So yesterday’s loss was another tough one. There was a fair amount to be upset about, but also some things to be excited about. Here’s what we learned.
All stats and graphics via Corsica.Hockey, The Energy Line, HockeyViz, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com
1. So long, The Honey Bees
With Jordan Weal out for the game-- listed as day to day with an upper body injury-- and secondary scoring remaining an issue, the Flyers were left to make some further adjustments to the arrangement of the bottom nine forwards. And in that shuffling, we said goodbye to the Honey Bees-- for now, at least-- as Raffl was moved up to play with Filppula and Konecny, and Lehtera was moved down to the fourth line. The Honey Bees had served as an effective energy line in all ways besides goals scoring, so it was a bit of a (shame) to see them broken up.
But yesterday’s fourth line still looked okay. In about eight minutes on the ice, they lead the team in possession, averaging an adjusted CF% of 88.33 percent at even strength, but were only able to register two shots on goal, from Laughton and Leier. As could be expected, Lehtera lagged behind Laughton and Leier in shots and possession, but still they looked solid in their relatively brief time on the ice.
2. Manning picks up third goal of season
And with first period blues being the story of the Flyers' games of late, yesterday they were able to get something going early. The very first shot of the game came off the stick of Brandon Manning, and after taking a bit of a strange deflection, ended up in the back of the net. It was Manning's third goal of the season.
Scoring first is always a plus, but you can't help but grumble a bit about the fact that it came from a— pretty lucky, arguably— shot from the point, an area the Flyers have been leaning heavily on to try and generate chances. They've started to move away from that, to diversify, but of course this one would go in.
But the worst part? There was a moment, there, where it looked like Raffl may have tipped the puck into the net, but this wasn't the case. No assist to be had. And Raffl still (somehow) has zero points on the season.
3. Welcome back, the power play!
With play flattening in a number of areas, we've had a lot to complain about. But one of the bigger gripes was the power play production. After a hot start, production cooled off, holding them to just three power play goals in the ten games before Winnipeg. And then they got one in Winnipeg. And then they got another last night. And what a lovely return it was.
Almost halfway through the first, the Flyers picked up their first opportunity with the man advantage, and picked up a goal just 35 seconds in when, you guessed it, Sean Couturier went to the front of the net to tap the puck in. So the power play’s momentum is at least getting back on track, and Couturier is two goals away from tying his full-season total from last year.
Quite the hot streak, if you ask me.
4. Can we still call it secondary scoring…
...if it’s the defensemen grouped with nothe first line who are scoring? No? Fine.
All the same, the Flyers’ defensemen had a big offensive game. A section ago, we talked about Manning getting the first goal of the day. The third of the afternoon came for Provorov on a feed from Lehtera, to extend the Flyers’ lead to two.
And while goals are goals, and a lead is a lead, there remains a bit of concern when the bottom nine forwards are still unable to notch many (or any) goals. None of the bottom three lines got thrashed yesterday, and each did their part in generating chances. So the goals aren’t coming in droves yet, but they may be closer than you think.
5. Third line getting some good looks
Despite being held without a goal, the second line of Raffl, Filppula, and Konecny still put up a solid effort. The trio averaged and adjusted CF% of 68.61 percent at even strength, and generated four shots on goal. Filppula set up the Manning goal in the first period, and they continued to create chances throughout.
In their matchups, this line dominated in shots compared to their opponents, even if we didn’t see a high volume of them. So while a goal would have been-- is always, of course-- preferred, the Filppula line did well to keep play tied up in Calgary’s zone, during their time on the ice.
It’s unclear how long this line will remain intact, with Weal’s status still uncertain. It’s an open question how the lines will be shuffled upon his return, but at the very least, in their limited time together, this arrangement showed some potential.
6. The Rose Colored Boy returns [home]
After missing weeks with an upper body injury, Nolan Patrick finally made his return to home ice, and man was it good to have him back. After a quiet but solid return in Winnipeg, with somewhat limited ice time, Patrick was looking to build on this performance. He had expressed some frustration with his play prior to the injury, and yesterday he certainly didn’t waste any time in getting back on track.
