And the Flyers just keep on rolling! Yesterday they picked up a lovely win over the Blues, sweeping the two game series for the season, and as always, we have ten observations for you.
All stats via Corsica.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com.
1. New fourth line, who dis
Once again we have to say it. RIP, the Honey Bees. Yesterday we again got a new look to the fourth line, with Laughton remaining, but placed between Lehtera and AHL call-up Tyrell Goulbourne. And it was an arrangement that was something of a mystery, left questions regarding what pace and production it would be able to bring.
As such, we started the game hopeful that they would be able to get something going, and... What? What’s that. Oh well, would you look at that, they’ve already scored.
And so it was the fourth line that was able to open up scoring for the game, and just 2:15 in at that. Storming into the offensive zone, they made their presence known and worked to clear space around the net, and Laughton threw in an absolute laser, unassisted, past Goulbourne and into the goal. And we had a one goal lead.
And while we’re on the subject, that brings us to...
2. Goulbourne Watch 2k17
Just like with Lehtera Watch, earlier in the season, it seems only fitting to rebrand as we try to take a hard look at Goulbourne as he makes his NHL debut. So, how did he do?
Well, he had a big start, that’s for sure. On the opening shift, he made a big hit to the side of the net in the offensive zone, clearing some space for Laughton to take the shot that would lead to the first goal of the game. And that was huge.
But beyond that, he had a pretty quiet game. He only played 5:23, and didn’t see much of the ice in the third period. And we didn’t see him on the penalty kill, as it was rumored that we might. He kept his head down, delivered four hits, and avoided making any big mistakes.
However, he also didn’t contribute much in terms of offense. Over the course of the night, he didn’t register a single shot, but averaged an adjusted CF% of 58.63 percent at five on five. And, to be fair, we shouldn’t expect him to do everything on just his first NHL game, but we will be looking--an indeed likely needing--him to take a step up on the offensive side.
3. What a first period!
Okay, so that slow start thing? That’s over. That’s cancelled. Never happened. The Flyers are good at first periods now, and yesterday’s was a particularly good one.
By the seven minute mark of the first period, the Flyers had seven shots, two goals, and had held the Blues to exactly zero shots of their own. They would exit the period holding a 16-7 edge in shots, a 65.56 percent adjusted CF% at five on five, and zero goals against. Which, on the whole, makes for a pretty collection of figures.
It almost feels strange, at this point, to see the Flyers picking up steam early in games rather than digging themselves into holes, but it’s a good sort of strange all the same. The only question that remains is whether this is some flukey half-shift, or if they’ve really figured out how to be good early in games again.
4. Jordan Weal!
Yesterday’s Nature Boy certainly deserves a nod from us, just as he received from his teammates. (I won’t be wooing, but you guys are welcome to, should you feel so inclined).
Weal picked up a goal in yesterday’s game--his third goal and fifth point in just as many games--and oh boy was it a pretty one.
The Weal deal.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 6, 2018
Nice move from Jordan to make it 3-0. pic.twitter.com/nENQEPznGC
He started the play to begin moving out of the defensive zone, got the puck to Voracek who created the entry, and then got it right back, skating through three Blues to pot the goal. It was little short of a stellar sequence, and just what we’ve been wanting to see from him. Despite the slow start, he’s been doing the little things well, and the feeling lingered that things would break open for him, eventually. And we may well be at the start of that.
And, would you look at that, you’ve made it through another section about Jordan Weal without having to endure another Weal/Weally pun. You’re welcome, friends.
5. And holy moly that top line is on fire
After seemingly taking a bit of time to get settled and full adjust to the shift in linemates, the first line of Giroux-Couturier-Konecny is finally starting to really come on. And yesterday was a big game for them.
Giroux picked up a goal, Couturier two, and Konecny and assist The trio also averaged an adjusted CF% of 64.34 percent at five on five, leading the team in this metric.
