Voorhees, NJ – Looking at just the final score, the Flyers' 8-6 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers in their first preseason game on Saturday was probably an eye-opener for many hockey fans, especially considering that the NHL is instituting, or rather enforcing, strict hooking, holding and interference penalties.
There is no doubt it was a wide-open game, although the final score was not completely indicative of the way the game went, according to Ken Hitchcock.
"It was more a 4-3 game or a 5-4 game," said the Flyers' head coach. There were a lot more good things that happened than not, but you don't want to fall asleep when you're up 6-2. We were playing great when we were up 6-2, and then we kind of fell asleep for three or four minutes.
Philadelphia controlled the game for most of the first two periods, but some defensive breakdowns led to a couple Atlanta goals, which allowed them to get right back into the contest. That flurry of activity was not lost on the Flyers, who got a nice lesson that with the new rules, you can't just sit on a lead any more.
I thought what [the referees] called were penalties, said Keith Primeau. It definitely makes a difference in the game. We had a four-goal lead at one point, and we had to score an empty-netter to ice the game. It wasn't like there was a huge momentum shift. There are going to be some scoring chances, and the game won't be over until the final buzzer.
Despite the final score and the increased number of power plays in the game (each team had eight chances), no one on the Flyers seemed surprised with the way the game unfolded. The rules have been in the book for a long time, but now it seems as if they will finally be enforced.
"I think it's pretty simple. They are going to call the hooking and holding and interference," said Hitchcock. "These aren't new rules, they are all in the rulebook; they just let them go.
I don't think it's any different than a basketball referee. A basketball referee calls the fouls that are there from start to finish. Why wouldn't a hockey referee? I think sometimes we are so afraid of having the referee dictate the score, but I think it's really in our hands right now. I think if we all adjust properly, than there won't be very many penalties in the game, but if we don't, then there's going to be a lot.
Jon Sim, who scored two goals in the game, agreed with the way that the game was called.
Obviously, I think everyone was a little timid on the first game but I think we handled it pretty well. The refs did a good job that first game calling it. I think the calls that were called were penalties, and if it's going to continue like that it's going to be fine, said Sim.
Injury Update: Meyer Out Six-to-Eight Weeks The Flyers suffered a set back in the game when it was learned that defenseman Freddy Meyer will miss six-to-eight weeks with a broken right fibula. Meyer has been impressive on the blue line with the Philadelphia Phantoms the last two seasons, and was getting a long look by Hitchcock and the rest of the Flyers coaching staff as a depth player who could fill in at the NHL level if needed.
"It's not only a big blow to the Flyers, but it's a big blow to the organization because he is a depth defenseman for the Flyers and a huge impact defenseman for the Phantoms, said Hitchcock, who saw plenty of Meyer last season while he was watching the Flyers' AHL affiliate. "Losing a player like him for that period of time is significant, and that's going to be a big blow for everybody.
On a more positive note, defenseman Derian Hatcher has started skating on his own and appears to be making progress. Peter Forsberg, who has yet to skate, could be cleared as early as the weekend, pending a reevaluation of his ankle by team doctors on Friday or Saturday.