BOSTON — Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrňák, oh my — the Boston Bruins dressed 18 NHL veterans in their 4-2 preseason victory over the Flyers, whose roster was mostly comprised of non-NHL players.
Regardless, it’s the second game of the Flyers’ preseason, and the experienced skaters of the Bruins provided a challenge to the young Flyers as they work to get acclimated to the club’s system.
“There’s no doubt that they were experimenting also,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Our last power play, you didn’t see Bergeron and Marchand out there. [Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy]’s trying players like we’re trying players in situations to see if they can do it or not. So they had a lot of veteran players tonight without a doubt, but we have to see what our guys can do in any situation, and that’s the read that we’re trying to get right now.”
After going 0-for-3 on the power play against the New York Islanders on Tuesday, the Flyers stopped the trend in Boston and registered a goal on their first man advantage of the night. Less than a minute into a cross-checking penalty called on Jakub Zbořil in the first period, left winger James van Riemsdyk passed the puck from behind the Bruins net to right winger Joel Farabee, who scored down low on Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman.
Farabee, a former Boston University Terrier, scored a second power-play goal, a one-timer, in the third period. The Flyers finished the night 2-for-6 on the power play.
“I thought we had some good chemistry in practice [on Wednesday],” Farabee said. “I thought we ran a couple good switches. We kind of moved some guys around mid-power play. So it was good to see.”
However, the Flyers struggled to shake their poor penalty killing early in the game, a unit that ranked next to last in the league last season. Ten seconds after defenseman Cam York was called for cross-checking center Jack Studnicka at 9:07 in the first period, Marchand evened the score against the Flyers’ first penalty-kill unit of Rasmus Ristolainen, Nate Thompson, Scott Laughton, and Travis Sanheim.
Then the Bruins went back on the power play when defenseman Nick Seeler was called for hooking winger Taylor Hall two minutes later. Winger Craig Smith put the puck past goalie Martin Jones on a cross-net feed from winger Nick Foligno to put the Bruins up 2-1.
In total, the Flyers killed three of the Bruins’ five power plays. However, the Flyers were never able to overcome the Bruins’ two-goal lead, thanks to additional goals from defenseman Brandon Carlo and forward Jake DeBrusk.
Jonesing for a better start
In backup goaltender Jones, the Flyers have an eight-year veteran with playoff experience — he led the San Jose Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, when the Sharks lost to Pittsburgh in six games. However, over the last few seasons, Jones’ play dipped drastically below his performance through his first five years in the NHL when he never fell below a .900 save percentage. From 2018-19 through 2020-21, Jones finished each season with a .896 save percentage. In 2020-21, Jones posted a career-worst 3.28 goals against average.
Jones’ true quest to prove that he can turn his career around with the Flyers won’t begin until the regular season, but he didn’t start off on an ideal note against the Bruins. On the first goal from Marchand, Jones appeared to come out too far from the net. On the Bruins’ third goal of the game, Carlo’s slap shot from the right faceoff circle, Jones had time to square up to the shooter and make a save but was beaten short side, although the shot looked to take a deflection off winger Linus Sandin.
“I felt all right, a couple power play goals and a deflection,” Jones said. “But, you know, sometimes it takes a little bit to kind of feel comfortable and find your rhythm. It’s nice to get the first one out of the way and really start building off that.”
Vigneault said before the start of the preseason that Jones was slated to play the first two periods, but he exited midway through the second and was replaced by Felix Sandström. With four exhibition games left, Jones will have more opportunities to shake off the rust.
Thursday night’s tilt against the Bruins marked Flyers center Morgan Frost’s first game suiting up for the club in 254 days, not including the two rookie exhibition games against the New York Rangers on Sept. 18 and 19. The Flyers’ 2017 first-round pick dislocated his left shoulder on Jan. 19 against the Buffalo Sabres, which was just his second game of the season after making the opening-night roster out of training camp.
At TD Garden, the 22-year-old Frost centered the team’s top line alongside wingers van Riemsdyk and Farabee. That line often faced off against the Bruins’ best forwards in Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrňák.
“They’re really good players, so it’s tough,” Frost said. “But I think if I really want to play in this league, I think you’ve got to be willing to take on challenges like that, if you’re gonna do that. So I think it was a good test for me.”
Frost finished with one shot on net, won just three of nine faceoffs and was a minus-1. The coaches will want to see more from Frost as they decide how they want to make up for the absence of center Kevin Hayes, who is recovering from abdominal surgery and will miss the start of the regular season.
“I think [I had] a couple good shifts, couple bad shifts,” Frost said. “I think I can definitely play better and make more plays. But it was good to get the first game out of the way and get back into a game feeling, I guess. It’s been a long time for me.”
Roller-coaster night for on-the-bubble defensemen
After impressing with his work ethic in the Flyers’ preseason opener against the Islanders, defenseman Nick Seeler got another opportunity to play in front of the Flyers’ coaching staff as he vies for a spot on the opening-night roster. His effort stood out again against the Bruins from the get-go — he broke up a behind-the-net pass from Studnicka to help clear the Flyers’ zone. Later in the second period, however, Seeler failed to clear the zone along the boards, which resulted in DeBrusk scoring to make it 4-1.
“Getting the reps in, getting more and more comfortable,” Seeler said. “You know, even the first game in preseason, as the game went on, I got more and more comfortable with the puck and my decision making. And you know the battle level’s always going to be there. So it was nice to get another game in under my belt.”
It was an up-and-down night for defenseman Cam York, too, who faces an uphill battle to beat out veteran defensemen like Keith Yandle for a roster spot out of training camp. In the second period, York turned the puck over in the Flyers’ zone to set up a Bruins breakout, but recovered well to stifle a partial breakaway by Smith. York showed some offensive promise, too, teeing up Farabee for a one-timer on a third-period power play, which resulted in the winger’s second goal of the game.
“This was Cam’s first game,” Vigneault said. “I thought he did some real good things out there. Power play at the end there, moved it around real well, got us a big goal. He was a big part of that. So there’s some positive signs, and we’re going to continue our evaluation, and they’re going to continue to make the decisions for us.”
On Saturday night, the Flyers return home to the Wells Fargo Center for their third game of the preseason to take on the Washington Capitals. The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and will be carried on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ and 97.5 FM The Fanatic. According to Vigneault, don’t expect to see many, if any, roster cuts take place before then. On Tuesday, Vigneault said there will be “some cuts” after the team’s back-to-back preseason games on Oct. 4 against the Bruins and Oct. 5 on the road against the New York Islanders.