Dear Flyers fans: No need to panic ... yet | Sam Carchidi
Just two games into the preseason, Flyers fans are already getting impatient. Take a deep breath, folks.
BOSTON -- For Flyers fans, there’s no reason for panic after two preseason games. No reason to call new backup goaltender Martin Jones a flop after 1½ periods of action. No reason to say the work-in-progress penalty kill is as awful as last season.
OK, the latter two thoughts probably went through your mind if you watched the first 20 minutes of the Flyers’ 4-2 preseason loss Thursday to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
Take a deep breath and repeat after me: It’s only the preseason. It’s only the preseason. It’s only the preseason.
Yet, if you looked at the Twitterverse, the sky was falling and the season was doomed.
“It’s almost unwatchable,” one fan tweeted.
“Not ready for prime time,” said another.
Another fan tweeted a photo of a Dumpster fire.
“They’re in midseason form.”
It’s only the preseason. It’s only the preseason. It’s only the preseason.
The loss was predictable since the Flyers brought mostly their “JV” team to Boston, while the Bruins deployed their A-minus lineup, one that featured Brad Marchand, David Pastrňák, Patrice Bergeron, Taylor Hall, and Charlie McAvoy, among others.
That said, you would have liked to see the Flyers spend more time in the Bruins’ end, get more than 18 shots, and show more cohesiveness from their penalty-killing units.
At least the Flyers’ penalty kill, which was next-to-last in the NHL last season at 73.1%, regrouped and was 3-for-3 after allowing goals on Boston’s first two power plays. And the Flyers’ power play, coming off a woefully inconsistent year, got two goals from Joel Farabee, including one off a slick feed from James van Riemsdyk. Farabee’s other goal was a one-timer after a perfect setup from Cam York, a defenseman destined to quarterback the power play down the road.
And, so, yes, there were some positives.
“I thought we came out with some real good energy in the first, some good physicality to our game,” coach Alain Vigneault said after the Flyers slipped to 0-1-1 in the preseason.
Nick Seeler, making a bid to make the team as a depth defenseman, and newcomer Rasmus Ristolainen delivered big hits early in the game. A short time later, Farabee, returning to the city where he starred in college for Boston University, had the first of his two goals. And before you could say “TNT had more technical problems in Thursday’s game than the Flyers’ penalty killers,” Philadelphia had a 1-0 lead.
The aggressive start was encouraging because the Flyers were too passive last season. But their feisty play didn’t last long Thursday. The Bruins outhit the Flyers, 26-15. Boston also dominated in the faceoff circle (57%), and finished with a 54-31 advantage in shot attempts.
Hence, the Twitter complaints.
“A lot of our guys haven’t played in a long time. You’ve got to get your rhythm, your stride,” Vigneault said. “You’ve got to get your hands back, your feet back, and that’s what we’re doing as a team right now.”
Quick PP strikes
Two broken plays and some sloppy defense led to the two Boston power-play goals 3:06 apart in the opening period. And then Brandon Carlo made it 3-1 in the first after his shot deflected off the stick of Flyers winger Linus Sandin and past goalie Jones.
In his Flyers debut, Jones played 30:42 and allowed three goals on 11 shots.
“It wasn’t an easy game as far as getting some work in,” Vigneault said. “He helped us moving the puck around his net, and he got his first half game out of the way and I’m sure he’ll be better the next time, like the rest of our group.”
The Flyers are gambling that reuniting Jones with their goalie coach, Kim Dillabaugh, will get him back on track after three straight sub-par seasons. They were together in the Kings organization.
Jones, 31, doesn’t have to be the second coming of Bernie Parent. He just needs to be solid and durable enough to play around 30 games — more if Carter Hart struggles.
“I felt all right, a couple power-play goals and a deflection,” Jones said. “Sometimes it takes a little bit to try to feel comfortable and find your rhythm. It’s nice to get the first one out of the way and build off that.”
The most encouraging sign of the night for the Flyers was the play of Farabee, who got stronger in the offseason and seems destined for a big year.
On the flip side, center Morgan Frost wasn’t effective against Boston’s big guns. It was Frost’s first game in almost nine months, and facing Bergeron and Co. wasn’t the same as playing in rookie camp, where the 22-year-old excelled.
“It’s a lot quicker, and the guys are bigger, faster, stronger,” said Frost, who said his surgically repaired shoulder is 100 percent healthy. “It’s definitely a little bit of an adjustment from the rookie games. I’m kind of just getting back into the game thing and I just want to try to get better every game and take it from there.”
The Flyers, already hit by injuries to some key players, will try to keep improving over their last four preseason games, build chemistry with their new teammates, and make sure their penalty kill gets in order before the Oct. 15 opener against Vancouver.
Oh, and show their fans the sky isn’t falling.
» READ MORE: Flyers forwards Tanner Laczynski and Wade Allison’s injury woes continue. Both are out indefinitely.