So, remember when the Flyers lost a whole bunch of games in a row, and we thought things would never be good again? Well, that’s a thing of the past. They picked up their fourth consecutive win last night against the Leafs, and there was a lot to look at. Let’s dive in.
1. The same old song and dance?
The start of last night's game looked, in short, very familiar. Passing was inaccurate, and the Flyers' plays were broken up with relative ease. And this difficulty in establishing momentum was clear in the numbers—the Flyers were only able to register two shots on goal through the first nine minutes of the game.
So we sat with the same old feeling. "Here we go again." The Flyers are standing a very good chance of digging themselves into a hole that they may or may not be able to dig themselves out of. Great.
But, here again, we saw that they were taking a bit of time to get settled. Toronto wasn’t giving them much to work with, was defending tightly, and the Flyers had to work to find a way to counter that. But they also didn’t do themselves any favors in the process. The results were fine, they didn’t allow Toronto to take full advantage, and, as we’ve all seen, things could have been a whole lot worse.
2. Defense, defense, defense
But, in all fairness, the Flyers weren’t the only ones getting pretty effectively shut down in the first period--they were also doing their own bit of tight defending. An Auston Matthews-less Leafs team still has some weapons, and the Flyers were able to hold them to just seven shot attempts through the first 20 minutes, and 43 through the duration of regulation. With two fast and highly skilled teams, the way to keep the game from getting away from them was through effective matchups and defending. And, given the volatility in defending, to date, the Flyers did a solid job of this. They held the Leafs to just 1.55 expected goals, while registering 2.71 of their own. We’ve praised this team for, by and large, their ability to face teams with potential to inflict real offensive damage and effectively mitigate those threats, and last night was just another example of them playing to that strength.
3. A turnaround
But things were not slow for long! Nearly halfway through the period, on just the third shot of the evening, Giroux was able to open up scoring for the Flyers. Picking up a pass from Couturier right off the faceoff, he sent the puck rocketing in on goal, and straight past Anderson. It was a true bang-bang play, and it certainly got the building rocking. And with the Flyers now grabbing ahold of a lead, surely they would be able to keep this momentum rolling, be able to do even more!
Well, not so fast.
On the very next shift, an ugly defensive breakdown led to an odd man rush into the Flyers’ defensive zone, and Marleau was able to tie things up. And quite a bit of activity later, it seemed we were right back where we started, with a tie game and even more tying up of play.
4. The power play?
So, here we are. Still talking about the power play.
After looking like it was finally getting back on track during the Western Canadian swing, the Flyers' power play went 0/1 against the Leafs last night. And, on paper, that figure isn't the absolute worst. But the effort behind it was another story.
With an early opportunity on a Polak tripping call, the Flyers had the chance to take an even earlier lead. But they just couldn’t seem to click. The Leafs broke up their attempts. When they were able to stick in the offensive zone, they spent most of the time cycling the puck around and trying to get set. There never felt like there was a true sense of urgency--effort, sure, not no extra urgency. So it came as little surprise when they weren’t able to capitalize on that chance. They just couldn’t bring that extra push.
5. Second period switch
So, the first period was kind of rough, a little slow at times, and the worry that it had set the tone for the rest of the game was a very real one. But, oh boy, were we wrong.
After tallying seven shots on goal through the entirety of the first period, the Flyers were able to double this figure in just the first three minutes of the period. They were able to keep the Leafs effectively hemmed into their own zone for much of the beginning of the period, doing well to create pressure after having been largely frustrated through the first twenty minutes.
This is good news, as the shots will, in theory start to translate into results. The bad news? They weren't able to make anything of this pressure. But, if nothing else, it was a step in the right direction.
From the start of the second period, the Flyers handled the Leafs easily, from a possession standpoint, outshooting them 57 to 43 in total. The worry crept up that this would be another one of those games where the Flyers out-Corsi a team, but somehow find a way to lose. But those days are over, friends. Welcome to the new times.
6. More notes on special teams
Early in the game, after some pretty egregious non-calls on Toronto, it became pretty clear that this was going to be one of those "just let them play" types of games. As such, there was a sense of urgency felt when one of the teams was given a power play opportunity.
That chance came for the Leafs at 16:11, with a tripping call on Voracek. With the game tied, and the Leafs scrambling to get something going. The Flyers' penalty kill needed to come up big.
