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Flyers 3, Jets 2: 10 things we learned from a pivotal overtime win

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Needing a win to stay ahead of Detroit in the race for the second wild card spot, the Flyers battled Winnipeg to a draw through sixty minutes and then took the extra point in overtime.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Morning Observations is a feature where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.

  • Flyers fans should count themselves lucky. Their team may not be a true contender yet, but it does have the best athlete in the city and its most exciting newcomer. Claude Giroux somehow is still underrated in Philadelphia, likely because hockey is not as unifying as football in this city and lacks the bandwagon growth potential of baseball and basketball. The underwhelming roster that the Flyers front office has built to support Giroux ever since he took over as captain in 2013 hasn't helped either, because it has allowed critics to pin the team's lack of success on the leadership skills of Giroux rather than where it truly belonged. But reinforcements are coming for Giroux and the Flyers, with electric rookie Shayne Gostisbehere the first of many ultra-skilled youngsters in the pipeline on their way to the NHL. It's appropriate that in a game that the Flyers needed to win in order to stay in a playoff position, the old guard and the young teamed up for the overtime winner. A diving poke check by Ghost created the opportunity, and the captain finished it, as he has done so many times over his Flyers' career. Now that his team is succeeding, maybe he'll get a little more credit for these big goals.
  • Despite Winnipeg's poor record this season, they've actually performed fairly well at even strength. The Jets' score-adjusted Corsi of 51.0% ranks 14th in the NHL, and their 130 5-on-5 goals also ranks in the top half of the league. Their two biggest issues have been goaltending and special teams, so the most-likely formula for the Flyers last night was to score a power play goal or two and victimize the below-average Ondrej Pavelec. Instead, Philadelphia straight up outplayed Winnipeg at evens. The Flyers' score-adjusted Corsi was 54.6%, and they were victorious even when removing blocked shots from the equation. Aside from a brief lull during the second half of the first period, Philadelphia utilized an effective forecheck and sharp passing in the neutral zone to drive play. Had a few bounces went their way in the third period (which the Flyers dominated), Giroux's overtime heroics would not have even been necessary.
  • It wasn't quite as dominant as their first period thrashing of Detroit two weeks ago, but the Flyers stormed out to a fantastic start in this one. They took the game's first seven shots on goal and appeared ready to roll over a Winnipeg team with little to play for except pride. But after a fruitless power play midway through the first, the Jets finally began executing, especially in the offensive zone. From that point on, the game was far more even, as both teams were extracting value out of their entries into the attacking end of the ice. Following the game, multiple Flyers noted that physical fatigue had played a role in last night's game, with the road trip and return flight back east sapping them of that extra jump. Enough players mentioned the energy deficit to be confident that this wasn't just a cheap narrative -- it was an accurate barometer of how the team was feeling after the game. Still, credit a supposedly tired Flyers team for having their best shot attempt differential period in the third and then closing out the win in extra time. If this was a drained team, they certainly fought through the fatigue.
  • After watching Claude Giroux possibly lose consciousness after being checked into the boards by Martin Hanzal late on Saturday night, it was fair to be concerned that the Flyers were rushing him back into action too soon due to the tightness of the playoff race. Even if Giroux truly is feeling fine, it's a definite risk for a recently-concussed player to jump back into game action only two days after the point of contact, and if Giroux did get knocked out, he was probably concussed. Still, his play last night showed no signs of dropoff. Not only did he obviously score the dramatic game-winning goal, Giroux finished with a solid 54.17% Corsi For percentage and factored into four scoring chances. He also avoided any big hits, which may be most important right now for his long-term health if he truly was concussed over the weekend.
