It’s only the preseason, but new Flyers coach Alain Vigneault believes it’s time to get serious.
Time for the Flyers to start grasping his system, get some chemistry, and build some momentum they can carry into the season.
They took a nice first step Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, getting a goal and two assists from Jake Voracek as they trounced the New York Rangers, 4-1, for their first win in four preseason games.
Vigneault downplayed the preseason results, but he wants his team to start getting in sync so they are ready for the opener Oct. 4 against Chicago in Prague.
That’s why 19 roster cuts were made in less than 24 hours, leaving 31 healthy bodies in camp. Vigneault wants the players with the best chance to make the team to get the ice time.
Using a veteran-dominated lineup, the Flyers (1-2-1) controlled all three zones and outshot the Rangers, 40-19.
James van Riemsdyk, who deposited the team’s first power-play goal in 14 preseason chances, and Kevin Hayes scored on deflections 92 seconds apart late in the first period to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead and trigger the rout.
“Any time you have a new coach and new philosophies, obviously you want all the things to become second-nature out there,” van Riemsdyk said, “and I think the best way to do that is by getting reps out there. It was a step in the right direction and we have to continue to use this as a building block."
Top-line Sean Couturier missed the game because of what Vigneault called a maintenance day. But a majority of the four lines had players who will be regulars.
The lines also included four players -- rookies Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, and Carsen Twarynski, and veteran right winger Chris Stewart -- who are battling for roster spots. The bruising 6-foot-2, 242-pound Stewart had his second fight (a decision over Micheal Haley) of the preseason.
Twarynski (seven shots, three hits) was strong on the forecheck and he gave the Flyers a 3-0 lead by batting in his own rebound with 7:02 left in the second. He was on a line with Scott Laughton (five hits) and Stewart, each of whom had assists on the goal.
Vigneault, who watched the game from the press level to get a different perspective, called Twarynski the “best player on the ice.”
“There’s no doubt the young game is making a strong case for himself,” he said.
With Couturier out, Claude Giroux (two assists) shifted from left wing to center and was on a line with van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny, who played solidly in his first appearance of the preseason.
The second line -- Hayes centering Oskar Lindblom and Voracek -- could be intact for the regular-season opener.
Frost centered Michael Raffl and Joel Farabee. Frost, who drew a penalty to set up the Flyers’ first goal and had numerous scoring chances, is among the candidates to replace the injured Nolan Patrick, the third-year forward who probably won’t be ready when the season starts. Farabee is among a slew of candidates for the third-line right-wing spot, and he also continued to play well.
The Flyers have three preseason games left, two against NHL teams.
“We have a lot of work to do," Vigneault said. “It’s about getting this team on the same page and making sure we’re doing things the right way.”
Saturday was a good start, even if it was against a Rangers team loaded with prospects.