What a game, what a game! We saw a lot of great things happening in last night’s game, so let’s get right into it.
All stats and graphics from Corsica, HockeyViz, Natural Stat Trick, and nhl.com.
1. Elliott regroups
After a shaky showing in Nashville, relatively quiet as it may have been, we still entered last night’s game wondering how he would be able to recover, and what kind of game he would bring to his Philadelphia debut. And it was a good one.
Though still a bit shaky early — we saw some positioning issues in the face of rocky defense with the Vrana goal, which was a real doozy — he didn’t get rattled, and shook it off easily. Of course, with the Flyers dominating play, Elliott didn’t have to face quite as many high danger shots as he otherwise might have had to, but he still wasn’t without his challenges. The Capitals brought pockets of pressure, and Elliott held steady for it, making a number of impressive glove saves. It was a solid showing for his first time in Philadelphia as a Flyer, and a welcome treat for the fans.
2. Voracek in good form
Well, friends, the bounce back year may be upon us. Voracek’s struggles last season were no secret, and were much to the chagrin of the fans watching the games. After facing some frustration from fans in the preseason, Voracek has brought an overwhelmingly solid performance through the beginning of the regular season. And he looked so strong last night. He’s brought it back to basics and is playing to his strengths, and it’s working. He was strong on the puck, holding steady and outmuscling opponents. Setting up Simmonds’ goal, skating through and around rookie Madison Bowey, was both spectacular and brutal, in the best way.
Welcome to the league kid pic.twitter.com/KUrA1r37FM— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) October 15, 2017
Voracek was goalless on the night, but this also isn’t something to get too worked up about. He’s putting in the work, solidifying his game, and elevating his linemates. And it’s just what we’ve been looking for from him.
3. Laughton and Leier: the PK dream team
One of the Flyers’ early-season highlights was the pairing of Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier on the penalty kill, a duo that did not need to take any time to get settled. After spending much of last season playing together in the Lehigh Valley, the two have already put in the work to get to know each other as players, to get settled into each other's game. And that comfort and familiarity are proving to be great assets for them, now that they're with the Flyers.
Their time together in the penalty kill has been, to date, highly effective, and this was especially true last night. Not only were they able to keep, at the very least, the Capitals tied up, but they were also able to create some chances for breakouts. Laughton's short handed goal in the second period was a distinct high point, and a reward for the work that they had been putting in all night.
4. Flyers grabbed possession early and didn’t let up
For the first five or so minutes of last night’s game, it looked like we were going to get a pretty even matchup. There was a bit of back and forth, a fair amount of breaking up of plays, and just a bit of offensive pressure. But that didn’t last for long.
The Flyers took possession of the puck in the few minutes leading up to the first Couturier goal, and didn’t relinquish it for duration of the game. They didn’t completely shut the Capitals down, but they never let possession swing distinctly in their favor. Adjusting for score and venue, the Flyers’ CF% at even strength for the game averaged out at 61.33 percent, pointing clearly to the shutdown work they were doing throughout.
5. Under pressure
And with possession of the puck comes, you guessed it, shots. And the Flyers had a lot of those — 37 in total. But with all of these shots, they only had 3.28 expected goals, meaning that not only were they generating a modest to fair number of shots, they were highly effective shots.
In addition to being effective in their shots, the Flyers were generally very consistent in their shot pressure generation. Though allowing for a bit of ebb and flow, they were always able to swing things back in their favor, and keep the pressure on Grubauer and the Caps.
6. Couturier keeps rolling
With each bit of production he’s brought this season, it seems a particular nod to the Couturier skeptics, and I for one am here for it. He’s looked steady and confident, to date, but coming into last night, there was still the question of where he would go from there. And, it seems, he held onto the momentum he generated out West and brought it home.
His first goal of the night was a particularly strong show of patience, and indeed an excellent full line effort. With feeds coming from Giroux to Voracek and finally to Couturier, his initial shot was blocked, but he calmly collected the rebound and slipped it past Grubauer. Much like in Anaheim, we saw this whole line clicking effectively, and Couturier doing his part to drive this forward, drive it home.
7. All lines clicking
There are a lot of things that were working to get the Flyers to where they ended up last night, but more than anything else, they had a whole game where all four lines were really buzzing. The first line put up four goals, and the second and third both generated one each. And while the third line was held without a goal, they were still able to generate pressure, and were nearly rewarded in facilitating a Konecny breakaway.
Post-game, Giroux talked about the flexibility they’ve been allowed with these new lines, that they’re given the opportunity to move about some, and this both provides them with the ability to change things up and create different chances, as well as to provide extra confusion to opponents.
It goes without saying that the more lines you have generating offense, the better place you’ll be in. The Flyers have showed flashes of this in the season opening road trip, but now that we’re five games in, we’re in a place where we can begin to read into trends, and this is one that’s becoming evident. Of course, it may be unfair to bank on this level of efficacy every night, but it shows each line’s potentially to be highly productive, on a night to night basis.
8. Filppula scores goals now?
This seems to be one of the biggest surprises we’ve been met with so far this season, regardless of whether this surprise is completely warranted. But surprised or not, the fact remains that Filppula now has three goals in the last two games. After shining on the power play in Nashville and collecting two goals, he picked up his first even strength goal of the season last night against Washington. The pass-first player is breaking the expectations and not shying away from the opportunities that he’s being presented with, and offering a nice extra piece of production, now, in all situations.
I should also extend a nod to Jordan Weal, who did a lot of the work in setting up Filppula’s goal, digging the puck out of the corner and refusing to be pushed off it, holding fast until the time was right. It wasn’t an unusual effort for him, by any means, and it’s what we like to see.
9. PP1 is back on it
Last night was a relatively quiet night in terms of penalties, with the Flyers only having two chances — or one-and-a-half, as a too many men on the ice penalty on the Flyers negated the second half of their second opportunity — with the man advantage. But the Flyers really brought it on those brief opportunities.
After having a bit of a down run, the first power play unit got back on track last night, keeping pressure up and generating another goal, this one for Simmonds, off the rush. It’s one of the big changes that Knoblauch has been working to put in place, and while PP1 has not been looking as dangerous as possible, these chances off the rush are certainly pushing them in that direction. And now that they’re back and anchored to a piece of tangible production, the question remains of how or if they will continue.
10. The only damn thing I know
Twitter.com had a lot of yelling to do about this. We’ve harped on it a fair amount, but I’m going harp on it a bit more. Last night’s game was a good one. There aren’t many things you could find to complain about. But it would have been nice to have seen Travis Sanheim play.
Sure, there’s something to be said for still respecting your veteran players, for the symbolic nod you give them by playing them in the season and home openers. Will we all like it? No. But I get it. The game was good and fun and Manning didn’t do anything to make us really mad that he was on the ice. But it would have been nice to see Sanheim skate at home for the first time, last night.