The Flyers faced the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight in their second preseason game at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario. This venue has become a preseason fixture over the last four seasons, and the Flyers looked much better this time around than last year. Here are my thoughts from the game.
- Jeff Carter, a former London Knight, played on the top line with Scott Hartnell. Hartnell played like his demons from last season were behind him. During the last 4-on-4 of the first period (there were numerous coincidental penalties), Hartnell snuck past Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn to take a long pass and go 1-on-1 with Leafs back-up goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. He had a decent deke move and shot, but Gustavsson has a ridiculous reach and managed to block the shot with his right pad while sliding the opposite direction. He also played much more responsibly, staying out of the box all 60 minutes.
- I was a surprised on Wednesday by the number of comments in the media that labeled tryout Bill Guerin as invisible or tired-looking in the first preseason game, but his play looked much more noticabely dulled today. He scored the second goal of the game off a fluke centering pass through the slot that bounced off two Leafs and reversed direction ,as well as the second shootout goal.
- Prospect Ben Holmstrom got his second start in two games and played on a line with prospect Mike Testwuide and Phantom Jon Kalinski. Holmstrom had a very strong game, but still needs some polish as he was picked off a few too many times. He will likely be one of the first Phantoms to get the call-up as injuries accrue during the season. Testwuide, Kalinski, and prospect Andrew Rowe played adequately.
- Phantom defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon also had an impressive game. He scored the first goal of the game on a fluke bounce off the boards that went in the net off the back of Gustavsson’s skate. He also fought back against Leaf forward Christian Hanson in the second period and took him down. Bourdon’s development is promising and may earn him a spot on the roster next season.
- Defensemen Matt Walker and Oskars Bartulis were back on the ice for the second game to battle for the seventh defenseman position. Bartulis appeared to have the better overall game, as Walker made too many blind passes for my comfort. Walker had better composure when the game went into overtime, though. It really comes down to whether you want an overpaid seventh defenseman with ample NHL experience or a promising, cheap young defenseman who may be more of a liability at the moment.
- Prospect Zac Rinaldo wasn’t as much of a liability as I thought he would be, but he still managed to “game misconduct” himself off the ice in the second period after destroying Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn. I swear I caught him laughing in the first period after clearing Leafs goon Jay Rosehill out of the crease and mixing it up with him too.
- James VanRiemsdyk was awarded a penalty shot in the second period, but was thwarted by Leafs goaltending prospect James Reimer (no relation) who looked fantastic.
- This time last year, goaltender Brian Boucher looked terrible at the Labatt Centre. Based off today’s performance, though, I would pull an Andy Reid and have him start the season over goaltender Michael Leighton. Unlike Leighton, Boosh was positionally sound for the entirety of the first two periods, giving up few rebounds and having an overall calming presence for the team. He made an amazing save on a 3-on-1 before letting one hammer home from Leafs prospect Greg McKegg, who skated right past Flyers defenseman Andres Meszaros.
- Goaltending prospect Sergei Bobrovsky almost had a repeat performance from his first outing with the Flyers. He looked more prepared for sharp angle shots and high traffic shots, scrambling to stop play on a number of occasions as bodies stormed the crease. The goal that he missed came off a deflection during a powerplay, and was the type of goal that just happens. He was later beaten in the shootout by Leafs prospects Nazem Kadri (who’s expected to make the team this season), Luca Caputi (glove side), Christian Hanson (up high) and finally veteran Colby Armstrong (glove side) way in the 11th round. Bobrovsky shined again tonight, and it’s relieving to know the Flyers have a goaltender in the wings who doesn’t have a glaring five-hole.
The Flyers will get a chance at vengeance tomorrow night as they square off against the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.