And, well, they didn't.
To be fair, the start looked promising. After an initial clear, the Leafs were able to move the puck back into the zone to generate some pressure. And the PK showed some flashes, looked like they might start playing more aggressively. But instead, they sat back and let the Leafs get set, just hoping they'd be able to make a stop. You could see the van Riemsdyk goal coming a mile away.
And this has been the story to the penalty kill, when it was lagging. They weren't able to put any pressure on their opponent, and time and time again, they get burned. These flashes have been promising, but they've got to find a way to turn around more completely.
7. THE BEES
Above is the frantic section title/note I threw into this outline late in last night's game, and you know what, I'm sticking with it.
The Honey Bees got a new look for last night's game, as Hakstol once again shuffled the wings and placed Konecny on the nominal fourth line. It was one that had some success against Toronto, on the whole, with their mix of speed and physicality. They easily handled their matchups, averaging an adjusted CF% of 76.65 percent at five on five.
And then the goal. Oh man, the goal.
TEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKS pic.twitter.com/fLODaqBEfn— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 13, 2017
Creating traffic around the net, the bees just couldn't seem to get anything to break through. But late in their shift, Hagg picked up the puck and shoveled it off to Konecny who, stationed near the blueline between the faceoff circles, blasted it on goal past a heavily screened Anderson.
And it was a Konecny goal!
No, wait, it's a Leier goal!
But maybe not! It may go back to Konecny after all!
After some deliberation, the goal was officially awarded to Konecny, so he was able to pick up a goal in his 100th NHL game. Which is nice.
On the whole, it was a successful night for the Honey Bees, and the forward shuffling continues to yield results. And the bees buzz on. (Sorry)
8. Welcome back, Radko!
Guess who's back! Gudas is back!
After serving a ten game suspension for a slash to the head of Mathieu Perreault during their meeting in Winnipeg last month, Gudas finally made his return to the ice last night. So let's take a moment to check in on how he fared in his first game back.
In short, he was just fine.
Paired again with Travis Sanheim, he received 14:03 total minutes of ice time, for the game. During that time, he posted an adjusted CF% of 62.36 percent at even strength, and registered five shots on goal.
He didn't seem to be plagued in any sort of major way by rust, and didn't struggle to get back up to game speed. Indeed, he seemed to be in vintage form, shooting the puck immediately, literally every time the puck touched his stick. (We can grumble about that, absolutely, but it kind of is what it is, at this point).
So, not a stellar, standout night for Gudas, but it was a good one. He showed up, did the work he's supposed to, and didn't incur any further suspensions in the process. So, that's a win in my book.
9. Couturier is still the best (but don't tell him that)
We talked a good amount during the ten game losing streak about how Sean Couturier is the only good thing left in this world, and all else falls somewhere on the continuum of "meh" to "absolute garbage." And things have started to turn around in a big way, there is goodness back in this world in a lot of different places. But Couturier remains an absolute treasure.
The goal to propel the Flyers back into the lead was an absolute stunner. Tied up along the boards, Giroux sent the puck cross ice through both his and the defender’s legs.
This goal by Sean Couturier was amazing, the pass? Even better! Flyers lead 3-2 late in the third. pic.twitter.com/9TYCtdZ2Gs— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 13, 2017
And from there, it was all Couturier all the way. Beating Brown in the foot race, he sped down ice to fire the puck straight past Freddie Anderson. It's not a race that he will win often, but somehow Couturier found a whole other gear to tap into, and it was a marvel to behold.
And as for his teammates? What were they thinking? Giroux sang his praises during his post-game interview, but closed out in joking "I'm done talking about Coots right now, that’s enough."
I mean, what are friends for, if not to keep you humble?
10. The only damn thing I know
We may have beaten the Canadian team at the hockey game, but they definitely beat us at the anthem game. Let me explain.
Approximately 10:30 last night. I'm bundled up against the cold, traversing the Wells Fargo Center parking lot with my scarf pulled up over my nose. The wind slows movement, cuts through everything. I imagine I am on some perilous journey to some great somewhere. And playing in the back of my head? That's right. O Canada.
Inexplicably, the Canadian national anthem is a total earworm, the soundtrack to my commute.
Well played, Canada. Well played.