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Flyers 6, Panthers 5: Finally, a win at home

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Some observations for your morning…

NHL: Florida Panthers at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

They did it, guys! After looking a little shaky for a stretch there, the Flyers finally picked up their first win at home of the season. And that was kind of an emotional roller coaster, right? Did we still have fun? I hope so. Either way, a whole lot happened and we almost ran out of space to talk about it all. So let’s just get right into our notes.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

1. A slow and also weird start

So, uh, oh man did that start out poorly. It was just a little bit of ugliness right out of the gate, with a bit of scrambling in the neutral zone, a few errant passes, a couple of back to back icings (we see you, Christian Folin), but we figured it would be brief. We’ve seen this before—they come out a little rough and then they get settled after a few minutes. But that didn’t happen. They couldn’t complete a pass cleanly, couldn’t hold onto the puck long enough to control an entry, couldn’t do much of anything. We’re overstating a little bit, they were able to do those things a couple of times, but not enough to let them sustain a whole lot of offense. There’s a reason they came out of the period with only five shots, even with a whole two minutes on the power play. They looked rough to start, and the ugliness kept on rolling. Which brings us to our next point.

2.Hemming and hawing

So, if the Flyers weren’t able to spend a lot of time in the offensive zone, logic tells us that must mean they spent a lot of time in their own zone, right? Right indeed.

The Flyers allowed 12 shots over the whole of the period, including four high danger chances for, and, in a way, it seems like a miracle that they only gave up the one goal against. The Panthers were allowed to walk right into the offensive zone, get set up, and get to work. The Flyers were left scrambling after the puck, and were plagued by turnovers and the brutal near-clears, where they could get the puck just short of the blue line before it was intercepted and tossed back into play, and we started the whole cycle again.

And, in their defense, given how much time they spent stuck in their own zone, the result suggests that they defended well enough after all. Heck, that goal against didn’t even come as a result of one of those scrambly sequences, but rather a rush into the zone. But that doesn’t make this a case of “the ends justifies the means” or something in that vein. It was a sloppy effort and they have to find a way to clean it up. They weren’t burned this time, but that’s far from a guarantee that they won’t be in the future.

3.Killing penalties

But on an interesting tangential note, how in the world was it that the Flyers were able to keep the Panthers out of the offensive zone on that penalty kill better than they were able to just minutes before at 5-on­-5. That’s sort of wild, right?

In any event, it wasn’t too bad of a night for the penalty kill. That first showing was a good one, as we joked about, as they were able to keep the Panthers’ efforts frustrated, holding them without a shot while generating a rush of their own that brought them one of their five shots of the period. They outshot Florida on their own power play. That’s sort of neat.

Their next two attempts sort of fizzled from there, as they couldn’t keep up the same level of pressure—they gave up two chances on the second attempt but were ultimately able to kill it off, but the third go saw a quick push by the Panthers, a shot in close, a deflection off Provorov’s skate, and it was Aleksander Barkov’s first goal of the night. So, all told, not a wretched result, but we still can’t shake the feeling that we could be seeing more out of them. That they can be better (and they likely can be).

4.The power play

But while we’re talking special teams, why don’t we flip on over to talk about the power play. It wasn’t exactly a stellar night for the Flyers on the man advantage, but it wasn’t without some promise.

They couldn’t convert on any of their three chances during regulation (or their chance during overtime), and in a way it’s the same story we’ve been telling for much of the season—it seems to be chances on chances on chances for the first unit that are almost there, are just on the cusp of being dangerous, of being an actual tangible result, but they just aren’t quite there. They’re throwing the puck around, zipping it across the crease and getting the goalie moving, but they just don’t have anyone in position to pick up the quick pass or rebound. They’re close, but just a hair off.

And this is about the time that we start to talk about things needing to break eventually, that will good work such as what we’re seeing, results will soon follow. It’s been six games, are we ready to get worried yet? Not quite, but we’re creeping up on it. They’ll need to show us something, and show us something soon.

5.Brian Elliott is no longer doing his thing

So if Saturday was Brian Elliott getting back to good form, just doing his thing out there, last night was something of a regression. Just about from the start, he looked a little bit off, his movements a little slow, but we weren’t getting too worried just yet. He’s fending off chances while the Flyers are hemmed into their own zone. He’ll shake it. He’s doing the thing. And then that first goal happened—beat clean on a quick shot by Frank Vatrano because he didn’t seal up the post. And that was ugly.

