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Flyers 6, Islanders 4: Revenge is sweet

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Some observations for your morning...

Kate Frese / SB Nation

Well, they did it. The Flyers had a chance to redeem themselves after a flat game on Tuesday, and losses in their last two meetings against the Islanders. And in the process, they picked up two points in the standings with this regulation win. After Tuesday, there wasn’t much to like, but now there’s certainly a lot more. Let’s get into it.

All stats and graphics via Corsica.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com

1. Off to a better start

So that rough start stuff we were talking about? And how the Flyers really need to get it together and knock that out? Well, it looks like they’re working on it. And last night was the first step.

Pretty much from the start, the Flyers’ passing looked sharper and they seemed to have an easier time finding ways to connect. It wasn’t perfect, but it looked cleaner, and it helped them to get going earlier and create chances, rather than giving them up.

But the early part of the first period wasn’t without its problems. The biggest hindrance for the the Flyers? Controlling their zone entries. Through the first half of the period or so, the Islanders defended the blue line tightly, making it difficult for the Flyers to cleanly exit the neutral zone. As such, they were left to fall back on dump and chase, and had to deal with the broken plays that followed. They did well enough to collect a good number of those dumped pucks, so they were winning the races, at least. It was a good enough start, if a little disjointed. But, most of all, it’s a step in the right direction.

2. Better start = earlier offensive pressure

And, as you might have guessed, this comparatively more fluid start allowed for the Flyers to snag the early edge in momentum and create more offense. This was obvious enough throughout the period, but particularly so when they hit the delayed penalty on the Islanders. They were able to keep the puck moving, buying time to pull Elliott and get the extra attacker out, and put up a solid shift of both generating chances and being elusive enough to keep the Islanders from intercepting the puck, keeping the pressure up.

This pressure, then, continued into the power play and it was no surprise when they were rewarded with a goal under a minute into the shift, off the stick of Couturier. The stats seemed promising, with the Flyers going 10-3-3 when they struck first, and this was a welcome change to what we’ve been seeing. They brought it early, and they were rewarded, in turn.

3. Improvement in quality chances

And there’s even more improvement to talk about! Let’s keep going with it, and check in with our old pal, the heatmap.

Something that frustrated the Flyers most in their last two meetings was the way that the Islanders were able to effectively seal off the area around the crease, holding the Flyers overwhelmingly to the outside, left to lean back on perimeter shots. But this wasn’t the case at all last night. Rather, the Flyers made the front of the net their office, picking up three goals in close. They still did some shooting from farther away--especially on the power play where one of their goals came from the perimeter--but they didn’t rely on this area like they have been, or have been forced to. They kept things simple, and put greater emphasis on being aggressive and shooting from high danger areas. And it worked for them. Imagine that.

4. The flip side

On the opposite end of that success, literally, is how the Flyers were able to effectively shut down the Islanders, especially as it relates to generating shots in and around the crease. When all was said and done, the Flyers were able to hold the Islanders to 1.41 xG and an adjusted 45.91 CF% at five-on-five. Though they were allowed to start to crawl back late in the game, the Islanders were never allowed to gain full control of momentum in all of the sixty minutes of play. And part of this, sure, was the fact that they often found themselves in the box, on the penalty kill, but it was also a testament to the Flyers’ work in controlling the quality of many of the chances they allowed. They effectively flipped the script, limiting the number of shots the Islanders could take, but also their location. They were kept from establishing a real netfront presence, held at least equally to the points and far ends of the faceoff circles. Elliott didn’t exactly have an easy night, but his teammates made it just that little bit easier.

5. Provorov bounces back

After an admittedly rough night for Ivan Provorov on Tuesday--partially through no fault of his own--he and the rest of us were almost certainly all hoping for him to bring a markedly improved game against the Islanders. And he did just that.

Remaining paired with Shayne Gostisbehere, the two did well enough to defend against Johnathan Tavares’s line, and Provorov remained his usual responsible self in his own zone.