He averaged a respectable 46.15 percent adjusted CF% at even strength, and recorded three shots on goal. But the real story around his play was the offense he flashed. He showed some chemistry with Simmonds, as we saw the two connecting particularly well early in the second. And the goal? A beauty.
NOLAN PATRICK PUTS THE FLYERS ON TOP WITH HIS 2ND CAREER NHL GOAL! pic.twitter.com/JN66V0XV2b— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) November 18, 2017
In picking up his second goal of the season, Patrick flashed one of the greatest strengths of his game-- patience. He made a real heads-up play to pick up the rebound off Voracek’s shot and hold, waiting for the high corner to open up. His offense is starting to pick up, and he’s working to prove his value as a net-front presence.
7. Penalty kill got a lot of work in the second
And still that header sounds like the understatement of the century. The Flyers picked up four minor penalties in a span of about ten minutes in the second period, effectively killing off any momentum that they had managed to carry into the period. Were the wheels just coming off for the Flyers? The officials just calling positively everything? Whatever the cause, the result remained the same. And the penalty kill had to get to work.
Unfortunately, that work wasn't quite up to par of what the Flyers were hoping. The Flames scored on three of their four chances, and the tide of the game had shifted.
The high point of the penalty killing, if we want a bit of levity? Laughton and Leier (RIP) are still looking incredibly dynamic together, and yesterday again nearly sprung out of their zone for a shorthanded chance.
I mean, it was broken up, of course. But still.
8. Defense holds steady, despite veteran absences
One of the bigger storylines heading into yesterday's game was the question of how the Flyers' defense would look, without two of their veteran presences. With MacDonald still scratched due to injury, and Gudas barred from playing, as he awaits his hearing with the Department of Player Safety, the Flyers were back down two defensemen, and again looked to Mark Alt to slot in.
And he did just fine. Everyone did. Manning and Provorov picked up goals. Hagg was quietly solid enough. Gostisbehere, despite the penalties, still left the day tied for the lead on the team for most shots on goal, with four. Alt looked comfortable, and made a nice, heads up play to clear the puck from behind his net and, ultimately, out of the zone. And Sanheim picked up a shot on goal, and continued to show confidence in jumping in on the rush, trying to create chances.
It’s Sanheim, above all, who seems most due for a big offensive night. He is consistently working to generate offense, and seems to be doing, at the very least, most of the little things right. He’s bound to break through eventually, and with such a sustained effort, that eventuality seems to be drawing ever nearer.
9. Pulling back and contextualizing
For the second of two games, the Flyers took the early lead, and squandered it. And this, to be frank, is disheartening to watch. There was a lot not to like, in yesterday’s showing, but we’ve seen that it’s not all so bad.
The Flyers positively dominated at five on five. They outshot the Flames 30 to 20, averaging a 60.03 percent adjusted CF%, and earned 75% of the expected goals for the game. Their passing looked cleaner than it has in some of the past few games, and they were able to control 54.55 percent of their zone entries.
So five on five play was solid enough, and it’s what allowed them to take the early lead.
But the story of the afternoon, of course, was of lack of discipline, and how this effectively killed any momentum the Flyers had in the early part of the game. The results were ugly, but the fact remains that the underlying performance was still solid enough, not to be the cause of too much concern. We saw the Flyers losing their cool like this early in the season, and then being able to pull it back together. And here’s hoping they can do that sooner rather than later.
10. The only damn thing I know
So I'm breaking form here, guys. I'm bringing in a thing I don't know. But I've been wondering about it.
Do you think, whenever Dale Weise looks like he's laboring (in everything he does), takes a dumb penalty, or otherwise makes a bad play, that Matt Read is sitting in the press box, looking directly into the camera like he's Jim from the Office?
I wouldn't blame him if he did.