lock for the team. He’s played incredibly well, though he has tried to make the flashy play more often than he should. He’ll battle with Robert Hagg and Sam Morin for the final defense spot.
The Potential Lineup
Based on preseason play, the Flyers lineup will have a good mix of youth and veterans. Couturier will center Giroux and Travis Konecny. Hayes will center Jake Voracek and James van Riemsdyk. The third line will feature Laughton in the middle of Oskar Lindblom and rookie Farabee, with the fourth line containing Michael Raffl, Bunnaman, and Twarynski. Stewart will be the 13th forward. The defense pairs should be: Ivan Provorov with Niskanen, Shayne Gostisbehere with Braun, and Hagg with Morin or Myers.
Their record doesn’t show it but the Flyers are ready to contend this season. An exhibition schedule with three overtime losses is more indicative of the team learning Vigneault’s system than poor play. Hart looks like he’s the real deal, and ready for the arduous season with Brian Elliott as his backup.
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A good mix of young and older players will drive the team to a postseason berth. The most surprising thing we saw in the preseason, was that the Flyers only gave up one power-play goal in 17 opportunities. Maybe the coaching staff has finally figured out the penalty kill problem.