Flyers roster additions having impact on special teams
The Flyers went through specialty teams drills and then scrimmaged on the fourth day of training camp.
With less than 10 seconds left, the Flyers Orange team’s goalie Samuel Ersson went down, leaving the net wide open to a Black team looking to tie the scrimmage. Oskar Lindblom wasn’t about to let the lead go and took a diving leap across the opening, stopping the last-minute shot.
Team Orange, which included the Flyers’ first and third lines, cheered as they won 4-3 Sunday over the Flyers’ second and fourth lines.
Overall, coach Alain Vigneault felt the execution and physicality was at an expected level for a preseason scrimmage against teammates. However, he was pleased by the pace set by the team, which came back from the offseason in better shape than last year.
With center Kevin Hayes out for the first 10 or so games, there are questions about who will play on what shift. Veteran Derrick Brassard and prospect Morgan Frost both have an opportunity with the second-line center out. Vigneault started camp with Frost, Joel Farabee, and James van Riemsdyk on the line behind Claude Giroux, Sean Courturier, and Travis Konecny. Brassard, Cam Atkinson, and Lindblom took the third shift.
Vigneault said he would keep those lines consistent through camp to evaluate chemistry, and while the shift order changed with the lines split among the Black and Orange teams, those groupings of players stayed together for the scrimmage.
Brassard and Atkinson showed off some of the connection developed from their time together in Columbus as they went through 2 v 1 warmups. Brassard assisted Atkinson on three goals, drawing loud cheers from fans.
Farabee and van Riemsdyk played together last season, so Vigneault is hoping that time will be a good foundation for the other line. Frost, the newest addition, has continued to impress Vigneault, who liked what he saw from the center in rookie camp.
“I’m very happy with what I’m seeing from Frosty,” Vigneault said. “Didn’t know what to expect since he didn’t play last year.”
But none of the top three centers found the back of the goal in the scrimmage Sunday. Max Willman was the first center and first player to score, putting team Black on the board.
Maskim Sushko then deflected in Ryan Ellis’ shot to tie it. Once the Flyers transitioned to power play situations, Orange scored two more quick goals with Tyson Foerster and Ivan Provorov getting past goalie Martin Jones. German Rubtsov and Cam York then tied it up again for Black before Elliot Desnoyer scored the winning goal for Orange after winning a battle against Frost.
When the Flyers next take the ice Tuesday, they will face an actual opponent rather than their own teammates with a 7 p.m. home contest against the New York Islanders.
Power play pieces
The Flyers have been painstakingly making their way through all the elements of the game of hockey. On the fourth day of training camp, they finally reached special teams practice.
With the penalty-kill unit on one end and the power-play unit on the other, the Flyers went round and round repping the motions before facing off against each other.
“We threw a lot of things at the players,” Vigneault said. “I expect this to be a learning process.”
The aggressive offseason moves greatly affected both units. All of the veterans the Flyers brought in — Atkinson, Brassard, Ellis, Keith Yandle, and Rasmus Ristolainen — have experience helping out on the special teams, and it was immediately clear that they would continue to contribute on their new team.
Vigneault knew from the moment Yandle joined the team that he would be a “big-time helper” on the power play. On Sunday, he sent him out with the first unit to run the point, along with Couturier (right), Giroux (left / right), Konecny (slot), and van Riemsdyk (net front). Lindblom went in for van Riemsdyk during the scrimmage, when van Riemsdyk was on team Black.
Ellis also took a turn at the point. Vigneault said he hasn’t made up his mind who between Ellis and Yandle will be on the first unit yet. A lot of that will be determined by chemistry.
When Ellis went out with the second team, two other new players, Brassard and Atkinson, joined him. Brassard switched in and out with Frost in the slot, while Atkinson showed off his sniper skills on the wing. Provorov took turns with Ellis at the point while also repping on the left. Farabee rounded out the second group.
Ristolainen, meanwhile, worked primarily with the penalty-kill unit. Many players who would also contribute on that unit practiced the power play instead.
The Flyers practiced special team situations in drills as well as during the scrimmage. They’ll continue to go over the units when they return to practice Wednesday.
“You have to be good penalty killers and you have to be good on the power play,” Vigneault said. “Power play has to give you momentum. We’ve got some good elements. It’s up to us here to make it work.”
Giroux showed off his competitive spirit as he put the moves on the Flyers’ sixth line, which contained mostly prospects. Team Black’s line escaped unscathed, other than its pride, when Giroux hit the iron. … Carter Hart and Martin Jones started in goal before switching out with Samuel Ersson and Felix Sandstrom, respectively. Vigneault liked what he saw from his goalies, who had a “couple of really good saves.” … The Flyers split into two groups ahead of the scrimmage. The first group contained the most likely roster spots. Cam York was not in that group. … The Flyers will play the Islanders at Wells Fargo Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday. It will air on NBCSP+.