  • During the first period of last night's game, the line centered by Sean Couturier was absolutely run over by Winnipeg's top unit of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Nikolaj Ehlers, as all three members of the Philadelphia line finished around a 30% Corsi For. In fact, the Jets' top unit was the only Winnipeg line to finish in the positive during the period from a shot attempt standpoint, a testament to their ability to take apart Philadelphia's shutdown line. Couturier and company fought back early in the second period with a quick goal, created by a beautiful cross-ice pass from the Flyers center to Mark Streit in the slot. But again Scheifele got the better of Couturier in terms of driving play, with the shutdown line against hovering around 30 percent. It wasn't until the final stanza when Couturier and his linemates (Jakub Voracek and Michael Raffl) turned the tables. The Flyers' unit allowed only two shot attempts to the Jets in the game's last period and all three Flyers forwards finished above 60% Corsi in the third, hinting that they had finally figured out how to attack the Jets' talented trio.
  • It's hard to be too critical of the officiating in this game, because the men in black and white were certainly consistent. Obstruction penalties simply were not going to be called on either team unless so blatant that they were impossible to ignore. The game consisted of only two power plays (both given to Philadelphia), but that total could have been easily tripled considering the on-ice play. Even though the lack of calls were consistent across both teams, the Flyers simply held the puck more often in the game, which resulted in numerous hooks, holds and interference plays from the Jets that went uncalled. To their credit, Philadelphia adapted and by the third period, they were engaging in the same tight checking that the Jets had employed all game. But while the scoresheet tells the story of a very disciplined game on the part of both teams, that's not exactly the truth. The referees simply swallowed their whistles last night.
  • There was a fair amount of vitriol sent Jakub Voracek's direction on social media during last night's game, and to be sure, it wasn't one of his better performances. He failed to crack the scoresheet, finished with a poor 39.39% Corsi For percentage, and directly contributed to Winnipeg's second goal of the night by turning the puck over in the offensive zone to Mark Scheifele. Still, the idea that Voracek is somehow a liability on this team because he has returned from his injury too quickly is ridiculous. The Czech forward generated a whopping eleven zone entries in last Thursday's game against the Colorado Avalanche, a rate that would put him on pace for 49.25 entries per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey. Players too injured to be effective simply don't generate useful possession to that degree. It's more likely that Voracek simply had a bad game -- partially because he's probably not yet 100%, but partially because even great players have nights when they are fighting the puck.
  • The line centered by Nick Cousins has gone through a pretty rough stretch in recent weeks, finishing below a 50% Corsi For percentage in seven out of their last eight games entering last night's battle with the Jets. Luckily for the Flyers, Cousins and linemates Sam Gagner and Matt Read brought their A-plus forechecking game in this one. While Read did miss on a few golden opportunities (in many ways, this has been the story of his season), the line took apart a bigger Jets team in the offensive zone through high-effort work in the corners and great anticipation of passes. All three forwards posted a Corsi For percentage over 65%, and Dave Hakstol clearly noticed their effectiveness, giving the unit solid third line minutes over the Untouchables line of Bellemare, VandeVelde and White.
  • Following his' game-tying goal against the Avalanche last week, I noted that Radko Gudas has long been an above-average shot creating defenseman, especially for one not known for high-end puck skills. Even armed with that information, no one expected the shot attempt barrage that Gudas unleashed in last night's game. He led all skaters with twelve individual shot attempts, and five of them actually hit the net, which tied him with Claude Giroux for the Flyers' lead in shots on goal. It's obvious that Gudas is playing with extra confidence in his ability to carry and shoot the puck right now, as he's joining the rush with more regularity and seems to be developing a Gostisbehere-ian belief in his ability to get point blasts through traffic. So far, it seems to be working for him.
  • Yet again, the Flyers' first power play unit came up empty. Their initial opportunity came midway through the opening stanza, and it was an unmitigated disaster. The unit of Giroux, Voracek, Schenn, Simmonds and Gostisbehere couldn't generate even one shot attempt, and was pulled off the ice after just 40 seconds by a frustrated Dave Hakstol. But they did show signs of improvement in the second period, even if they failed to light the lamp. They blasted shots at Pavelec -- four in total -- and were sure to get Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn involved in puck movement. To my eyes, the unit's recent struggles have been a result of poor puck protection and an overreliance on Giroux and Gostisbehere to generate everything. Their first chance last night looked like more of the same, but round 2 showed signs of the old, super-effective top unit.