It’s a Wednesday in mid-October, and for the first time this season, the Flyers have a win streak going. I mean, it’s only two games, but it’s a streak, nevertheless. A lot happened in last night’s game, so let’s get into it.
1. Slow starts and slippery business
You know the old adage-- a player with good puck control plays like he has sandpaper on his stick. It sort of makes sense, in a way, I think. You get the picture. And if a player with good puck control plays like he's got sandpaper on his stick, through the early part of the first period, the Flyers played like they had... well... whatever the opposite of sandpaper is.
This was an issue that plagued them through the first half of the period-- their puck control was shaky, their passing was inaccurate, and this led them into a number of sticky situations. I suppose in this way, the Flyers are lucky to have Travis Konecny, to chase down and disrupt players on breakaways, to clean up after some of these mistakes.
Never forget to back check folks! pic.twitter.com/BNLoalA0kQ— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) October 17, 2017
Florida all but dominated the first eight or so minutes of the period, with the time marked by broken up plays and being more or less stuck in the neutral zone. It felt a lot like the very beginning of Saturday’s game, except the miscues never seemed to end--not until the Flyers got their first power play at least. They recovered, ultimately, and things picked up in the latter half of the period, but with the slow starts beginning to set in as a sort of trend, it’s an area where we’d like to see them tighten up.
2. First period shot drought
Along with their troubles with passing and turnovers, the Flyers were also struggling early with generating shots on goal. Through the first 8:19 of play, before the Flyers picked up their first power play opportunity, they only registered one shot on goal. This slow going also carried through the power play itself, as over the course of the two minutes, they were only able to add two shots to the board, and zero actual points. As with their early struggles in passing and puck control, the second half of the period saw them able to pick up some momentum, and more or less even out the performance. They went into the first intermission with 11 shots, a not altogether laughable figure, but one which one wishes was more evenly distributed over the twenty minutes.
3. The first line still delights
We’ve been singing the praises of the first line through the first few games of the season, and we’re still not done, not just yet. Last night saw another impressive performance from this line, as they continue to be one of the team’s most productive. They’ve continued to capitalize on their synergy, bringing production through getting everyone involved. In the process of opening up scoring for the night, Couturier picked up his fourth goal of the season, while Voracek and Giroux picked up their tenth and sixth assists, respectively. Giroux also picked up his 400th career assist, with the Couturier goal. After a slow start, this production worked to jump start the offense that had been relatively stagnant before that, and this is exactly what you want to be seeing from a line lead by your high powered veterans.
4. And another first!
With the night of firsts also came the first Gostisbehere goal of the season. Ghost has been really good so far this season, flexing his strength and what makes his game so effective. And it’s probably because he’s been on the ice. (Sorry, I had to).
Gostisbehere, as we’ve noted, has been solid so far this season, but he was certainly due for this first goal. The second of the game and working to double the Flyers’ lead over the Panthers, after the puck was rushed back in, it came as a snipe from deep in the offensive zone. The momentum had been churning after the Couturier goal, and Gostisbehere put in a great effort to continue and capitalize on this. And it’s just excellent to be able to say that Ghost is back to scoring goals in the regular season.
And while we’re on the topic of firsts and defensemen…
5. A nod to Robert Hagg
Up until this point, we haven’t talked too much about Robert Hagg, and that’s probably for the best. He’s been quietly very solid through the early part of the season, keeping his head down and putting in the work, which is pretty much exactly what you want to see from his type of player, who isn’t bringing in a ton in the way of offense, but who, rather, acts as the balance to the partner who does. He’s been solid to date, and last night in particular was, on the whole, an equally strong showing.
In the second period, put on the penalty kill, he made a nice move to clear the puck out of the zone and break up the Panthers’ play. He blocked a shot and picked up an assist-- his first point of the regular season-- on Gostisbehere’s goal. The slashing call late in the third period was definitely a bit of a hiccup, but it was one of the first he’s had all season. So, he hasn’t been flashy, but he’s doing his job, and bringing to it a veteran confidence, which is striking to see so clearly in a rookie.
6. After a long break, Neuvirth still holds up
So, the Flyers might have consistent, competent goaltending now? I know that feels like a stretch, like a foreign concept, but you aren’t dreaming. Things have been good so far.
What… what’s that?
I’m being told that Neuvirth allowed a goal by McGinn and it wasn’t very pretty. Oh man.
