In the fourth installment of Flyers preseason hockey, the orange and black were unable to post a comeback in tight contest with hated division foe, the New York Rangers. After playing four games in just three days (two split-squad games Monday) the club is now off until next Tuesday, when they take on the New Jersey Devils. Despite a 1-3 record so far there have been quite a few developments to take note of:
- Longtime Tampa Bay vet, Vinny Lecavalier, was very visible throughout the night. Playing on a physically imposing line with Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds, Lecavalier was able to give the “Rags” defense fits (despite not showing up on the score sheet). It’s safe to assume #40 will be a welcome addition in Philadelphia.
- 24-year old Austrian import (via Sweden) Michael Raffl did not look out of place amongst the surrounding NHLers, despite making a huge jump from a lower international league. While it was originally thought that Raffl would have to spend some time with the Phantoms before working his way to the big club, it now appears as if he has an inside track at the 3rd line winger job.
- Steve Mason, despite allowing 3 goals (again), actually looked rather sharp. It’s clear that his ability to handle the puck will be extremely beneficial in taking pressure off his defensemen this season.
- Young forward Jason Akeson continued to flash offensive ability, but he was also guilty of committing several turnovers. Eventhough he’s displayed some rapport with both Voracek and Giroux (last season), it appears as if he’s headed back to the AHL.
- 6’6” defender Sam Morin continued his impressive play this preseason. Despite being barely 18 years of age, the first round pick has shown impressive poise in the defensive zone. Morin has also displayed a keen awareness with the puck offensively, something he was not known for in juniors. Eventhough he’ll almost assuredly spend another season in the OHL, he’s not making the Flyers decision an easy one. Also, of note, Morin signed his 3-year Entry-Level Contract today.
- One of the most pleasant surprises of the evening was the play of Sean Couturier. Coming off a horrendous sophomore season (15pts in 46 games, -8 +/-), Couts showed just how much he’s worked on his game in the off-season. His skating is visibly improved; as he was flying through the neutral zone all night. And he looks as if he’s added some much needed muscle to his frail-looking, 6’4” frame. This kid, with a boatload of talent, certainly looks poised for that breakout campaign.
- 6’7” veteran defender Hal Gill continued his steady play. Not overly flashy, Gill overcomes his lack of foot-speed with savvy instincts and positioning. Eventhough the Flyers have an overflow on the blueline (9 players on one-way contracts), Gill is giving GM Paul Holmgren something to think about. Most Flyers fans would probably feel better with Gill on board as the #7 defenseman, rather than Bruno Gervais, who’s proven to be a liability defensively.
Record-wise the Preseason hasn’t been kind to the Flyers, but these games are more about players developing a rhythm, young kids getting a chance to show what they’re made of, and grizzled vets proving they still have something left in the tank. There have been a lot of positives to take from these first four games. And with the October 2nd season opener creeping closer and closer, there are a few guys fighting for their proverbial lives. We’ll continue to see who makes the cut when Fly Guys return to action next Tuesday against the Devils.