Well, the Philadelphia Flyers have now lost for the third time in four games after dropping both of their matchups with the New Jersey Devils. The silver lining, though, is that their last two losses were each by one goal only while missing some key players on both sides of the puck.
In the 3-2 overtime loss to New Jersey, the Flyers got a better idea of which players competing for spots will be staying, and which will be going to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Bobby Brink has been one player who has been making that decision far more difficult than anticipated.
#3. Brink might be the real deal
After previously featuring in a top-six role in the preseason, the Flyers had Brink play in more of a depth or checking line role against the Devils, and he flourished. A line of Brink, Noah Cates, and Wade Allison played 9:34 at 5-on-5 and outshot their opponents 14-5 – good for a Corsi-for percentage of 73 percent. That’s a staggering figure, but they weren’t even the Flyers’ best line on the night. Instead, it goes to show that the University of Denver star can perform anywhere in the lineup.
Brink finished the night with a primary assist in 17:10 of ice time, and was a much better creator than a goal threat against the Devils. His 0.05 individual expected goals was the worst among the Flyers, but it’s the complete performance that matters.
The 22-year-old hasn’t necessarily cemented himself over Tyson Foerster, but he’s virtually forced his way onto this roster. It would be a real shock if Brink didn’t have some kind of role on the Flyers come opening night.
#2. Cam Atkinson, the first line left wing?
Cam Atkinson finally made his preseason debut and highly-anticipated return to NHL action, and it was a largely successful cameo. The 34-year-old spent some time paired up with Matt Brown and Tanner Laczynski, but Rocky Thompson eventually moved him up to play with Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny.
Together, the latter trio outshot their opponents 13-3 and owned a team-best 81.25 percent Corsi-for percentage. Atkinson managed to play 20:34 in his first game back, which was second to only Couturier among the Flyers’ forwards.
It wasn’t the most earth-shattering performance from the former Columbus Blue Jacket, but it was successful, to say the least. If Atkinson can play at a top line level the whole year, Flyers fans will be in for a real treat.
#1. Emil Andrae makes a real case for an NHL roster spot
After a slow start to the preseason, Emil Andrae has been starting to build his case for an NHL roster spot. The pint-sized defenseman was constantly activating in the offensive zone against the Devils, and earned his assist by sneaking a puck up the wall in the neutral zone to Wade Allison, who executed a perfect one-two with Brink skating downhill towards the net.
Development coach Riley Armstrong had previously compared Andrae to Kimmo Timonen, and that comparison might not be as farfetched as we think. Andrae led the Flyers in power play ice time with 3:04, and also led the team in total ice time, chewing up a hefty 23:49.
The 21-year-old tied Ronnie Attard with the most individual Corsi-for with 10, and tied Adam Ginning for the third-most Corsi-for at 5-on-5 with 25. Only Attard (26) and Couturier (30) had more. Furthermore, Andrae’s Corsi-for percentage of 73.53 percent at 5-on-5 was fifth-best among Flyers and second to only Ginning among Flyers defensemen, but Andrae played over four minutes more than his Swedish compatriot at even strength.
The Flyers dominated the shot battle and the game in general, but it’s the big numbers up on the scoreboard that ultimately matter the most. However, if Philly can get successful seasons out of Andrae, Atkinson, and Brink, they won’t have to worry too much about moral victories and other things of the sort.