But let’s all hold on for a second. It would have been great to see Neuvirth pitch a shutout, and it was disappointing to not see that happen, but he was still very good throughout the entirety of the game. Beyond looking like he briefly lost the puck on the first Panthers shot while the Flyers killed off the Weise penalty, he showed a definite confidence and control. The Panthers outshot the Flyers 41 to 38, and Neuvirth was kept busy, but he took it all in stride. His rebounds were well managed. His positioning was sound. He made a number of impressive glove saves, specifically. With his rough general performance from last season in mind, this is a nice change to be seeing, so far. We’re not expecting Neuvirth to set the world on fire-- especially not as what seems right now to be the 1B-- just to hold up under pressure. And he’s doing that well, so far.
7. The sequence leading up to the Giroux goal was the weirdest
One of the stranger or more difficult to follow sequences came in the middle of the second period. The Flyers were on a power play after Aaron Ekblad took a hooking penalty. They allowed for Florida to break out of their defensive zone, and then things got a little whacky. Let me break it down for you.
A Panther on a breakaway takes a shot, has it blocked, and skates into Neuvirth.
Gostisbehere, flanking him, doesn’t take too kindly to this, and gives him a little shove before Simmonds arrives.
And this is unusual. We know that Ghost doesn’t really fight much, so anyone watching that is on the edge of their seat. What’s gonna happen now?!
Giroux’s gonna be left open for a breakaway, that’s what.
Picking up the puck from Filppula, he would bring it up on Roberto Luongo, free of tight coverage, and the Flyers would have their first power play goal of the game. It was a perhaps unconventional approach to picking up the power play goal, but I guess if it works, it works. And, let’s be honest, it was a whole lot of fun.
8. A welcome full line effort from the Patrick line
We’ve seen each of the four lines having moments where they’re really clicking, and nowhere is this more evident in when the full line gets involved in a scoring play. This has been one of the hallmarks of the first line, especially in the last few games, but last night saw the third line diving into this method, which would culminate in Weise’s first goal of the season.
It was a solid all around effort by each of the forwards on the ice. It started with Konecny bringing the puck in on goal with speed, breaking out, putting the first, ultimately blocked, shot on goal. Patrick collected the rebound, and, with an absolutely stunning between the legs pass, shucked it off the Weise, who buried it.
This Nolan Patrick pass was amazing and you need to watch it again. pic.twitter.com/XBvgzefBxv— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) October 18, 2017
And for a line that’s seemed a bit slower in building up the strong connections that some of the other lines have, it’s nice to see them doing that, now. It was a particularly flashy example, but it was each player making heads up plays and showcasing their strengths, and getting excellent results.
9. The wheels kind of came off late in the third
This game, if nothing else, was little short of symmetrical. They struggled through the first half of the first period, and again they struggled in the last half of the third. It wasn’t to the same degree or in the same ways as the early issues, but the end was a little rough, for a bit, there. The plague this time? Penalties.
Starting with a slashing call on Weise at 10:57, the Flyers accumulated three penalties in just over five minutes. They killed the first penalty but it was not long before they picked up the next, and then another, to give the Panthers 45 seconds of a five on three. They were able to kill this off, but not the back end of the Hagg penalty, where they allowed the McGinn goal.
Of course, you could make an argument that some of these calls, the slash on Hagg specifically, were a little shaky at the very least. So the blame for the rough end of the period may have not been entirely on the Flyers, but they weren’t completely blameless either. They didn’t let off the gas and give up a lead, but they could’ve stood to tighten up a bit, here, as well.
And that’s all. I bet you were worried I was going to make a Jordan Weal/wheels pun, at some point in this one. Well, not this time, folks. You’re safe for now.
10. The only damn thing I know
So, normally the in-arena, tv timeout dance-cam, kiss-cam, whatever-else-cam segments are kind of lame. They’re a game mainstay, part of the formula, so we tolerate them, but they’re, for the most part, overdone and a little passé. But the Flyers may have found the remedy to that.
If you’ve been to one of the home games so far this season, you may have seen the Wells Fargo Center usher making a dance-cam appearance, and man does he really go for it. I’m talking the worm, the sprinkler, b-boying, all of the things. And it’s good. It’s fun. For now.
Maybe the charm will wear off eventually, but for now, dance-cam usher is a real treat.