After the Flyers finally won their first game of the season last Saturday night, Collin talked a lot about "process" in his recap. With the win, the team finally saw their results match the surprisingly decent underlying statistics they had delivered during the team's losing streak.
This game, on the other hand, was purely a "results over process" win.
Period one was bad, as the Flyers entered the locker room down 1-0 on the scoreboard and 11-5 in shots. Period two was somehow worse, at least in terms of territorial dominance, as the Detroit Red Wings peppered goalie Ray Emery with 13 shots while Philadelphia could only manage three.
Yet the Flyers ended the second with the score tied, and the fact that it was a rare Nicklas Grossmann goal that evened the score spoke to how improbable the 1-1 outcome after two stanzas really was.
The Flyers' breakout was a disaster, the team was sloppy in the neutral zone, and only a Herculean performance from Emery was keeping the team in it. But somehow, after one slick Chris VandeVelde pass, the third period would kick off the same way the first period did - dead even.
In the third, the Flyers managed to more than double their overall shots on goal (nine in third period to eight for the rest of the game). But more importantly, they were able to generate two high-quality scoring chances, both created by Jakub Voracek, who was straight up dominant in the period.
First he found Michael Raffl to give the team a 2-1 lead, and after Detroit responded with the equalizer, Voracek was able to set up Brayden Schenn for a beautiful redirection on the power play to give the team a lead they would never relinquish.
Obviously, the Flyers can't make these types of games a habit. Losing the shot attempt battle 66-24 at even strength isn't going to win many hockey games, especially considering that the Flyers spent more time trailing than leading. But for now, we can enjoy the fact that team is at 0.500 for the first time all year.
Ten more observations on the game:
- Shayne Gostisbehere's debut was the big story, and the kid didn't look out of place. Sure, he made some mistakes - a power play breakout turnover, some defensive zone coverage issues. But it certainly seems like the team spends a lot of time in the offensive zone when he's on the ice. In limited (and sheltered) minutes, his Corsi For was 44%, which was tied with Giroux for best on the team.
- Ray Emery wasn't named one of the three stars of the game, but to my eyes, he was Philadelphia's best player all night long. His positioning was nearly flawless, but what really stood out was his puck-playing ability. He helped bail out his defense on multiple occasions with well-placed passes or perfectly-timed pokechecks to direct pucks out of the slot area. Ray was awesome tonight.
- The big beneficiary of Andrew MacDonald's absence from the lineup was Michael Del Zotto, who led all Flyers defensemen in both even strength and total ice time. Crazy to think that he wasn't even employed as recently as August.
- The first line was quiet through the first two periods, but absolutely exploded in the third. Jakub Voracek was at his Jagr-esque best in terms of puck possession, Michael Raffl added two goals, and Claude Giroux (in a relatively quiet game) made his presence felt as well.
- Nice to see Brayden Schenn scoring from the Hartnell spot on the power play.
- It's a pleasure to watch Pavel Datsyuk work his magic, until he does it against your team. He scored on a bit of a fluke, as the Flyers failed on a defensive zone exit while Datsyuk lingered behind Mark Streit and Gostisbehere, leaving him wide open in front of the net for the game-tying tally in the third. Keep it up Pavel, but do it against the rest of the East instead, please.
- Jason Akeson got 3:35 minutes of ice time. Not a misprint. It's pretty clear that Craig Berube is not a fan.
- R.J. Umberger continued to see time on the second power play unit, and it still seems like a bad idea. He nullified a power play with a penalty of his own (in his defense, it was a weak call), but he just seems to be a north-south player at this stage of his career, without much creativity. I'd rather see Raffl or (even better) Akeson on the second unit instead.
- Did I mention that Nicklas Grossmann scored a goal? Counting his preseason tally, that's two goals in less than a month! Maybe a personal record for the big guy.
- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare continues to impress, in all three zones. He always looks to carry the puck into the offensive zone with possession, rather than play a dump-and-chase game, and he has the speed and puck handling ability to succeed at it. And his coverage in the defensive zone is surprisingly adept. It's no surprise that Berube is already using him on the PK.
Comment of the Night
They totally Toronto-ed this game.