I’m back and settled into this new semester of school and ready for some Flyers hockey. I’ve gotten the chance to watch a few games on TV and attended one of the home games last week.
With the regular season about a week away, the Flyers have been trying out their new talent during the NHL preseason over the past week or two. New guys like Jaromir Jagr, Ilya Bryzgalov, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and Sean Couturier all have had their fair share of play time so far, while returning players look to work on their expanded role this upcoming season. Here’s a few notes about pre-season so far:
Bobs posted a shutout in his first pre-season start. Granted, our skaters dominated most of that game and kept Toronto’s chances slim, but he still looked good in net and made some timely saves. Bryzgalov has let up his fair share of goals so far but has also made some great saves. None of them have been particularly “soft”. If we can somehow find a way to hang on to Bob as our backup this season with the temptation to trade him, I think our goaltending unit will be more than solid to say the least. Who knows if Leighton will be the backup or be waived/sent down to the Phantoms. I’d rather keep the Russian connection between our pipes.
If our newly crowned captain Chris Pronger is available to go on opening night, there will be one spot available on the Flyers blue line. Veteran Andreas Lilja signed this off-season to provide depth, but I think the Flyers will lean to one of their younger players. Walker and Lilja are meant to be scratched every night, and I think Oskars Bartulis or Eric Gustafsson will be filling that role. Bartulis has gotten some playing time over the past two seasons and is well liked by the Flyers organization. Gustafsson’s game is more on the offensive side, with skills in puck control and skating. Both of these guys have done a good job during the pre-season, but I haven’t seen enough to figure out who gets the opening night nod. If Pronger is unavailable, I’m sure Walker or Lilja will be paired with one of these guys for our 3rd pairing. Only time will tell.
New Offensive Faces
Jaromir Jagr has sure shown that he can come back from the NHL so far, netting 3 goals and 2 assists so far. He has shown the ability to take high percentage shots and bury them, and as a plus… he’s been having success on the powerplay. Our powerplay was atrocious last year, and I’ve been hoping Jagr can help revitalize this unit. A line of Jagr and Briere with JVR/Giroux sounds amazing, we will see.
Matt Read has been turning everybody’s heads in camp and pre-season with a tie for the league lead with 6 points. Laviolette has used him in pretty much every facet of the game and it looks like he is a shoe-in for the opening night roster on the 3rd line. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t make the team.
Wayne Simmonds has potted 3 goals as well and has been getting into the dirty parts of the ice and being the high energy player we hoped to get in the Richards trade. Regardless of what happened with him and Avery, I think he will be a great fit on this team. Max Talbot hasn’t done a whole lot to impress me yet, but I think his role will come into play when the season starts and there’s more stability in the locker room.
The young Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn have also been on the ice this pre-season and I think Schenn has a better chance of making the team at this point. Couturier is still a raw talent that will probably need more time outside of the NHL to develop. Schenn may very well make the team, and has been a big part of our penalty kill while displaying the two-way skill that got him touted as such as high prospect. The salary cap will come into play heavily here, so we will see how that works out.
Zac Rinaldo has also shown that he can be our tough guy with some hockey ability this pre-season, and looks to take Shelley’s spot on the 4th line after Shelley got suspended for his cheap shot against the Leafs last week. My projected lines look something like this:
I’m not exactly sure how these will pan out, but I know those guys on the first two lines will be there, just not in that order most likely. Voracek has shown some flash and the ability to set up guys, so he might be a natural with Briere. Jagr fits in that category too, so it all depends on where Lavvy wants to put these guys.
With two pre-season games left, small position and roster tweaks will be made in order to get this team ready to watch the Bruins raise their championship banner on opening night next Thursday. I’ll have more on here shortly before the season opener. Let’s see if this Matt Read guy can make the team or not.