ARLINGTON, Va. – Samuel Morin said he felt nervous when he stepped onto the ice for warmups at the Kettler Ice Plaza.
If that’s the case, then the Flyers should try to make him nervous before every game he plays.
Yes, it was only an exhibition game, and yes it was only against other potential prospects and not those of a NHL caliber, but Samuel Morin gave those watching in person a glimpse as to why the Flyers are so excited about him as a defenseman.
Morin was physical, he made good decisions with the puck, he disrupted chances for the Capitals with his reach. He made a diving poke check from the rear to stop a breakaway. He made smart choices with his breakout passes.
In short, he stood out, and when you are playing in a rookie game, won by the Flyers 1-0 by the way, that’s all you can hope for – is that you are stand out.
“I thought he was real noticeable out there,” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who along with assistants Craig Berube and Kevin McCarthy coached the rookie game. “He always has his head up. He’s got a good stick. He closes time and space on puck carriers – it was a good game for him. He was probably our most consistent player from start to finish.”
That he was.
Morin played the first half of the game as a defensive tandem with Mark Alt, and the second half of the game with Maxim Lamarche after Alt had to leave the game with a concussion.
On his first shift he was knocking players off the puck with his physical play – and it only blossomed from there.
Winning puck battles, stripping on-rushing puck carriers – and that play chasing down the breakaway from behind – it all seemed to be beyond his 18 years. It all seemed so effortless and yet if you ask Morin he’ll just smile before he politely disagrees.
“I think I made some mistakes,” he said. “There were definitely some rookie mistakes that I still have to learn how to fix. But, I worked hard, played my game, got a couple of good shots…. I was happy.”
Not as happy as the guys wearing the suits watching from the balcony above.
The next test for Morin will come next week – probably Monday night against some of the same Capitals players, but also against some NHLers as the Flyers play their preseason home opener at the Wells Fargo Center against the Caps.
They’ll probably be without Alt though, who suffered the concussion in the second period. Alt beat top Washington prospect Tom Wilson to a puck near the corner and rimmed it around to a teammate. Wilson shoved Alt in the shoulder as he was making this play and the Flyers defenseman lost his balance and fell awkwardly into the boards, hitting the back of his head in the process.
He was down on the ice for about a minute before being helped off the ice by a team trainer. Alt didn’t return.
It’s a shame too because Alt was playing a very strong game to that point. As a matter of fact, with the pairing of Alt and Morin on the ice together, the Caps really struggled to generate much in the way of scoring chances.
Overall the defense was strong, but when there was a breakdown, a mistake or a mental lapse, the goaltending was there to fill the void.
Top goaltending prospect Anthony Stolarz play the first period-and-a-half and Carsen Chubak completed the shutout. No official shot totals were tallied, but combined, the duo probably turned aside about 25 shots.
“As a goalie sitting there you’re watching the forwards and the defense fighting hard to make it easier on us,” Stolarz said. “So when there is a breakdown or a bad break, Chewy (Chubak) and I wanted to come up big and make the big save as if to say we had the team’s back because they had ours the whole game.”
The lone goal was scored in the second period by Taylor Leier. With the ink barely dry on his entry level contract, Leier was able to create some space for himself in the center of the offensive zone and snap a shot top shelf to put the lone tally mark on the board.
“That was pretty cool,” Leier said about scoring on the same day he signed his contract. “I was pretty confident in myself coming into the game and that made me feel very comfortable I ended up getting a chance and I was able to put it into the back of the net. It was good.”
The whole day was good for the Flyers, who dominated the first period, got a little loosey-goosey in the second – even though they scored – but were able to settle down and hold the fort in the end.
“I thought the first period was our best period,” Laviolette said. “Through the course of the game you could start to see the wear and tear of the three days of hard practice where we really pushed them. But other than that I’m happy with the way we played and that we’re able to walk out of here with a win.