The Puck has Dropped
Preseason hockey has started in Philadelphia, and that sigh of relief you hear is coming from my end of the internet. There was certainly more than enough to digest after watching the Flyers 4-3 shootout victory over the Devils on Tuesday night. It’s important that none of what I’ll say be taken too seriously, since this is just the preseason. With that being noted, here are some things I liked and didn’t like from the boys in orange and black.
The Youth Group- Claude Giroux and JVR looked absolutely fantastic all game long. Giroux created an early golden opportunity, which Darroll Powe cashed in for the game’s first goal. His ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone as well as his vision looks to be exactly where he left it after last season’s playoff run. JVR was all over the ice, and not in a Scott Hartnell face down type of way. He seems to have put on some muscle in the offseason and his speed was extremely impressive. There was a time in the game where he created chance after chance after chance. Although he didn’t convert any of the chances into goal sirens, his intensity and willingness to attack the net certainly provides optimism moving forward.
“Zhe Ukrainian”- There seemed to be a sentiment on Twitter amongst some of the Philly media and fans that Nikolai Zherdev was less than impressive against New Jersey. I don’t know why it seemed that way to some, but I came away from the game very impressed. Zherdev’s talent is quite evident. He had some great chances as well, although he failed to net the puck. His effort and attitude are his most criticized attributes (or lack thereof), but from what I saw he was giving his all throughout the game. Obviously, effort and attitude are not possible to be evaluated in one preseason game, but I think Zherdev could be a very valuable piece to the Flyers this season. His inclusion on the first line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter was a great move. The line was tremendous all night. Jeff Carter (yes, I said Jeff Carter) looked impressive on the line, batting a puck in for the second Flyers tally. He was around the puck all night. If Jeff plays like he did Tuesday night, he will have a huge season.
Meszaros Getting Offensive- Andrej looked extremely comfortable in Jersey’s zone all night. He created a beautiful opportunity for rookie Ben Holmstrom with a cross-ice slap pass that Holmstorm whiffed. His blasts from the point were mostly on target and he has impressive velocity on his shot. I liked what I saw from him on the attack.
Danny B- Briere fired a blast from near the blue line to tie the game in the third period, and he too looked like the player from last year’s playoffs. As all Flyers fans know, Briere can be extremely hot and cold but he sure looked good Tuesday night. Having a healthy and productive Briere centering the second line will create problems aplenty for the opponents this year.
The Big Bobrovsky- The “Dude” entered the game in the third period to relieve Michael Leighton. He didn’t face too many shots, but the ones he did face he impressively stopped them. After a couple of great saves, it became fairly clear why the Flyers organization is so high on this young man. He seemed to keep his composure well, and displayed his athleticism when needed. With Brian Boucher as the backup goalie heading into the preseason, he is someone to keep your eyes on (I’m sure the next appearance he makes he will give up 5 goals and get yanked, but oh well, I'm knocking on wood).
Better Never than Leights?- I thought Leighton looked shaky all game long, but he did make a couple of nice saves in the first period. All in all, I suppose he wasn’t that bad, but he did little to rid me of my worries about the juiciness of his rebounds. Over a season, the team will pay for those rebounds sooner or later. It seems to me that Leighton starts out with confidence, but once he lets in a goal, the little Dutch boy’s finger breaks off.
Andrej Getting Defensive- Meszaros didn’t look comfortable in his own zone at all Tuesday night. I don’t know if that is contributed to lack of chemistry or having trouble with the schemes that Laviolette has thrown his way. Whatever it was, I thought he was a liability on the blue line. I hope that’s an aberration and he can pick up the slack on the third defensive pairing this year. However, the entire defense was less than stellar (way too many odd man rushes for example), so it’s tough to just single out Meszaros. But, I did anyway.
Out of Gas, Captain!- Mike Richards looked a bit slow to me, and judging by some reports earlier in camp about his conditioning being subpar, I’m not surprised. Yes, he had a couple of great plays, including the game-winning shootout goal, but he seemed a stride slow Tuesday. I have no worries about his conditioning moving forward, just something that stuck out to me.
Now, judging by the quantity comparison of positives and negatives, it’s clear that I was happy with the Flyers’ performance on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s only the first preseason game, so I wouldn’t go burn your house down over the things I observed (unless you live in Montreal). All five positives could be negatives next game and vice-versa. Take these observations with a few grains of salt, as it should be with any preseason related chatter. I don’t know what we’ll see moving forward from the team. I don’t know if the preseason will give us any answers to the questions that we’re all asking ourselves. I don’t know all that much at this point.
But, I do know that it’s great to have Flyers hockey back.