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Flyers 2, Blues 0: What we learned from a gutsy road win

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Neuvirth stellar as Flyers steal one

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Michal Neuvirth made 33 saves and Brandon Manning’s second period goal held up as the Flyers shutout the Blues with a 2-0 final on Thursday night.

It was a big win for the Flyers on the road against a good team, and here are some more things that we learned from a hard-fought two points against one of the best in the West.

1. Ivan Provorov is a machine, confirmed

The Flyers’ 20-year-old stud defenseman logged 27:08 of ice-time a night after chipping in 29:51 against the Hawks. But not only did he played 27 minutes, they were all good minutes, with a game-high 10 blocked shots. Provorov was constantly singled out by the Blues’ broadcast team for his work in front of Neuvirth in terms of both positioning and shot blocking.

We already knew that Provorov was the Flyers’ best all-around defenseman, but given the mass of minutes that the youngster is racking up it calls into question whether he is actually human.

2. Michal Neuvirth stole two points

Neuvrith kept the Flyers in this one early with some key saves among the 14 stops he made in the first as the Flyers were outshot 14-8. But the veteran wasn’t done there. He made another eight saves in the second as the Blues kept the pressure on, and then added 11 stops in the final 20 as the Flyers were on life support in front of him.

Perhaps the best of Neuvirth’s 33 saves came on his last one, a robbery of—you guessed it—Brayden Schenn right on the doorstep with 33 seconds left. It was a beautiful setup from Vladimir Tarasenko behind the net to spot Schenn, but it was Neuvirth who had the answer to preserve a hard earned two points on the road.

3. Simplified game help inexperienced defense

Coach Dave Hakstol’s game plan with such an inexperienced defense group had to be to keep things simple. Easy breakouts, not doing too much with the puck in their own zone and to being careful when engaging offensively were staples of the defense (sans Ivan Provorov, of course) on the night.

Though Hakstol relied most on Provorov, Robert Hagg and Brandon Manning, when called upon both Mark Alt and Will O’Neill (in his NHL debut) avoided making big mistakes. With Alt and O’Neill playing so few shifts, a lot more was expected of Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg, and they both responded with solid overall performances against good competition.

4. Brayden Schenn and the terrible, no good hit on Sean Couturier

Former Flyer Brayden Schenn took out Sean Couturier with a blindside hit after Couturier had passed the puck and got a shoulder to the jaw for his trouble. Schenn tracked Couturier for a bit of ice and still went for the hit even after the puck was gone. It looked worse in slo-mo, but it wasn’t great in regular time, either, and shows a hit the league says it is trying to get rid of.

Schenn was assessed a two minute minor for interference only. For a league that says they care about these kind of plays and injuries, they’ve simply got to do better.

Couturier would return to start the third period, which was a great sign given how badly the replays looked with his head bouncing off the ice.

5. Third line life

Largely invisible for much of the season so far, the third line of Jordan Weal, Jori Lehtera, and Dale Weise contributed some meaningful minutes on Thursday night by generating a few good scoring chances. Weal had a couple nice looks, as did Lehtera in his return to St. Louis, the only other NHL team he’s played for.

The advanced stats weren’t kind as the trio combined for a sub-50% Corsi For on the evening, but most of that could be attributed to the way the game flowed as the tired Flyers were pushed around late by a rested Blues team. It was more the chances created by the line that caught my attention, something that hasn’t been the case for anyone outside of Weal in that trio.

Early on the Flyers have been far too reliant on the top line for offense, and getting some scoring support from anywhere else would be a huge boon.

6. Early penalties keep killing momentum

The Flyers didn’t come out off puck drop like a team playing the second of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights. There was a quick jump from the top line of Claude Giroux, until the energy the line brought was quickly killed off by a bad slashing penalty on Dale Weise.

St. Louis controlled the puck nearly the entire power play and peppered Michal Neuvrith with three shots, all quality chances. Even as the Flyers killed off the penalty largely due to Neuvirth’s handiwork in net, it led to a solid five minutes of domination by the Blues that probably should have led to a goal.

7. This team badly misses Shayne Gostisbehere

While Gostisbehere’s absence was going to be felt on the power play, it’s been similarly obvious how important No. 53 is to the Flyers at even strength.

The Flyers weren’t dangerous on either power play against the Blues, and saw the second unit have more success than the top unit did. Despite all the good Ivan Provorov does, he isn’t the same offensive threat that Gostisbehere is and it makes a world of difference on the Flyers’ top power play unit. The threat of Ghost at the point allows more room for everyone else to operate and that space just isn’t there with him off the ice.

8. Brandon Manning, offensive dynamo

After being ruled goaltender interference on the ice, the call was reversed after a Flyers challenge to give them a 1-0 lead. Jake Voracek was outside of Jake Allen’s crease and was then pushed back into the goalie by Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

Manning, who had a nice night getting six pucks on goal, was rewarded with his second goal of the season. Normally you don’t want Manning leading the team in shots, but outside of Provorov somebody on defense needed to step up and it ended up being Manning with the game-wining goal.

It’s certainly nice to see a call finally benefit the Flyers, but also to see the officials take the time to actually get a call right when it comes to goaltender interference.

9. The Bees keep buzzing

All three members off the fourth line posted at least a 54% Corsi For or better on the night. That low mark was Taylor Leier while Michael Raffl led the way at 73% and Scott Laughton not far behind at 62%. Both Raffl and Laughton had good scoring chances and not just the products of a mass of point shots.

The fourth line doesn’t have the point production of the top line of Giroux, Couturier, and Voracek, but they’ve consistently been the Flyers’ second-best line through the start of the season. The only thing they aren’t doing is much scoring, but that should come given the success they’ve had everywhere else.

10. That’s about as ugly a road win as they come

The Flyers were dead tired, outmanned and outplayed but damn if they didn’t come away with two points on the road against one of the NHL’s best teams. St. Louis is off to a hot start and came in undefeated in five home games, but none of that mattered as the Flyers proved they can hang with just about anyone on any given night.

It sure wasn’t pretty, but it was damn effective.

Here’s BSH Radio’s Bill Matz’ reaction to the road win.

Posted by Broad Street Hockey: For Philadelphia Flyers Fans on Thursday, November 2, 2017