Youngsters, Bobrovsky Fuel Flyers
In their first preseason contest of the year, the Philadelphia Flyers got off on the right skate with a 4-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. It would be some newcomers and youngsters that led the way, along with a stellar game from goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
After a first period that saw the two teams both play tentative hockey, the second period was a much different story. It would be an unlikely source that would be the first to put a number on the scoreboard. Tough guy Zac Rinaldo finally solved the puzzle of Toronto goalie James Reimer with 13:35 remaining in the second period. He took a centering pass from Matt Read and went in on Reimer using an incredible diving shot to beat the young goalie.
Once the Flyers found the back of the net, they looked like a completely different team than the one that had taken the ice in the first period. Newly-acquired power forward Wayne Simmonds was next in line to make his mark on the contest. Simmonds, who was acquired in the trade that sent former captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles, was absolutely phenomenal on Tuesday night. His prowess on the penalty kill was clear and almost led to a short-handed goal in the first period.
After Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn was sent to the penalty box for holding Mike Testwuide, Simmonds finally made his already strong presence known on the score sheet. Off an offensive zone face-off win, defenseman Matt Carle fired a wrist-shot towards the net which Simmonds deflected past Reimer to make the Flyers’ lead grow to 2-0.
Simmonds physicality and large frame gives this year’s version of the Flyers something that they lacked at times last season. His screen of Reimer and subsequent goal were a picture perfect illustration of that.
Philadelphia wasn’t done in the second period, as Testwuide found the back of the net after rookie Sean Couturier cycled the puck to Carle as Toronto failed to clear their defensive zone. Carle put pressure on the Leafs and caused them to shift as he carried the puck along the boards. In their haste, the Leafs lost track of Testwuide, who sat alone in the slot and fired a one-timer past Reimer to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead with 2:19 remaining in the second period.
The youngsters found their legs in the second period and skated with much more confidence and purpose. On a Flyers roster that was absent of Claude Giroux, Daniel Briere, Scott Hartnell, Jaromir Jagr, Maxime Talbot, their success in the second period pointed out that the club has come a long way in respects to their depth in prospects. The highly-touted rookie Couturier would go on to add the game’s fourth and final goal in the third period; an encouraging sign on his trek to make the roster.
It wasn’t just newcomers that made their impact felt on Tuesday night. Bobrovsky was spectacular when tested against the Leafs and showed a tremendous amount of confidence. His positioning was sound and his poise was reminiscent of his eye-opening performances last preseason. Although Ilya Bryzgalov will be the team’s expensive starting goalie this season, Bobrovsky looked determined to show that he has improved in his second year in the NHL.
It’s difficult for many to know how the Flyers will perform this season with so many new faces on the club. Despite their powerful performances on Tuesday, the preseason will not provide an adequate projection of the team’s success or failure this year. However, there is value in noting that a roster full of newcomers and youngsters put forth an excellent effort and displayed some impressive skill sets on the ice in Tuesday’s 4-0 victory.