But what is perhaps the most remarkable is how the three are gelling together, and putting together the full-line performances that marked much of the line’s success when Voracek was on the right wing. And this was particularly evident leading up to Couturier’s first goal, in which Konecny’s stretch pass connected with Giroux perfectly as he dipped into the zone to feed Couturier for the goal. And it’s these full line connections that are both a real treat to watch, as well as a look into how well the group can potentially produce, going forward.
6. The penalty kill does the thing
In what was perhaps a shocking turn of events, the Flyers’ penalty kill had a good night.
As they did on Thursday, they were again doing well to stay out of the penalty box in the first place. Over the full course of the game, they only took one penalty--Manning’s holding minor--late in the second period, and were able to stay out of the box completely in the third period, while they worked to preserve their lead.
But given how bad the PK has been to date, we didn’t go into the shift with particularly high expectations. But then something incredible happened: they killed it. It wasn’t a particularly aggressive attempt, but the Flyers were able to keep the puck tied up and, ultimately, cleared, containing the Blues’ efforts to shorten the gap in the score. And while this effort got the job done, it didn’t exactly mark a huge improvement, process-wise, from what they had done in previous games. So while we like the result, we’re still waiting for that process to catch up, for the steps to be taken to make any improvements sustainable.
7. Maintaining dominance
Working through this game, I was thinking a lot about consistency, and how the Flyers of late, have seemed to be really working hard to finally find some. And it’s working. They took a thing that worked for them on Thursday and did it again yesterday, to the same--and even better--results.
One of the strengths of the Flyers’ game against the Islanders was how they were able to keep them contained and limit their momentum and the quality of their chances. And while they weren’t able to close down the slot as well as they did against New York, they were able to limit the number of chances St. Louis was taking. Additionally, they were able to defend well around the blue line, giving the Blues a bit of trouble controlling their entries. They were able to control, for the most part, the momentum of the game, and keep it from swinging too far away from them, and even better than they were able to on Thursday.
So, more of this, please.
8. The power play does one (1) thing
The flip side of the Flyers doing well to not take many penalties was that they were also able to draw a good number, as well. With four opportunities on the man advantage, the Flyers had a few good chances to break the game even wider open than it was, at times. And, if we’re being honest, they fell a little flat.
They were only able to convert on one opportunity, where Gostisbehere fired the puck in on net and Simmonds did the Simmonds thing, tipping it in from his office. But, other than that, it wasn’t an excellent showing. Beyond the goal, the first unit was able to create a few solid looks, but just couldn’t finish. And the fact that they were still able to create some chances was good, especially given the fact that the second unit was little short of a mess. Through much of those four chances, they looked scattered and not particularly dangerous, and saw their plays broken up easily. The presence of Brandon Manning and Jori Lehtera (in place of Dale Weise) remain baffling, and continue to fail to bring the results that the unit needs.
9. Putting in a full sixty minutes
We’ve seen this story before. The Flyers pick up a lead and then take their foot off the gas, and give away too many chances, and maybe even blow that lead. So, when they entered the third period with a three goal lead, fans were reasonably nervous that things may go south, through the last twenty minutes.
But they didn’t, not really. The period started off a little rough, as they gave the Blues too much space to work with and get set, and allowed for the Stastny goal, just 12 seconds into the period. They gave up 15 shots in that period, more than double what they allowed in the first period.
But it wasn’t all bad. The Flyers held the edge in momentum through most of the period, and still picked up 10 shots and two goals in the final period. And the saga that led up to the empty net goal was little short of comedy gold. It was a wide open net, and they couldn’t hit it to save their lives. It was a huge relief when Couturier finally knocked it home, solidifying the win.
So, it wasn’t a perfect effort, but it got the job done. And maybe it wasn’t a full sixty minute effort, may have been just short, but it was the closest they’ve been, in recent memory.
10. The only damn thing I know
Before the game, I was doing what I spend a good amount of my time doing--sitting on a train. The weekend crowd is usually a more animated bunch, and they didn’t disappoint yesterday. The stars of the show? The parents who sat their two kids on their kids in their own seats across the aisle and let them draw on their own faces with pen.
I think there’s a metaphor to be made here, about the management, and the Flyers, and the fans, and the kids left to draw on their own faces. But I’ll let you make that on your own.