Led by Jeff Carter’s two-goal effort and the backstopping of the young Russian phenom, Sergei Bobrovsky, the Philadelphia Flyers easily got past the New York Islanders by a score of 3-1. With the team’s chemistry improving each game and some much needed players coming off of injury, they cruised to an easy victory.
With a power-play that’s gone 0 for 13 and a penalty kill that’s allowed five goals in 20 attempts, it’s been their five-on-five play that’s helped the Flyers excel.
The orange and black started early, pressing deep and establishing a cycle game. Team chemistry is allowing players to find one another on the ice. It’s allowed Nik Zherdev, paired with centerman Claude Giroux, to be tied for league lead in goals during the preseason. It’s a good bet Zherdev will lead the team in goals this season.
Andreas Nodl was also place on their line to jump start his offensive game—no dice. With Ian Laperriere out, most likely for the season, Nodl has a good chance to make the team as a fourth liner. He’s got to beat out Bill Guerin and Ben Holmstrom. My money’s on Nodl. Sorry, Guerin.
Two players fresh off of injury recovery added instant help. Ville Leino, the former Finnish Elite League MVP, doesn’t appear to have lost a step from last season’s playoffs. Leino assisted on both of Carter’s goals.
It looked like the Flyers defense was going to be its strongest asset, but now the offense is clicking on all cylinders.
The Flyers ailing penalty kill saw immediate improvement with Blair Betts, a defensive specialist, in the lineup. He turned the Islanders power-play into a ping-pong match across the blue-line. Although the Islanders only goal was scored on the power-play Betts was not on the ice. It squirted through Bobrovsky’s five-hole.
With Michael Leighton on the shelf, due to a back injury, Bobrovsky is getting valuable minutes in a Flyers jersey and he’s taken full advantage of it.
“He’s quick,” were the first words out of Peter Laviolette’s, coach of the Flyers, mouth when asked about the Russian netminder. “He shows poise in the net.”
Leighton improved in every game and the way he battles in front for pucks is unlike a rookie. The organization will have to sort things out by the end of preseason, but look for Bobrovsky to begin with the Adirondack Phantoms, the Flyers AHL affiliate, and receive tons of work their. He needs time to develop and mature for the greuling 82 game NHL season, and unless there are more injuries, there’s no need to rush.
Cleared from hip-surgery, Johan Backlund was back on the bench to back-up Bobrovsky. His play looked acceptable during warm-ups and in all likelihood he’ll be the Flyers backup to Brian Boucher, while Leighton is healing. With only two preseason games remaining, look for Backlund to get at least one start.
Even without Chris Pronger in the lineup, the defense is shaping up, but no one has been more of a surprise than Erik Gustafsson. He won the Best Offensive Defensman award in his conference while playing at Northern Michigan University in 2008-09. It was believed he’d be a great puck moving defenseman for the Phantoms this season, but his active stick and ability to break up plays has been compared to Kimmo Timonen. If Gustafsson can crack a spot as a top six defenseman, that’ll create a battle between Sean O’Donnell, Matt Walker, and Oskars Bartulis for the final spot leaving the other two to be waived or moved.
The Flyers next take on the Buffalo Sabres Friday, October 1, at 7:00PM.