PHILADELPHIA – It was only an exhibition game with a mix of rookies and veterans in both lineups but that didn’t prevent the Flyers from feeling good about Carter Hart’s first action of the season.
The goaltender, scheduled to work the first two periods of Tuesday night’s game at the Wells Fargo Center, allowed just one goal to last year’s Eastern Conference finalists, the New York Islanders as the Flyers were dealt a 3-2 loss.
Hart stopped 17 of 18 shots and looked sharp in making a number of saves from close range.
After last season’s disappointing finish, Hart looks to regain his form from two years back and the Flyers hope that is the case.
At the morning skate in Voorhees, N.J., coach Alain Vigneault said he’s been impressed with Hart’s work in training camp.
“He would be the first to tell you he feels good about where he is right now,’’ Vigneault said. “It seems to me he’s focused but he’s also having great fun. There’s no doubt that on the ice he wants to do well. He’s done everything that’s been asked of him.’’
When Hart plays with confidence, he looks like a different player.
“It was nice to get back into it,’’ Hart said. “Into that game mentality, all the stuff you do on game day. It’s been a while. It was nice to get back out, the fans cheering us on. It was nice to see. We were playing in front of 2,500 last year. It was great to see the support from them tonight.’’
Egor Zamula fired in a long shot at 5:14 of the second period to get the scoring started for the Flyers but Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech countered for the Islanders at 8:34.
Rookie Samuel Ersson played in goal for the Flyers in the third period. Noah Dobson scored at 6:27 to give the Islanders a lead in the third period but Maksim Sushko answered that with 5:30 to play on a nice wrap-around shot. It took only 22 seconds of overtime for New York’s Anthony Beauvillier to notch the game-winner.
Derick Brassard played his first game, albeit a preseason one, for the Flyers and came away with a positive feeling even though it ended up a loss.
“I feel like we got some looks,’’ said Brassard, who was paired with his old Columbus Blue Jacket pal, Cam Atkinson. “We play these games to get our timing right. We’re going to have like three or four to get on track. We just have to improve everyday to be ready for the first game of the season.’’
First games are always difficult, particularly since it had been a long summer without hockey.
“We talked about it before the game, keep it simple,’’ Brassard said. “Try to get everyone involved early on. We haven’t played games for a long time. Summer hockey is a lot different. We just have to turn our brain, try to play on the inside and make small little plays.
>Something to prove
A number of Flyers personnel, including Vigneault, are walking around camp wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Something to Prove.’’ Pretty easy to figure out after last year’s washout.
“This,’’ said Vigneault, “is what our guys are walking around in this year, “Something to prove” and then the back is pretty simple, “got to get to work.” That’s what it is. Everyone on our team, coaches have something to prove, young players coming in have something to prove. Veteran Philly players have something to prove, and new veteran Philly players have something to prove. We all have something to prove individually or collectively. The only way to do it is by getting to work, which is what we are trying to do.’’
Despite an open-door policy for the first time since March, 2020, only about an estimated 8,000 fans showed up for the first preseason game at the Wells Fargo Center. Except for snow storms, this is about as empty has been for a game in recent memory.
>Extra camp time paying off
The Flyers didn’t have a real training camp before last season but this year, with only six preseason games, there is plenty of time to work on things.
“This year in camp I think we have 6 games versus 8 so I think that gives us more time to make some adjustments,’’ James van Riemsdyk said. “As the year goes on, we know there will be times where things get a little stale or flat, so you have to be able to adjust on the fly. Those are always good things to run through in training camp and exhibition season, so we have some extra time do to stuff like that. Ultimately, that is the coaching staff and management that figure out what kind of mix and balance they are trying to find within the lines and lineup.”