The Flyers won! Were you worried that they’d dip into another losing streak? Well, it looks like they had you covered. And we have you covered with things we learned while they had you covered. Or something. Let’s get into it.
1. Maybe someday first periods will be good again
So, it’s no secret. The Flyers have hit a run of rough first period efforts. We’ve talked about how they struggle to get a rhythm going, how it takes a while for their passes to start connecting. And while the showing wasn’t quite as ugly as it has been in the past, last night was no different.
Despite being on the back end of a back to back, the Red Wings came out flying, catching the Flyers by surprise. They were outshot 5-1 through the first five minutes or so, leaving many of us worried about the course of the game, if they were somehow going to get thrashed even by this struggling Red Wings team.
But that didn’t happen. Detroit was able to even up the score by the end, but the Flyers began steadily picking up steam since the second half of the period, working to swing momentum back in their favor. They ended the period having allowed a goal and outshot 11-10, but holding an adjusted CF% of 55.93 percent at even strength, and looking like they were working to sharpen up. And after a series of lackluster early showings, it felt like a welcome change, and a step in the right direction, however small.
2. Some excellent pressure by the first line
We’ve been seeing a lot of good things from this relatively newly arranged first line of Giroux-Couturier-Simmonds, but last night’s performance was easily the strongest showing the line has brought since they’ve been put together. And it was clear almost immediately from the get-go.
The first line had been clicking well enough through the early part of the period, but really started looking dangerous about halfway through, when they were able to generate a nice bit of sustained pressure in the offensive zone. They were only credited with one shot, officially, but did well to keep the puck moving and get it in the direction of the net. Things were gelling and it seemed a marvel that they weren’t able to pick up a goal on that shift.
But the momentum kept rolling and the first line was able to continue to combine their stellar individual efforts to work to spark something not just for their own line, but also in hopes of pushing the other lines to do the same.
3. That first goal sure was ... something
With all that excellent pressure being brought by the first line, you'd figure that they'd be the first to be rewarded with a goal, right? Well, not quite.
Because existence is just one big cosmic joke, it would be the third line--the one who has objectively struggled the most to date--that opened things up.
Winning the faceoff in the offensive zone, Patrick dished the puck to Gudas, who, because he simply cannot resist, blasts it in from the right point. The shot's blocked, of course, but Weise is there to collect the rebound. And then, dropping below the red line, he swung around the net for the wraparound goal.
And while it's easy to laugh, roll our eyes and talk about how this totally figures, it was, all in all, a solid effort by a line that's had some real trouble generating chances, up to this point. And while they remained relatively quiet for the rest of the game, it was a solid shift, coming at just the right moment. And, of course, a bit of secondary scoring never hurt anybody.
4. Lehtera Watch 2k17
And so it continues.
With Taylor Leier listed as day to day with an upper body injury, space was left for Jori Lehtera to slot into Leier’s place on the fourth line. And the feelings about this were overwhelmingly confliction. At once we thought “ugh, this is going to be ugly, isn’t it?” and “well maybe he isn’t actually as bad as we’ve been saying. It’s been awhile since he’s played and honestly I’ve wiped all memory of it. Maybe he’ll surprise us.” And it turned out to be a little bit of both.
The downside: Lehtera spent a lot of time looking slow, as he, naturally, couldn’t quite keep up with the speed that players like Konecny and Laughton are otherwise able to bring. Some of his decision making also proved questionable, as she showed moments of looking like he was making panic plays.
The upside: he posted a respectable adjusted CF% of 49.37 in just over seven and a half minutes played at five on five, and nearly had a chance to knock a rebound into the net from just the same spot as Weise’s goal, but he couldn’t get it done.
Overall decision: he was fine. Which is fine, in and of itself.
But we still hope to see Leier back soon.
5. Tough luck for the PK
Man oh man, it was not a banner night for the Flyers' penalty kill. As a group that’s been struggling of late, we wanted to not expect too much from them, but the Flyers also needed them to come up big when given the chance. And with both of the Red Wings’ first two goals coming on the power play, that just didn’t quite happen.
On the first, it was an issue of MacDonald failing to break up a cross ice pass that ended up on the stick of Martin Frk, and then in the back of the net. It just jumped over his stick as he scrambled to keep up, just seconds before the period ended.
