The Philadelphia Flyers lost their second preseason game against the New York Islanders on Sept. 27 by a score of 2-1. The Flyers looked a lot better than they did against the New Jersey Devils in their first game, which is something to note. What were some of the main things to note from this game for the Orange and Black?
Noah Cates Was the Best Player on the Ice
Noah Cates, who was one of the best rookies in the NHL last season, had an outstanding game for the Flyers. Even though the Islanders had several of their regular skaters including Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat, the 24-year-old was arguably the most impressive.
Originally playing wing and switching to center to start the 2022-23 season, he has made a seamless transition thus far. He was the Flyers’ best generator on offense, and his line was consistently in the offensive zone and creating pressure. His forecheck throughout the game was admirable, doing everything from stick lifts to battling along the boards for pucks. He even had the primary assist on the team’s only goal, and it was a nifty no-look pass at that.
Cates was dominant in all three periods. He was solid in the neutral zone, making good entries, and passing the puck well to set up chances for his teammates. With a team that had less than a third of its NHL lineup out on the ice, he did a very good job.
Shorthanded Flyers’ Lineup Not Generating Offense
The Flyers dressed a lot of their American Hockey League (AHL) players in their game against the Islanders. With their opposition having several roster regulars, it was a bit of an unfair matchup from the get-go. Other than Cates’ line with Scott Laughton and Samu Tuomaala, there was virtually no offense at all until the last few minutes of the game where Ryan Poehling potted a goal.
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The Flyers’ shorthanded roster was the biggest reason why they lost the game. While they did outshoot the Islanders 30-19, that doesn’t tell the full story. Most of their chances were easily snuffed out or were a bit off target. With the highest goal scorer at the NHL level on the team being Laughton, who potted 18 in his best season, Philadelphia was destined to see some offensive struggles in the game, especially with 2022-23 Vezina Trophy finalist Ilya Sorokin in net for half of it.
Apart from the team’s first line, the Flyers were sustaining nearly no pressure at all. This is where the Islanders got most of their chances, and the mismatch between top NHL stars and bottom-six forwards or AHL players was put on full display. This shouldn’t really concern the Flyers, but there will be situations where their fourth line will be placed against a top player or line in a regular season game.
Flyers’ Goaltending Was Solid
Getting back to some positives, both Felix Sandstrom and Sam Ersson were great in net for the Flyers. A combination of two goals against on 19 total shots would seem average, but both netminders made several tough saves. Each allowed a goal, but they were both fluky shots that neither netminder really saw.
The Flyers’ backup goaltending battle is set to be a close one, with Cal Petersen, Sandstrom, and Ersson all in the mix. The first of which had a rough game against the Devils, allowing five goals in his appearance. The latter two played well, which could give them an advantage in winning the backup role heading into the season.
Flyers’ Penalty Kill Was Great
The Flyers did a lot of good work on the penalty kill, even though they allowed a goal in the process. Going 75 percent on the penalty kill isn’t necessarily good, but that goal came with some of the Flyers’ AHL depth players on the ice. When the team’s NHL roster players like Garnet Hathaway, Wade Allison, Cates, or Laughton were on the kill, they played well and cleared the puck frequently.
The Islanders didn’t really sustain any pressure on the power play at all when Philadelphia had their top units out. This means that the Flyers could have several options for their shorthanded lines heading into the season, as they were dealing with some legitimate NHL foes in the process.
Flyers Cleaned Up Mistakes From Devils Game
The Flyers looked much better than they did a couple nights prior when they played the Devils. Throughout much of that game, New Jersey was controlling play and generally not letting Philadelphia generate anything at all. Even though the lines on paper were outmatched, the Flyers really held their own in this one.
The goaltending battle between the two teams was close, both penalty kills looked good, neither team had noticeably more odd-man rush chances than the other, and both offenses had instances of prolonged pressure. Nearly all of these things were not true for both teams when Philadelphia was playing in New Jersey. Though the roster from that game is different from the one that played against the Islanders, seeing improvement is still vital at this time of year.
The Flyers’ effort as a whole was admirable, especially with several players who have virtually no chance to make the opening roster this season on the ice, including almost the entirety of the team’s defense. The offense was stale overall, and they could have been better, but with a lineup including more NHL players this shouldn’t be an issue.
The Flyers will once again be on the road for their third preseason game, this time against the Boston Bruins on Friday, Sept. 29. This will be their final game away from their home ice for the rest of the preseason, and it will be the first time the team will be putting their new home uniforms on display outside of training camp scrimmages and drills.