Another day, another fight.
This bout, featuring Jody Shelley and Jay Rosehill offered little along the lines of metaphorical significance about the return of hockey, though.
Rosehill came to the aid of his teammate, Darryl Boyce, who had just been flattened into the boards by Shelley. Shelley, you could say, was doing his best to illustrate a textbook example of the type of hit the league is trying to eliminate from hockey. In this regard, he did a good job and will likely be rewarded with a lengthy suspension. Disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan, will probably make an example out of Shelley — and rightfully so. The hit was dangerous and unwarranted.
Fans around the league are clamoring for as stiff a penalty as possible for Shelley. Meanwhile, many Flyers fans are hopeful, not that he will elude justice but that he will be gone for good. Though Shelley is a likable character guy, his contract is a burden on the cap-strapped Flyers and his role is nearing extinction.
Like it or not, Shelley is an anchor that holds Peter Laviolette back from being able to roll four lines. Losing him, whether it be to a suspension or waivers, opens up a spot for a more versatile player to make the team. The Flyers could easily replace Shelley with an agitator like Zac Rinaldo, a skilled fighter like Tom Sestito, or someone with more of a scoring touch, like Sean Couturier, Matt Read, or Tomas Hyka.
Hyka, 18, was the standout player on an otherwise lackluster team tonight and he was just as impressive as he was in the rookies game against the Washington Capitals. According to Anthony SanFilippo, Hyka was cut from the Flyers by accident and was also on the team’s radar during the 2011 NHL draft. He is currently without a contract but could (or could not) earn an entry level deal soon that could possibly slide to next season.
Hyka tallied a beautiful goal and was the only Flyer to finish with a +2 in the game.
Tonight’s effort was forgettable but eerily reminiscent of the problems that plagued the 2010-2011 Flyers. The team was lethargic. The effort was mediocre. The players took bad penalties. They played down to the level of their opponent. The goaltending was not, well, elite.
With their backs against the wall and precious few minutes left on the game clock, the Flyers finally sprung to life and played to their potential. Erik Gustafsson scored with under two minutes left in the third but the effort was too little, too late. Matt Frattin scored his second of the night, an empty netter, to put the Leafs up 4-2 and ice the game with seconds remaining.
After last night’s dominant effort in a 4-0 shutout against Toronto, tonight’s game was a letdown but there is no reason to be concerned. Just like last night’s game was not an indication that Sergei Bobrovsky will never let in another goal, this game does not mean that Ilya Bryzgalov will routinely let in stoppable shots.
The outcome of a preseason game is meaningless and there is not much that can be expected from a group of guys who have rarely, if ever, played together before tonight.