The Flyers hosted the New York Rangers tonight in a preseason match-up at the Wells Fargo Center. Though many of the superstar players from each team did not play, Flyers fans got the chance to see and evaluate players that did not play in Monday night’s televised preseason game against the Islanders, including Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Steve Mason, Mark Streit and Shayne Gostisbehere, among others. This was also Flyers fans’ first chance to see head coach Dave Hakstol behind the bench.
The Flyers won the game 5-3, with goals from Medvedev, Schenn, Gagner and Gostisbehere (2); Umberger had two power-play assists and Mason made 29 saves. The three stars of the game were Gostisbehere, Medvedev and Umberger.
Tonight’s game featured a trial run of the new 3-on-3 overtime format that will be implemented this season in place of the five-minute 4-on-4 OT period that previously preceded the shootout. The NHL decided to test out the new 3-on-3 format in select preseason games, regardless of the score.
The Flyers started the 3-on-3 period with two forwards and one defenseman: forwards Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier along with defenseman Mark Streit. The second group of three included forwards R.J. Umberger and Sam Gagner with defenseman Yevgeni Medvedev. The third trio consisted of forwards Brayden Schenn and Scott Laughton along with defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. Schenn ended up taking a penalty, which resulted in the Rangers having a 4-on-3 power-play opportunity. All in all, the 3-on-3 demonstration was uneventful.
Here are five observations from the Flyers’ 5-3 preseason win against the Rangers:
1. Medvedev, Gagner Stronger in Second Outing
Yevgeni Medvedev played in Monday’s game against the Islanders and seemed to struggle. Though it will take more than a few preseason games to adjust to the smaller NHL surface (he played his entire career in the KHL and its predecessor), Medvedev looked more comfortable in tonight’s match-up against the Rangers. He scored his first goal of the preseason on an absolute bullet from the point on the power-play and seemed to clean up his play as the game wore on.
He committed a few turnovers early on but they all seemed to be on passes against the boards, which could be because he is not used to the smaller sheet of ice in the NHL. Once he adjusts he will be a nice addition to the Flyers’ D this season.
Another player who performed better in the second preseason game was Sam Gagner. Gagner, who played left wing on a line with Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier, looked much more comfortable in tonight’s game. It’s unclear if this can be attributed to the fact that it is his second game of the preseason or because he has better chemistry on the left side and/or with these linemates (he played right wing on a line with R.J. Umberger and Vinny Lecavalier in Monday’s game against the Isles). Gagner scored a goal on a beautiful wrap-around pass from Wayne Simmonds and came close to adding a second tally when he took a shot from the slot, which trickled across the crease but was cleared away by a Rangers defenseman before it crossed the goal line. It will be interesting to see what Hakstol does with Gagner throughout the rest of preseason.
2. Mason Solid in Preseason Debut
Steve Mason had a solid game in his preseason debut. He finished the night with 29 saves on 32 shots and made multiple impressive saves on difficult shots. His best save of the night was when he robbed Rangers’ winger Emerson Etem with a beautiful glove save on what looked like an easy tap-in for Etem. Mason gave up a few soft goals but looked pretty good overall. The second goal he gave up was a bit of a fluke as the puck deflected off a Flyer’s skate on its way into the net. Though it is only Mason’s first game of the preseason, he seems to be moving well and looks very comfortable, which is a good sign after he battled ongoing injuries last season.
3. Ghost Stories: Gostisbehere Delivers Mixed Bag
Flyers’ prospect defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere had an interesting game. He finished the game with seven SOG and scored two goals, one on a shot from the point and the second on a one-timer from Wayne Simmonds on the power-play. However, he seemed like a turnover machine in the defensive zone, especially in the first period; at one point Ghost had three turnovers on the same shift. He is unlikely to make the team regardless of his performance in training camp because the Flyers already have eight defensemen on one-way contracts, but he definitely needs to work on his puck movement out of the back end, no matter how talented he is offensively.
4. Brayden Schenn Determined to Earn Respect
Brayden Schenn looked determined to impress head coach Dave Hakstol, who has had Schenn skating on the “fifth” line in training camp so far. Schenn played on a line with R.J. Umberger and Scott Laughton in tonight’s game; he scored a goal (his second of the preseason) on a nice wrist shot on the power-play in the second period. The Flyers expect more out of Schenn, who scored 18 goals last season but was very inconsistent offensively.
5. Repeat Offenders: Konecny, Umberger Strong Again
For the second night in a row Travis Konecny was a standout player. He looked strong on most shifts and had several of the most memorable shifts of the game, including an absolutely explosive hit. Konecny demonstrated time and time again his great speed and hockey sense. He finished the game with an assist.
R.J. Umberger was injured all year last season. He has said he is in the best health of his career, and it really shows. Umberger looked fast and light in the Islanders preseason game, and he followed up that performance with another solid night. He was fast and hard on the puck and was much more aggressive than he was at any point last year. Umberger had two assists in the game and also set the screen for Schenn’s power-play goal.
The Flyers played pretty well as a team tonight. Though most of the starters did not play, the lineup as a whole moved the puck well and showed creativity in the offensive zone. Players all throughout the lineup played well; Nick Schultz made some key shot blocks on the penalty kill in the 3-on-3 overtime period, and Nick Cousins had a partial breakaway opportunity after a nice series of passes in the first period. Significantly, the Flyers got off to a good start tonight, which is something the team has not been able to do consistently over the past few seasons. Even though preseason games don’t count, it is a good sign to see the Flyers find success at the beginning of the year; it’s also a good sign to see that the team looks very focused under Hakstol’s watch.
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