The Flyers iced James Van Riemsdyk, Matt Carle and Sergei Bobrovsky in tonight’s preseason opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The three players represented the few remnants of last year’s team, with the remainder of the line-up filled with offseason acquisitions, prospects and invite Adam Mair. The resulting 4-0 win at the Air Canada Centre raised a number of questions about this year’s roster, and who should be given a second look moving forward.
- Matt Read- I reviewed the hype surrounding Read earlier this summer and wondered if he was really ready for primetime following a short period in the AHL. After his performance today, Read stands out as a clear favorite for the 13th forward position. He was boss on the penalty kill and looked like he could handle the workload just fine.
- Zac Rinaldo, a player I’ve been wary of for some time, has repeatedly said that he wants to be taken more seriously as a forward than as a fighter. He scored the first goal of the night, sliding across the crease and slipping the puck underneath Leafs goaltender James Reimer. Rinaldo was surprisingly calm throughout the game, and drew a penalty against sniper Phil Kessel. I’m still hesitant to say he’s ready for the NHL, but this was a great first step in proving that he can be two-dimensional, as well as not a nutcase.
- Jakub Voracek looked a lot like Ville Leino in the way that he dangled the puck in the offensive zone. If he can finish the season with 20 goals and 35 assists (which is just 5 points better than his best season), he will make Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula look like an idiot.
- Wayne Simmonds was a beast all game, scoring the second goal of the night on a deflection from Matt Carle during a powerplay. Simmonds’ play in front of the net is what JVR needs to mimic once the season starts, and hopefully the two can bring the powerplay back from mediocrity.
- Mike Testwuide scored the third goal of the night, but the play wouldn’t have developed if not for the hard work of Sean Couturier. Couturier also scored the fourth goal of the game on a wrap around attempt. I may have misjudged him during training camp, but I still don’t know where he fits on the team this season.
- Testwuide, for what it’s worth, looked very good out on the ice. He struggled with the Phantoms during the first half of the 2010-11 season, but seemed to find his game in the second half. He will likely need another year in the AHL, but he has taken a great step in the right direction.
- The line of Tom Sestito, Harry Zolnierczyk and Adam Mair looked decent tonight, but none of them stood out as being in contention for the 13th forward position, other than the fact that Sestito beat the ever loving crap out of former Flyer Joffrey Lupul.
- Brayden Schenn was kept off the scoreboard, but he led the Flyers in faceoff percentage. My concerns about his filling the third line center position might be melodramatic after all.
- Blake Kessel showed a lot of promise as an offensive defenseman, but his play in the defensive end needs some polish. I don’t think he’ll push for a roster spot this season, but he could be a legitimate candidate to step up next season.
- Matt Walker, Oskars Bartulis, Andreas Lilja and Erik Gustafsson all played on the back end tonight. Of the four, Bartulis looked the weakest. Walker finished as a +2 while Barts had an even +/-, despite Barts playing over 5 minutes more.
As a final thought, I was preparing to write a post about how I felt Michael Leighton should be given a chance to fight for the back-up position. After tonight’s performance, though, I want Bob to fight Ilya Bryzgalov for the starting position. His puck handling looked much better than it did all of last season and his composure stayed steady throughout the game. Bob, stopping all 27 shots he faced, earned his first shutout of the year (although, yes, it is just a preseason game).
The Flyers face the Maple Leafs again tomorrow night. The rosters have not been set for either team, but expect to see Ben Holmstrom, Michael Nylander, and Bryzgalov in the line-up.
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