After a largely frustrating first several weeks of the 2016-17 NHL season, is it possible that things are slowly starting to turn in the Flyers’ favor? It feels like it, doesn’t it?
Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But the Flyers today wrapped up the best seven-day stretch of the season to date with a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, and right now they’re on a four-game winning streak and are generally playing darn good hockey in the process — the kind of hockey this team thought it was going to play when the season started, you could say.
Even with an early Chicago goal by noted old person and Calder-stealer Artemi Panarin, the Flyers had the better of the game in the first two periods, out-shot-attempting the Blackhawks 47-32 overall and 41-32 at 5-on-5. And after a first period where the dam felt close to breaking, things finally went the Flyers’ way in the second, with three goals giving the orange and black the edge they’d need to win this one.
Chicago pushed back well in the third, which was a fairly wide-open period in terms of chances for both teams, but Steve Mason (who was strong yet again, stopping 26 of 27 Chicago shots) and the skaters managed to shut things down and keep Chicago off the scoreboard, and once the Flyers had a near-flawless penalty kill (their only penalty kill of the game) with about six minutes left in the game, this one felt in the bag.
The big story from today’s game**, though, is the play of 19-year old Ivan Provorov, who not only led the Flyers in ice time but managed to triple his career goal count in less than a minute’s time in the second period. There’s been so much said in November into December about how much more comfortable and NHL-adjusted Provorov has looked, and it was nice to see him finally get rewarded for that on the scoreboard, as he ripped two very nice shots past Scott Darling to tie the game and then give the Flyers a need that they wouldn’t relinquish.
And, in case you wanted another reason to be excited about the Flyers’ young defenseman:
Brent Burns is technically leading all defensemen in 5v5 scoring, but Provorov is right up there amongst actual humans. pic.twitter.com/usYYI1abNQ— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) December 3, 2016
Is that good? Second in the NHL in 5-on-5 points amongst defensemen? It looks good. I think it’s good.
While Provorov was the highlight of the game today, there was a lot more to like. The Flyers’ other goal of the day was Brayden Schenn’s first even-strength goal of the season, one that was set up on the rush by a great play by Travis Konecny. The team’s depth forwards generated offensive opportunities, again. Andrew MacDonald played what was his third consecutive genuinely good game in a row, which sure is something, isn’t it? And Brandon Manning, in the lineup for the first time in a week due to an unexpected illness scratch to Radko Gudas, showed no rust and even looked good at times. There were no real weak spots for the Flyers, and that’s what’s needed to beat a team like the Blackhawks.
Finally, for once, the Flyers seemed to catch a couple of breaks. Jonathan Toews was out for the Blackhawks, as was, unexpectedly, starting goaltender Corey Crawford (who was hospitalized earlier today for an emergency appendectomy — best wishes to him; he’s expected to make a full recovery). They also may have gotten away with a trip prior to their third goal, and they also may have gotten lucky on a potential Chicago goal that was called a no-goal on the ice and deemed to be inconclusive upon review. (Said no-goal was a result of an incredibly heads-up play by, you guessed it, Ivan Provorov. He might have a future in this sport.)
But with the way this season has gone, I’m sure we’ll all take some good breaks. The Flyers now sit at 13-10-3, and are even in a playoff spot! Everything’s coming up Flyers! (We’ll ignore, for now, the fact that the Flyers have played more games than any team in the East. Positive vibes today, folks.)
Oh, also: 4-0 in the WOO era. Just saying.
** OK, fine, the big story from today’s game is the fact that some random guy from Temple was the Blackhawks’ emergency backup goalie. Kind of cool.
Nashville tomorrow night. Go Flyers. Here are your highlights.