The second PK opportunity was even more of a tease. After Weal took a high sticking double minor, the Flyers were able to kill off the first half of it with relative ease, and for a moment there it looked like they might be able to get the whole thing done. But on the second half, the Flyers found themselves hemmed into their zone, and with Elliott left screened, well, the rest was history.
It seems worth noting that these weren’t complete tire fires of penalty kill attempts, but somehow they still can’t seem to get it done. And I don’t know how much else there is to say besides that they need to figure something out soon.
6. Snaps for the power play, though
But, on the flip side of the special teams coin, the Flyers’ power play--or rather, first power play unit--did have an excellent night. They went one for one on the evening, and were able to score just 45 seconds into the first shift. It was a lovely dish from Voracek to Simmonds, who was situated just outside the crease, and was able to knock the puck right in before Howard even had the chance to get set.
And, to be sure, this was a great effort by PP1 to generate pressure and capitalize on a quality chance, but it also underscores something the Flyers were doing really well last night--generating high danger chances. For a change, the area around the crease was a busy one, as the Flyers seemed to place greater emphasis on generating shots in close to the net, and they were rewarded for it. In keeping the puck moving and forcing Howard and the Red Wings’ defense to remain on their toes, they were able to create better scoring chances, and actually convert on them. Funny how that works.
7. All of Steph’s large adult sons have goals now!
That’s right! You heard it here, folks! All of the kids have now picked up their first NHL goals.
And let’s hear it for Robert Hagg! Aside from scoring his first goal and getting to wear the Ric Flair robe after the game, he put up what was overall a solid showing for the evening. He recorded three shots on goal and a respectable adjusted CF% of 52.57 percent in 16:13 played at even strength. He and Ghost spent a fair amount of the game matched up against Zetterberg’s line, and did well to largely contain their efforts, and held up well over time. It was something of a flashy evening for a guy who tends to be anything but, and it suited him well.
8. God bless Sean Couturier
Are you tired of talking about Couturier yet? I sure hope not, because I know I for one am not even close to being done.
Last night, as we touched on above, Couturier had a pretty fantastic night in working to generate some good looks alongside Giroux and Simmonds. His five on five icetime (17:34) and adjusted CF% (72.95 percent) were both second among forwards, behind Voracek and Simmonds, respectively.
Oh, and that goal? Not only was it the ultimate game winner, but it was also his 16th of the season, officially pushing him past his career season high. And did I mention we’re only 34 games in?
Honestly, I don’t know that I can stress enough how excellent Couturier has looked this season. And you can call it development, the benefit of having better linemates, a product of receiving more responsibility, whatever you will. The results are more than speaking for themselves, and this pace shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
9. Return to third period dominance
And the Flyers have circled back to what was perhaps one of the more exciting areas of their game, highlighted during the earliest games of the season--their ability to outskate and outperform their opponents late in games, and virtually steal all momentum away from them. They got away from it for a while, there, but now they’re getting back on track.
Through the first nine minutes of the third period, the Flyers allowed the Red Wings to put up exactly zero shots, and only allowed three more through the duration of the remaining eleven minutes, even as Detroit spent the final two minutes with the man advantage. Hakstol called the third period their “most complete period,” and I’m inclined to agree. The Flyers were working well to generate chances of their own, all while defending, but resisting the urge to slip into a mode of just defending. They kept the energy up when Detroit was lagging, and they effectively sealed the game for themselves with those last twenty minutes. It was, all in all, an impressive effort, and one we’d like to see more of.
10. The only damn thing I know
That’s it, you guys. We’ve hit it. The point of no return.
The Wells Fargo Center has fully embraced it, and played a video of the Ric Flair Woo on the big screen, and the crowd was all for it. Not a moment of reprieve came for the remainder of the third period. The crowd was all in on the woos. And now you can’t get away.
On your social media feed, it’s there. On the street, it rings through the air.
It’s 3 a.m. and you awaken from a dead sleep, drenched in a cold sweat and trembling, you hear it.
The voice changes, but the sound never breaks. It draws nearer, still.
I don’t know what happens when it catches you.