The Philadelphia Flyers started their 2023 preseason campaign with a whimper, dropping an away decision to the New Jersey Devils by a score of 6-0. The Flyers were outplayed from puck drop, and never truly got a handle on the game at any point.
Philly found themselves in a massive hole early, as Ondrej Palat, Erik Haula, Tyce Thompson, and Alexander Holtz all scored within five minutes of each other, giving the hosts a 4-0 lead in the first period. Nick Seeler dropped the mitts with Brian Halonen, but that scrap was uneventful with both players tumbling to the ice. Halonen rolled his ankle on the way down and missed the rest of the game.
Cal Petersen really struggled in his Flyers debut and failed to show any kind of awareness, anticipation, or rebound control on the Devils’ first four goals. Unless he drastically improves it will be highly unlikely he sticks on the NHL roster.
Cam Atkinson did not play for the Flyers; according to PHLY’s Charlie O’Connor, GM Danny Briere said that Atkinson had a minor lower body issue and the team didn’t want to take any chances. On the other hand, Sean Couturier returned to the ice for the Flyers for the first time since Dec. 2021, but failed to do anything of note.
The former Selke Trophy winner was lined up alongside Joel Farabee and Bobby Brink to start, and Tyson Foerster replaced Brink later. Foerster had some chances playing on this line, but as the final score suggests, nothing came of those. It will be interesting to see whether the Flyers stick with this, or if Owen Tippett or Atkinson change things on that front.
Cam York was one Flyers skater who had a particularly rough game. A bad turnover to Timo Meier allowed the former San Jose Shark to steal the puck and fling it across the slot to a wide open Holtz, who did the rest. In the second period, York took a hooking penalty and Meier and the Devils cashed in on that to widen the gap to 5-0.
Then in the third period, the 2019 first-round pick took another sloppy penalty, hauling down teenager Josh Filmon behind the net away from the puck. He’s going to need to improve in his own zone quickly before head coach John Tortorella makes him pay the price.
Emil Andrae also had a rough game and struggled with turnovers in his own end, but grew into it as the periods got longer. The young Swede also showed off some offensive capability, taking a slapshot that nearly took Vitek Vanecek’s head off. If he can adjust to NHL speed, the Flyers have a player in Andrae.
Felix Sandstrom entered the game in the third period and things were much calmer then. The Swede has a lot to prove this year, and he’s now got a leg up on Petersen. He wasn’t perfect, as Michael McLeod beat him with a silky move on a breakaway, but the four Flyers players passively idling in the neutral zone getting beat by Dougie Hamilton’s saucer pass didn’t make Sandstrom’s job any easier.
At the end of the night, the Flyers were out-shot 34-21, won only 41 percent of their draws, and went 0/3 with the man advantage. They were the NHL’s worst team on the power play last season, but judgment should be withheld until players like Atkinson, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Tippett get involved later on.
Two power play units the Flyers ran were Brink, Couturier, Foerster, York, and Farabee, and Morgan Frost, Olle Lycksell, Wade Allison, Andrae, and Elliot Desnoyers. Coach Ian Laperriere juggled things around each period, but neither unit particularly excelled at anything. Farabee, however, looked extremely sharp at both even strength and on the power play. He’ll be in for a big season for Philadelphia if things go well.
At the bottom of the Flyers’ lineup, Matt Brown played an extremely effective game and was buzzing all over the ice. It would be a huge surprise if he doesn’t get bigger opportunities later in the preseason, especially since he was unlucky to hit the post and not come away with a goal tonight.
Wade Allison was his usual self, playing sound defense and keeping things flowing offensively, but he got blown up twice near the Devils’ cage. One hit came from defenseman Kevin Bahl near the left circle, and the other came later by Thompson on the backcheck near the Devils’ crease.
The Flyers will surely tinker with some things ahead of their next preseason game which will be on Wednesday, Sept. 27 against the New York Islanders at 7 p.m. This will be Philadelphia’s second of three consecutive away preseason games; their adjustments will need to come on the fly.