UNIONDALE, N.Y. – While it was only the first preseason game and just a handful of veterans took part, the way Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Islanders unfolded highlighted what the Flyers have to work on this season.
New York scored a pair of power-play goals in the first period, bringing back bad memories for the Flyers from last season when the team finished in the bottom five in the NHL for penalty killing.
Kieffer Bellows and Cal Clutterbuck scored against Flyers starting goalie Anthony Stolarz and that was more than enough for the Islanders in a game at Nassau Coliseum (now officially called NYCB Live by its corporate name), their former home for decades before a move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center a few years ago.
No doubt the Flyers are going to experiment with both personnel and strategy with their penalty killing during the preseason.
Yet it remains to be seen just how many deck chairs can be shuffled on a team which has had problems in this area for several years.
Defenseman Robert Hagg was on the ice for both of the Islander power-play goals and said it all comes down to effort.
“I don’t think we competed hard enough,’’ Hagg said, mindful that the Islanders had a bunch of NHL veterans in the lineup while the Flyers had only six. “You have to battle as hard as you can and we didn’t do it.
“Of course it’s frustrating. You want to have a good PK. If the puck needs to go down 200 feet, it has to go 200 feet. It can’t be stopped at the red line. If me as a defenseman has to do something, I have to do it, not circle around and let others do the job. So we have to stick with the plan and work on it. . .that’s the only way it’s going to get better.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol is well aware of the situation.
“Obviously, that’s the most asked question of the summer, so we go to work, we do our job and that’s where we’re at today,’’ Hakstol said the other day when the Flyers spent some extra time on penalty killing in drills. “It’s part of our work day and we got out, we were able to get a little bit of detail on the PK.
“What that allows for, for us even with large numbers, we can at least have some structure that we’re starting to work off of and build off of. Some of the players that are going to get a new opportunity to be part of the PK have some of the detail and structure in mind that we want to see in a game.’’
One of the players in this trial is Travis Konecny, who was on the ice when Cal Clutterbuck cleaned up a rebound against Stolarz at 15:43 of the first for the Islanders’ second goal.
Konecny has virtually no experience in penalty killing at the NHL level but the Flyers figure his speed and puck savvy can make him a threat to steal pucks and maybe even score shorthanded.
“I played it (PK) at World Juniors,’’ Konecny said. “You can see I made a mistake there on the second goal. So yeah, we’re going to keep working on it. I’m going to try and do whatever I can to learn it. Put it in my brain, try to dig it in there.’’
Put it this way, it can’t get much worse for the Flyers than finishing 29th in penalty killing as they did last year.
Kieffer Bellows provided the other power-play goal at 6:55 of the first on a shot from the left hash marks.
“They’ve got a good power play and they worked a little harder than us today,’’ defenseman Philippe Myers said. “Our own mistakes cost us.’’
New York scored a more conventional goal in the second period, this one against Alex Lyon, who spelled Stolarz at the halfway mark. Sebastian Aho did the honors, with the defenseman sending a long screen shot past Lyon at 16:29.
At the end of the day, it looks like the penalty kill will continue to be a work in progress.
“We had a good PK later in the game,’’ Hakstol said. “Guys got a little rhythm going. We held the line, did some real good things on that PK.’’
The Flyers return to action on Monday night when they open the home portion of their preseason schedule with a rematch against the Islanders. . .Defenseman Travis Sanheim left the game with an upper-body injury, the extent of which will not be known until further examination on Monday