Preseason Game 6: Flyers face Islanders in Preseason Finale
The preseason comes to a merciful close tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers take on the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.
The last leg of this six game stretch represents different things to different Flyers. For players like Kevin Hayes and Travis Sanheim, it’s one last chance to fully refine their games before the wins and losses start to count.
For players like Wade Allison and Tanner Laczynksi, it’s one last chance to impress the coaches and secure a spot on the NHL. For those who are secure in their roster spots but insecure in their roles on the team, like Morgan Frost or Owen Tippett, it’s one last chance to prove they’re ready to be a difference maker when the games mean something.
The Lines: Here’s a look at the lines as that have been seen in warmups. While this is subject to change, it has been a largely accurate glimpse at the lineup in the five games so far.
Dear God, Please Score a Goal: The Flyers have scored five goals as a team in five games. To put this in perspective, superstar goal scorer Auston Matthews had a stretch last year where he scored fifty goals in fifty games. The Flyers, as an entire team, are currently scoring at the same goal-per-game pace that Auston Matthews did by himself.
I can’t describe just how terrible this offense has been, because the English language does not come with words strong enough. The bright spots, offensively, have been so few and far between that it’s like watching a lone firefly flutter through a starless night sky. Hopefully, the trajectory changes tonight.
Injury Bug Keeps Lineup from Becoming Whole:
This wouldn’t be an article about the Flyers if we didn’t mention the elephant-sized injury bug that continues to haunt the team. Cam Atkinson has been held out from preseason action ever since he suffered an upper-body injury in training camp. Franchise goaltender Carter Hart has been held out from every preseason game after sustaining a lower-body injury.
Travis Konecny hasn’t appeared in a preseason game since he took a spill against the Buffalo Sabres that seemed to left him shaken up. It’s worth noting that he did play the remainder of that game after missing two shifts to finish the first period.
Ivan Provorov missed a day of camp and hasn’t appeared in a game since the Flyers took on the Capitals in the fourth preseason outing. Given the iron man that Provorov usually is, that is strange. He’s been a beacon of good health on an otherwise injury ravaged roster.
It’s jarring to see the Flyers never throw out anything reasonably approaching a full lineup in the pre-season. But I wouldn’t be too worried about it. Most likely, all of these players are being held out for precautionary reasons. The Flyers have been burned by injuries too many times to take chances before the wins are worth two points in the standings.
While Carter Hart did say he’d like to see game action just to get back into the flow of things, the team would also like to avoid seeing its franchise goalie taken out of commission before the season ever really starts.
If the Flyers do have their eyes set on any kind of success this season, Hart will need to be at the center of it all and providing truly elite goaltending.
Players To Watch:
The point of preseason games is not to count wins and losses. The results mean nothing, but that doesn’t mean the games mean nothing. This is a time for players to find their stride and prove their worth.
Here are some players I find especially worth evaluating:
Cam York: Cam has had mixed reviews preseason performances to date. I think this is the burden of the high expectations he’s set. While not standing out as much as one might expect, he’s never been a net-negative performer.
Regardless, nobody will question his immense talent. That would include new bench boss, John Tortorella. Tortorella wants to see that talent converted quickly into outsized production at the NHL level. Every game in which York appears is a chance to see how close he is to meeting his coach’s lofty expectations.
Wade Allison/Tanner Laczynski: I’m grouping these two players together, because I find their situations to be strikingly similar. A couple of hard-nosed players who are battling to secure a bottom-6 role in the team’s opening day forward lines. Two players who seemed destined for such a role at one point in time, but who have been derailed by an unending list of injuries.
As far as I see it, Allison has been the superior player between the two of them. They both have something to prove, and neither should be treated as though they’re a guarantee to make the team. This is their last opportunity to make a lasting impression, and cement their places on the team.
Morgan Frost: This anemic, putrid offense has managed to amass five goals through five games. Frost has assisted on three of those five goals. He has three points in four games, and just missed burying a couple of goals throughout. Frost has shown improved tenacity on the forecheck, and is finally realizing that his speed is a weapon.
Combine that with stellar puck skills and an otherworldly ability to skate on his edges, and he’s been one of the most impressive players the Flyers have to offer. He’ll look to continue the positive showings in this finale, and prove that he’s ready to be–in his words–“a difference maker”.
God, do the Flyers need one.
Owen Tippett: The sniper still isn’t sniping. The tantalizing combination of speed and size is still there, and his one point of the pre-season came from a wonderful pass to Kevin Hayes where he deceived the goalie into believing he’d shoot and opened up the net for his teammate.
Still, Tippett doesn’t merely need to deceive goalies into believing he’ll shoot.
He needs to shoot.
And he needs to score. He’ll look to change the narrative of his preseason tonight with a dominant performance that propels him into the full 82 game schedule with some momentum. Don’t write him off, but he’s yet to impress.
Hayden Hodgson: Now, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to be watching for here. Many Flyers have made at least one impressive play in the five preseason games so far, but Hodgson isn’t one of them. Regardless, the Flyers coaching staff clearly sees something in him.
I know that’s true, because they keep sticking him in this lineup. So join me in watching Hayden Hodgson, and trying to decipher what exactly they are seeing.
Mandatory Credit: Flyers twitter