Pos­i­tive signs in opener

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Wayne Fish

VOORHEES, N.J. — While we’ve only seen seven games that didn’t count and one that did, it’s prob­a­bly not too early to make some ob­ser­va­tions on these new-look Fly­ers

One thing that jumps right out at you is the way this year’s team seems to take ac­count­abil­ity for its play, be it good or bad.

Case in point: Af­ter Travis Konecny’s spec­tac­u­lar py­rotech­nics dis­play in Fri­day’s 4-3 sea­son-open­ing win over Chicago in Prague, the first thing out of his mouth was no mat­ter how well he per­forms of­fen­sively, he’s de­ter­mined to play the game “the right way.’’

If some­one that gifted at scor­ing goals is will­ing to say the cor­rect things about re­spon­si­ble two-way hockey, don’t you think the rest of the young guys are go­ing to pick up on that?

An­other idea to pon­der: New coach Alain Vigneault seems to go against a so-called rep­u­ta­tion as be­ing a bit in­flex­i­ble. Here we are in early Oc­to­ber, nearly af­ter a month af­ter the start of train­ing camp and he’s still will­ing to ex­per­i­ment with line com­bi­na­tions and de­fense pair­ings.

The play­ers ap­par­ently don’t mind that. For in­stance, de­fense­man Ivan Provorov was paired with Justin Braun in what amounted to a new tan­dem against the Black­hawks. And yet Provorov stated he didn’t mind work­ing with a new part­ner. Af­ter all, he in­di­cated, aren’t we all qual­i­fied NHL de­fense­men? No big deal.

Vigneault brings an im­pres­sive re­sume to the Fly­ers, car­ry­ing a bit of swag­ger we haven’t seen since the days of Peter Lavi­o­lette, who al­ready had his name on the Stan­ley Cup be­fore he ar­rived in Philadel­phia.

Don’t think for a minute the play­ers haven’t picked up on that air of con­fi­dence. For the past few weeks, all they’ve talked about is how quick and yet de­mand­ing the prac­tices are. Haven’t heard that kind of talk in a while.

As for spe­cial teams, it re­ally is too pre­ma­ture to make an eval­u­a­tion but early signs in­di­cate the Fly­ers are headed in the right di­rec­tion, at least on the penalty kill.

As­sis­tant coach Mike Yeo has his kill units play­ing a bit more ag­gres­sively than the Fly­ers have in the past. It might take a while for the Fly­ers to get ac­cus­tomed to this style, but it should pay off in the long run.

As for the power play, not enough can be said about the im­por­tance of the ef­fi­ciency of this unit.

As­sis­tant coach Michel Ther­rien, pos­si­bly tak­ing a cue from Vigneault’s “let’s get things mov­ing’’ ap­proach, is putting a lot of em­pha­sis on puck move­ment and mis­di­rec­tion.

Let’s face it: Any power play with Claude Giroux, Jake Vo­racek, Sean Cou­turier, James van Riems­dyk, and Shayne Gostis­be­here on it should not be fin­ish­ing 21st in the NHL like it did last year.

A lot of the credit for this new over­all team at­ti­tude goes to gen­eral man­ager Chuck Fletcher, who brought in Kevin Hayes, Braun, and Matt Niska­nen dur­ing the off­sea­son.

Don’t for­get rook­ies Con­nor Bun­na­man and Carsen Twaryn­ski, who beat out much big­ger names such as Joel Farabee, Mor­gan Frost, Mikhail Vorobyev and Ger­man Rubtsov for ros­ter spots.

Adding to this, by the way, is the fact Vigneault has been will­ing to go against what some said was a bias for not trust­ing young play­ers. If that were the case, then why were the two fresh­men getting dou­ble-digit min­utes play­ing time in the Chicago game?

All this will be put to the test in rather short­order fash­ion: Af­ter a home game against the Devils on Wed­nes­day, the Fly­ers go back on the road for a tough three-game trip to Van­cou­ver, Cal­gary, Ed­mon­ton be­fore re­turn­ing for equally dif­fi­cult home games against Dal­las and Ve­gas.

So while there is cause for cau­tious op­ti­mism, the Fly­ers know slow starts can force them to chase post­sea­son play.

Maybe the good feel­ing of this re­vamped out­fit can carry through the fall months for a change. For the Fly­ers, it cer­tainly would be a wel­come re­ver­sal of for­tune.

For more from Wayne Fish, see Fly­ingFishHoc­key.com.

BRIAN CASSELLA/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Black­hawks cen­ter Jonathan Toews, left, bat­tles Fly­ers cen­ter Sean Cou­turier for the puck Fri­day at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Repub­lic.

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