The most impressive thing about the Flyers' 4-0 preseason win over the Islanders on Tuesday night was the play of the their young defense and the outstanding work by the penalty kill.
Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers each gave a strong accounting of themselves while veteran Andrew MacDonald proved why experience helps with some terrific PK work during an extended five-on-three Islanders power play in the third period.
“Overall, they did a good job,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I look at some of the opportunities we gave up, especially in the second period, we gave up three or four Grade A opportunities that Mase (goalie Steve Mason) was great on, but I put those on our forwards.
“We’re still not into regular-season form on our play without the puck. I thought as a whole, the group of defensemen did a good job and the young guys in there were good tonight.”
Sanheim had strong plays the entire game from the point and picked up two assists (see highlights). He gets the puck quickly on net and joins the play up front.
“It took me a little bit, even in this game,” Sanheim said. “As I play more, I started to jump up more and you start to see my game more. It’s something I want to bring to this next level.”
Provorov logged 21:43 of ice time following nearly 29 minutes at New Jersey. He had 5:17 on the PK. Some of his clears weren’t deep or hard enough, at times, possibly because of fatigue.
He also took a bad boarding hit on Joshua Ho-Sang in the third period that set up an Isles five-on-three power play. It became extended because of a trip call to Myers but MacDonald did yeoman’s work on the extended PK.
Provorov quarterbacks the first-unit man advantage for now until Shayne Gostisbehere joins the crowd. He had some very skillful passes. The Russian can find the seam up the ice on the breakout quickly and had a no-look, hard pass to Nick Cousins in the second period for a quality one-timer on net.
Expect Provorov to handle the second-unit power play during the season, should he make the roster.
Although the Flyers, using a better NHL lineup, were lacking for offensive chances early against the Isles' "B" squad, they found their way in the final four minutes of the opening period.
First, Dale Weise had one of those pinball goals as a bouncing puck hit a couple of players in the slot, including goalie Chris Gibson, to make it 1-0 during four-on-four play.
That was the Flyers' first goal of preseason in three games. A little more than a minute later, Wayne Simmonds scored off a rebound just as a Flyers power play ended. Simmonds had two goals in the game, including a wrister from the left circle to open the final period.
Smallish (5-foot-7) — but bullish — centerman Andy Miele, a former Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s top player (Miami-Ohio), made it 3-0, out-battling Thomas Hickey for the rebound of Michael Raffl’s shot.
Simmonds is wearing a visor for the first time. It’s an experiment for now.
“Everyone is all over me about it,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. It wasn’t too bad tonight. The only thing is trying to track pucks in the sky when you are getting the glare from the lights. A little bit of an adjustment."
He said neither his mother nor girlfriend had pushed him as hard to wear the shield as someone else: “Ron Hextall,” he said flatly. “He gave me a call.”
Because of his tenacious play in the slot where sticks are high and pucks are deflected, a shield makes sense.
“Yeah, I think so, being that front guy and doing work on the PK,” he said. “Getting sticks in lanes like that, the game is really fast and pucks get deflected.
“Sometime you don’t know where they’re going and can’t react to that. Obviously, the shield is good for that."
He added he would wear the shield in a fight, too.
“Every time I fight and someone has a shield on, I’m at a disadvantage so I guess this evens it up,” he said.
Weise did a nice job sticking up for teammates late during a melee after a Ben Holmstrom crosscheck to linemate Nick Cousins. “It was a bad crosscheck and you’re defending your teammates,” he said. “The ref was in the way and I kind of went overtop him. That’s what I’m about. Guys take liberties on my linemates, I’ll stand up for them.” … Matt Read had just 6:54 ice time through two periods. Fourth-liner Boyd Gordon had more ice time there — 9:39 — but Read finished with 13:55 to Gordon’s 13:41. More than half of Gordon’s ice time was on the penalty kill. … Goalie Steve Mason faced some point-blank chances among the first 17 shots he faced and finished with 23-save shutout.