But where he really shined was on the offensive side, and area where he isn’t typically known to be particularly flashy. But ever was he last night. Over the course of the game, he registered four shots on goal--second on the team--and picked up two goals on the night. It looked like he had picked up his first goal earlier in the game, but it was actually given to Raffl, who tipped the puck into the net. But no matter, he was able to pick up a goal on the power play just a few minutes later. He would then close out scoring for the even as he notched the empty-netter, after a bit of shuffling the puck around by his teammates, effectively solidifying the win for the Flyers. It was an impressive night, no ways about it, even if it was one we shouldn’t totally expect to be typical. But, all the same, it was nice to see him coming back strong after an off night.

6. All lines rolling again

As we’ve talked about at length by now, one of the more exciting parts or prospects of the Flyers’ game through the pre- and early season was the way they could get each of their lines going on a given night, that they could roll out with four legitimate scoring lines. And while they got away from that for a while, hit a bit of a lull in the middle six, it seemed that last night they showed that they were working to get back to that old form.

Though it tapered off a bit as the night went on, the fourth line was the one to bring some of the most dangerous pressure, early in the second period. Through the rest of the evening, each of the top three lines pick up a goal, and averaged an adjusted CF% of over 50 percent at five on five. And we can nitpick, say that we would’ve liked to have seen more from the fourth line--and this would be completely fair--but on the whole, it was a more or less complete effort seen from the team. Which we could use a little more of.

7. Giving up a lot in the third

But despite this intensity brought up and down the lineup, it wasn’t a full sixty minute effort. Up 5-2 heading into the third period, the Flyers sat back a bit, giving the Islanders a chance to try to pull momentum back in their favor. In the final 20 minutes, the Flyers allowed 17 shots and two goals, and only averaged an adjusted CF% of 35.2 percent at five-on-five. They gave up far too many chances, and nearly let the Islanders tie things up towards the end of the period. All of the hard work that they had put in through the first two periods was nearly undone because they got a little complacent. It wasn’t an complete trainwreck, to be clear, but there was a very distinct feeling, once the Islanders got within one goal, that “oh man, they’re really going to blow this lead and find a way to lose in overtime again, huh?” They were able to shape up and reign things in, in the last few minutes, to keep the game from slipping away, but one wonders if they ever really should have been in that position, to begin with.

8. Not breaking news: the PK is still struggling

Wow, who’d have ever thought we’d have to bring it up? Surprise! The Flyers’ penalty kill still isn’t good.

To start and give credit where credit’s due, the Flyers are continuing to do well to not take a huge number of penalties. They ended the game with 29 penalty minutes--due mostly to fighting and roughing majors--but only allowed one power play chance for the Islanders. And this, on the surface, is good news, or would be if their penalty kill wasn’t just plain bad.

The shift looked promising, at first. They weren’t able to clear, but were getting more aggressive, going after the puck. Until they weren’t. They quickly settled back into their more passive mode, getting set and hoping to block a shot, and this was all the Islanders needed. You could see the goal coming a mile away, and Tavares was given far too much to work with.

9. The night we’ve been waiting for from Konecny

You guys, it finally happened. The game we’ve all been waiting for. Travis Konecny’s finally starting to break out. And it’s glorious.

Konecny had a big game last night. It started with the fight against Prince, which earned him a five minute major penalty, but really added some jump to his teammates’ game. And from there, he was all over the place all night. He put up five shots on goal--tied for the most among all Flyers--averaged an adjusted CF% of 61.70 percent at five-on-five, and picked up a pretty breakaway goal. And after being pulled for a shift in the third period, he still saw the ice with the rest of his line throughout much of the period, showing the coach’s trust in putting him on the ice against Tavares’s line, even as they protected a lead.

And, like I said, this is pretty much exactly what we’ve been waiting to see from him. He’s been putting in good work to date, but hasn’t been seeing the results. And now that he’s been moved up in the lineup and is getting some more minutes, he’s finally starting to get them.

10. The only damn thing I know

Snowed in and watching the game from my couch, I was blessed to receive the gift of catching the candid b-roll footage of folks watching the game from the Wells Fargo Center. I hadn’t been paying super close attention to the people being shown, but for one brief, shining moment, I thought I caught a glimpse of the best person of all: one man eating two ice cream cones at the same time. And I was ecstatic.

This visual was at once hilarious and deeply resonant. It would turn out that it was just a framing mishap, an illusion, and it was actually two people each eating their own ice cream. But I remain undeterred. This true hero must be out there somewhere. Actually double fisting ice cream cones. Actually living my best life.