Leafs vs. Flyers, 2011-12 preseason. A great battle of siblings was upon us. Schenn vs. Schenn. Kessel vs. Kessel. Brother versus bother. Period vs period. Jekyll vs. Hyde. Preseason vs. expectations. Scary stuff.
The first order of business is telling you how happy I am that Colton Orr is finally fully healed. Recently, as seen with the cases of Marc Savard and Sidney Crosby, we have been reminded how detrimental these types of injuries can be to player careers. Itâ€™s particularly difficult to battle such injuries if youâ€™re playing a role that Colton has been playing throughout his NHL career. Iâ€™d imagine enforcers owe much of their mental focus to confidence, which is a thing difficult to have coming off a serious concussion. It takes great courage to step into that role immediately after that kind of setback.
Speaking of fourth line guys, Darryl Boyce played a hard nosed, gritty game. The kind of which will get him a regular spot on the roster. He will give you 100% every single game and if you donâ€™t like that, go watch a game where people excel at not giving their 100%.
James Reimer played a fantastic first period, made a lot of saves on the Philadelphia powerplay and single-handedly kept the game tied. Zac Rinaldo finally squeezed over the blueline with our defense (Luke Schenn) caught puck watching and scored with a sweet backhand. Letâ€™s be honest, that goal was coming for a while. He never gave up, making some good saves late in the game. The defense let him down today.
The powerplay didnâ€™t look that bad early on, but looked worse as the game progressed. It certainly looked worse than yesterday night with Gardiner and Liles moving the puck. Kesselâ€™s overhandling of the puck seems to slow the game down when on the PP which also slows down our player movement and allows the defense to get set up. On the other hand Kadri looks money on the PP, making nice, smart, simple decisions. So far, heâ€™s been arguably our best player in preseason.
Jeff Finger played a somewhat solid game tonight. He looked pretty calm and didnâ€™t get caught out of position on too many occasions. Oh, that was just the first period? Played worse later on. Cody Franson impressed defensively and offensively, putting a good number of shots on Bobrovsky. If he continues playing like this, top four minutes are not out of the question. It’s a stretch, but not out of the question.
The Kessel, Connolly, Lupul line didnâ€™t look great, not going to lie. Connolly looked a little bit slow tonight, but overall they arenâ€™t going to be judged based on one preseason game. Every time you bring in a fresh centerman, the line needs time to adjust and gain some chemistry. Iâ€™m not worried about them getting chemistry playing together, they are too good not to get it, but I didnâ€™t like the fact that Connolly looked out of place conditioning wise.
Luke Schenn will want to forget this game as quickly as he can. Komisarek played a very good first period but then came the second and the only time I noticed him is him failing to clear Simmonds out in front of the net for the second Philly goal. Pressure on the puck carrier also failed us on that particular play.
Colborne played fairly well, but similar to the Ottawa game his play dropped off as the game went on. Needs a little bit more consistency in his game. Still adjusting to the speed of the game, he coughed the puck up in the slot to set up the fourth Philly goal. A rookie mistake, heâ€™ll learn from it â€“ nothing more.
No need to panic. We outshot Philly 27-22 but had nothing to show for it. This was the first real preseason test, as the Flyers iced a pretty good lineup. But, itâ€™s only preseason. Plenty of it left and it means very little in terms of team play right off the bat. Pumped after last nightâ€™s win? You should still be in that mood because, simply put, Iâ€™m more excited about Kadri, Gardiner, Frattin, Colborne etc. playing well than Iâ€™m worried about Connolly, Kessel and Lupul not producing right away. Chemistry takes time, especially when you bring in a new centerman.