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Flyers 5, Lightning 3: What we learned from the last game of 2017

A complete effort in the second of a back-to-back earned the Flyers a much-needed win to build momentum heading into 2018.

Kate Frese / SBNation
Kate Frese / SBNation

The Flyers got back on track with a 5-3 win over the Lightning on Friday night, here’s what we learned from the Flyers’ final offering of 2017...in no particular order.

Flyers’ top guns keep gunning

Sean Couturier had a goal and two assists, Claude Giroux had three helpers, and Jake Voracek was perhaps the best Flyer on the ice with a pair of assists as well. The trio has been so good—together or apart—that the Flyers can win games in which they get little to no other scoring.

That wasn’t the case tonight as Simmonds, Manning, and Filppula found the back of the net, but all of their goals involved the aforementioned trio getting in on the act. Suddenly Voracek and Giroux have 46 points and are tied for fifth in the league in scoring while Couturier continues to set a new career-high with each goal he scores.

The Flyers will likely only go as far as the high-scoring trio will take them, but they haven’t shown any signs of slowing down so far, that’s for sure

The Power play was dangerous and effective

After failing to capitalize on their first two power plays of the night despite generating some good chances, the Flyers suddenly found themselves in an 0-for-10 rut on the man-advantage over their last few games. The drought wouldn’t last much longer as the Flyers would score on back-to-back power plays in the first 10 minutes of the second period.

The first came on an all-world, cross-crease backhand pass from Sean Couturier to Wayne Simmonds for the easy finish. The Flyers took advantage of an aggressive Lightning penalty kill by moving the puck quickly from the blue line down low and pulled a defender out of position to leave Simmonds open just long enough.

On the second one, Giroux put a shot on net form the circle that created a rebound in front. Simmonds tracked the puck and made a great area pass over to Shayne Gostisbehere, who cut in from the point to bury the goal.

Puck movement and shot selection were key as the Flyers broke out of their power play slump.

Because Wayne Simmonds lives!

It’s been a rough go for Simmonds as of late, to say the least, but the big man got going in a big way on Friday night. After just two points in his last seven games, Simmonds had a goal and an assist in the win. Not only was he on the score sheet but he was a force in front of the net and down low as the Flyers broke out of their power play slumber.

Simmonds has always been a streaky scorer, but even when he’s not scoring he can be a threat that opens things up for those around him. The Flyers made a concerted effort to get the puck down low to him against Tampa Bay and everyone got rewarded.

Penalty kill struggles early (again), but adjusts and comes up huge late

Jake Voracek put the NHL’s top-ranked power play on the ice early, and the Flyers paid the price as Steven Stamkos gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead 7:27 in. Nikita Kucherov made a beautiful cross-ice pass to find Stamkos but the Flyers gave Kucherov too much time and space to access his options.

Though the Tampa power play came in cold going one for their last 15, they heated up quick and forced the Flyers to make early adjustments on the penalty kill. On the final penalty kill with Tampa gunning for a tying goal, the Flyers shaded the defense towards Stamkos and Andrew MacDonald came up with a couple massive blocked shots to preserve the lead.

Elliott also better anticipated the cross-ice look from Kucherov and was able to get across to make a big save on Stamkos as well. It’s a power play with a ton of weapons, but the Flyers did a great job identifying what the Lightning wanted to do and make the adjustments to shut it down the rest of the way.

Flyers’ shot selection focused on the danger areas

From the face-off dots on in was where the Flyers really focused on firing the puck against the Lightning. On the power play they moved the puck down low more often than not and were able to generate goals.

Both power play markers came off passing plays down below the dots and the Flyers really crashed the net at even strength as well. Too often this season the Flyers haven’t gone into the proverbial dirty areas to score, but that wasn’t the case on Friday.

Brian Elliott just keeps on chugging

Playing in his 13th-straight game, the Flyers’ netminder again came up huge in a winning effort. Tampa’s offense is the most dangerous in the league and they really create strain on goalies by moving the puck quickly across the ice.

Elliott robbed Victor Hedman on one of these cross-ice looks from Kucherov and made another big save on Steven Stamkos in his wheelhouse from the circle. In all the veteran made 24 saves on 27 shots, but kept the Flyers alive in the second period with 12 saves on 13 shots as the Lightning really pressed.

With three days off before a trip to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins, Elliott could very well be looking at his 14th-straight to start the New Year.

Tough night for Ivan Provorov

It was certainly not a normal night for the Flyers’ top defenseman on Friday night. Provorov had some bad turnovers that ended up costing his team and then a late hard luck play that left you scratching you head.

A bad backhand pass from Provorov in the neutral zone was picked off by Tampa Bay and ended up in the back of the net as the Flyers saw just how quick the Lightning are in transition. While he was pressured hard on the boards by two Lightning, he could have gone up the boards instead of back towards the middle of the ice and at worst taken maybe an icing call.

Later in the game he’d break his stick on one-timer, which turned into a Tyler Johnson shorthanded goal to pull Tampa Bay within one at 4-3. Backpedaling without his stick starring down Johnson, it was about as good as the second-year defenseman could do but nonetheless a tough play in an oddly rough night.

The Valtteri Filppula revenge game!

Though his metrics don’t say it — he was a 31% Corsi For on the night — Filppula had a strong game on Friday night against his former team.

He finished off a good last shift with the empty net goal which started with him blasting Nikita Kucherov carrying the puck as the Lightning tried to mount a charge. Kucherov was everywhere in this one, but Filppula disrupted the NHL’s scoring leader before he could get going in the final minute and helped set the tone as the Flyers fended off Tampa’s last charge.

It probably felt good for Filppula to put the dagger in the team who essentially gave him away last season, and the veteran has proven to be a solid pivot for the Flyers and someone who could carry some trade value for a sure-fire playoff team needed depth down the middle for a stretch run.

Flyers change it up playing with a lead (s)

We’ve seen the Flyers blow two goal leads with relative ease in the past, and their 2-1 lead in this one lasted just about five minutes so it’s easy to be skeptical with a 4-2 lead with 18:07 left against a good team.

Normally the Flyers would go on the defensive and sit back waiting for the merciful final horn and pray for the full two points, but they continued on the offensive following Brandon Manning’s goal to push their lead to two.

They carried play for the next few minutes and drew a tripping call on Alex Killorn to head back on the power play, one that was suddenly red-hot. Though the ill-fated broken stick on their man-advantage would doom them, it was a good power play until that point and that’s just one of those bad things that can and will happen from time to time.

In all the Flyers played well with the lead they earned down the stretch, still pushing offensively and even getting a key penalty kill with Dale Weise in the box with less than seven minutes left. It was nice to see them not pack it in for a change.

Playing up (and down) to the competition

Even a casual Flyers fan can see that the Flyers seem to put in their better efforts against the good teams and some odd efforts against so-so to bad teams. It’s maddening, but it’s been this way for a long time.

Take two nights ago, as the Flyers didn’t show up for 50 minutes against the .500 Panthers, but played like a team shot out of a cannon in the final 10 minutes to nearly earn a point or more in a 3-2 loss. Last night they come out with a great effort from puck drop and largely outplay on of the NHL’s best clubs for long stretches of play in a 5-3 win.

It’s frustrating, but there’s always the hope that at some point in time the Flyers will play with more consistency and start earning more points against teams they should while adding on these wins in games against the better teams in the league. But until that happens, the Jekyll and Hyde performances we saw on the Florida trip will continue to be the norm for this club.