Some observations for your morning…
Well gang, the Flyers played their second game of the back to back last night with very much their B squad, against a more loaded Islanders team, in their AHL arena, in a game you could only watch on a sort of lackluster stream on their website and socials. It went about as well as you might have expected. The Flyers showed a bit of flash but the mismatch got them in the end, and they dropped this one 3-0. It was a bit of a yawner, but we do still have some takeaways to hit on before we can finally put this one to bed.
All stats via NHL.com.
A bit of offense was done
It was a bit of a struggle, particularly early on, for the Flyers’ offense to get rolling in this one. And in some ways that makes sense—we had a bunch of new line combinations and the Islanders were a bit more stacked here, so the fact that they didn’t come out with the same level of cohesiveness and jump as we saw from the group on Monday isn’t a massive shock. Things just weren’t clicking quite as well for this group. That said, the Flyers weren’t without their strong stretches, and as the game went on, we saw them pick up a bit of steam offensively. It still wasn’t enough for them to break into the score sheet and keep themselves from getting shut out, but there certainly want a lack of trying in this one. It’s a rare instance where we can come away feeling like “well, they sure did try” is enough, but that’s kind of where we’re at here. The deck was stacked against the Flyers in this one, but this group did just about everything they could to hang with the Islanders in this one.
Aube-Kubel keeps rolling
After a really strong showing in Monday’s game, Aube-Kubel was given the nod to appear in this game as well, as Alain Vigneault seemed eager to see just what he could do with having even more minutes to work with in this preseason, and he took that chance and ran with it. He brought good energy (even for it being his second game in as many nights) and once again looked engaged in all elements of the game. He didn’t have quite the same offensive flash, but he had some looks, and his transition game continued to stand out.
He did still pick up four of the team’s eight penalty minutes on the evening, which is the sort of down side of his game, but it’s worth noting that these weren’t overly aggressive penalties, or coming as a result of his pressing in this game, sometimes it just happens. All the same, it was a bit of a mixed bag, but it was clear he was keeping his momentum rolling.
A sneaky interesting 13th forward battle
We’ve been talking a lot about some of these training camp battles, and who will slot in where in the lineup for the forwards, given the injuries they’ve taken, and things do seem to be falling into place here. With how he’s been used (and how we know Vigneault loves his veteran stability) Nate Thompson feels as close to a lock for the 4C job as you’re going to get at this point.
And that means all that’s left is the battle for that 13th forward spot to start the season. The easy guess for that role is Connor Bunnaman, who had a solid game on Monday, and like Aube-Kubel was given a chance to play in last night’s game as well, and did well in that showing. His game wasn’t a flashy one, but he was still effective, as he was strong on the forecheck, brought some good speed, and helped to set up a few nice looks for his line.
It feels like he’s pretty close to locking down that job as well, but it is worth noting that German Rubtsov, who isn’t far out of the mix, did have himself a quietly very solid game last night as well. He was skating well, made some nice defensive plays to break up chances, and almost had a very nice scoring chance, which started because he came in hard on the forecheck and put pressure on Cory Schneider and was able to force a turnover. Is that enough to propel him up and over Bunnaman on the depth chart here? Maybe not. But it should be enough to at least have him still on the radar. There’s upside still here, yet.
Let’s check in with Martin Jones
It’s been something of an up and down preseason for Jones, so as he gets some more reps and hopefully is able to settle in more with his new team, it’s worth checking in to see how he’s doing.
The good news, perhaps, is that he did, well, alright against the Islanders last night. He faced 30 shots in total and stopped 27 of them, which is not stellar but also not awful. Two of those goals came on the power play and were results of breakdowns and chances in front, and while we might have liked to see a bit more from him in terms of rebound control, we might also have liked to see him getting a little more help from the skaters as well. All in all, though there were a few sequences where he looked a little bit scattered, overall he held up well to an Islanders team that was trying their hardest to test him. He wasn’t lights out, but he was fine, and that’s honestly a takeaway we can be comfortable with, given that talent mismatch with the skaters, and the fact that it’s still the preseason. He’s moving in the right direction.
Should we be worked up?
And, before we go, it’s worth putting this one in context a bit. After Monday’s game, we made a point of saying that we were glad that the Flyers came away with a win in that one and didn’t end up losing to, effectively, the Bruins’ AHL team. It was a talent mismatch and the Flyers had every bit of business taking advantage of it, but last night was the opposite. By and large, last night’s roster was made up of players we expect to see spending the season with the Phantoms, and while we respect how well they competed in this one, and the work they put it, the talent disparity was clear and likely part of the reason they weren’t able to break onto the scoresheet. It certainly would have been something if one or a few players were really able to flash in this game, were able to find some productivity, that would have certainly given them a boost in the coaching staff’s eyes, but the fact that we didn’t quite see that isn’t a huge failure on anyone’s part either. This was a weird game and we can leave it at that. We’ll see a more complete roster on Friday, and we can get more fussed about whatever they do then.