And, we can’t get too upset about all of the goals—the second saw a soft tap from the blocker take a weird bounce into traffic that Travis Sanheim wasn’t prepared for, for example—but his being pulled had just as much to do with him being a little off as it did with Hakstol needing to send a message to his bench that they needed to tighten up and get back on track. We can still reasonably expect to see him again on Thursday—they Flyers have made it pretty clear that he’s the starter—and it’ll be his chance to get back on track. It happens sometimes, but he just didn’t have it last night.

6.Into the blender

When we came back for the second period, we started to notice some changes to the lines. And normally this sort of thing makes us nervous—is this just Hakstol juggling things for the heck of it and if it works it works? It feels like a crapshoot sometimes, but it worked out last night.

Just as quickly as we were able to register that this new line—Scott Laughton moved to center on the third line with Michael Raffl bumped up to their wing with Wayne Simmonds—they were producing a goal! And then they did another one later on! Wow!

So this new experiment got some pretty immediate results, but also looked solid throughout the night. And this may also be the place for us to laugh a little bit because they made Laughton a center again, after now insisting that he’s a wing, after spending all that time making him a center, after… okay I’m done. The line worked. That’s all.

The flip side of this change is that it also saw Mikhail Vorobyev demoted to the fourth line, and placed on the wing. And, it’s one game, and we don’t know if there will be any changes to the lines for Thursday’s game, but we might be getting a little nervous about this move. Is Vorobyev on his way to the press box? We hope not.

7.We really have to do it…

We’re sort of eating our words in a way, here, guys. The Flyers did something we keep grumbling about last night, but they did it right, and they got some results. We’ve got to give them a nod for that.

We get a little riled up when we see the Flyers defaulting to just blasting the puck in from the perimeters and hoping to maybe catch a rebound in front, whether or not they have a guy in the proper position to do this, but last night this worked out for them. Their first two goals of the night came as a result of shots coming in from the outside and then a deflection or rebound in front collected to make it a goal. They had the positioning right, they were actually able to get someone set in front to do the necessary work, and it worked out for them. This wasn’t the exclusive play on the night—they did just as much work creating chances on the rush—and this was for the best. They love doing this type of play, but they balanced it with other ways of generating chances. They didn’t lean too heavily on it, but when they did go to it, they were doing it right. And that’s not nothing.

8.Claude Giroux appreciation hour

It was a big night for the captain, and we need to take a moment to appreciate all of the goodness that came with it. Despite the rough start, the top line was the first, and maybe only line to look like it might be able to do something in the first period. When they reset after the first intermission, it was this line looking even sharper still. He closed out the night with eight shots (double that of the next person behind him) and an adjusted 49.85 CF% at 5-on-5. And then, of course, there’s the matter of those two goals. They were really pretty splendid and I won’t waste your time trying to do them justice with words. You can just watch them and enjoy.

So it was a big night for Giroux as far as points on the board go, but also, to get a little more abstract about it, that’s also your captain coming up big when he says they need to be better at home. He followed his own advice.

Also, we can’t leave here without appreciating this moment.

Just perfect.

9.Loose ends

So this game was kind of a wild one, with a whole lot of happenings, and we’ve almost run out of space to talk about all of them. So we’re going to use this last point to hit on a few smaller pieces. You know the drill.

First, we’ve been talking a fair bit up to this point about the shaky start we’ve seen from Ivan Provorov, but it looks like things may be starting to turn around. It wasn’t a perfect game for him, certainly, but it was better than what we’ve seen so far. His play with the puck is looking better, his passes starting to look cleaner and smarter. He’s still got a bit of work to do, but he’s moving in the right direction.

On the other side, Jordan Weal had an objectively very good night, and in a way, it’s all be leading up to this. When he first got back into the lineup, he was fine, then on Saturday his line looked very good, they just couldn’t buy themselves a goal. Last night was more of the same, but Weal himself was able to take it to the next level, and finally got the points to match the effort, when he picked up a goal and an assist for setting up Giroux’s second goal. This is what we more or less wanted to see when he was getting back into the lineup. It’s finally starting to come together. (Getting the shootout winner was just icing on the cake).

And finally, that was a pretty wild ride that really shouldn’t have been that wild at all. The Flyers had the two goal lead heading into the third period, and it looked like the momentum was all theirs. And then they started to get back into that scrambly mode that we saw in the first period, and they lost the lead in just about three minutes, and then we had to take this thing to overtime. And, of course, we can’t expect a team to play without mistakes, but this really shouldn’t have had to go to overtime. They let off the gas, they got sloppy, and they got burned for it. And they’ve got to stop that from happening.

10.The only damn thing I know

I want to revisit our hemming and hawing section for a second. They got caught in their own end a lot. And there was one of those sequences in the first period, and when they finally finally cleared the puck, all you heard was a solitary, dry “Yaaaay” from the far corner of the building. And nothing has ever resonated with me so deeply.