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Flyers 5, Kings 2: Two in a row, baby!

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Some observations for your morning…

NHLI via Getty Images

We’ve got a landmark achievement here, folks! For the first time this season, the Flyers have managed to string together two wins in a row. That’s wild! We’re on the up and up! Well, at least we hope we are. Either way, they put together a good game last night, and we’ve got some notes about that. Let’s get into it.

All stats and graphics via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

1.Capturing momentum

So that was a nice enough win on Tuesday in Anaheim, right? We’ll sure take it, and we also felt like it would be pretty nice if the Flyers could take the momentum from that nice win and come out swinging in this next one. And as we were starting to put that thought into the universe, the Flyers’ top line was already set to work on a rush and setting up a chance for Couturier. They weren’t able to make anything of that chance, but it set the tone, and it was clear that they would be working with some pace.

They had that initial push interrupted, as they were hit with an early penalty, but (spoiler alert!) they killed it off and then were right back at it, right where they left off with that speed and pressure. They had some help, exploiting the mess of turnovers that the Kings were allowing, but their own distinct efforts were solid. All told, they out shot the Kings 12 to 5 at 5-on-5 and hit intermission with the one goal lead, and deservedly so.

2.Killing penalties

Boy oh boy do I love watching the Flyers kill penalties. And how nice of them to give me a look at it so early in the game. Just 1:49 into the first period, as a matter of fact, after Wayne Simmonds took a tripping penalty. The bad news is that it pretty well broke up that early pressure that the Flyers were working at establishing. The good news is that it wasn’t actually a bad look for the penalty kill—the Flyers did well in breaking up passes and getting the puck cleared out of the zone, and preventing the Kings from getting set up in the zone. And they lived to fight another day.

Their second attempt came later on in the first period and looked a little ugly to start and then it just got uglier! With Christian Folin already in the box for interference, Jori Lehtera took a hooking penalty. And the Kings got to work on the two-man advantage. That work would turn out to be not very good, and with two great saves by Brian Elliott and some difficulty keeping the puck in the zone for the Kings, the Flyers escaped this one unscathed, too, and went on the kill of the remaining regular power play time.

And if we were hoping the Flyers could keep up the good work, we were pretty quickly disappointed. The Kings got to cycling and then had another chance after a failed clear, and they kind of just let Jeff Carter walk right in on them for the goal. Because passivity tends to allow that result, yes it does.

3.Oskar Lindblom, hello

We’ve talked already about how the Flyers looked dominant in the first period, and given the top line a nod for their very good work, but perhaps the most noticeable through the first period was one Oskar Lindblom. His line was buzzing but he in particular looked very sharp. He was crashing the net and working at generating high quality chances, even if he couldn’t convert on anything in the first period.

The results weren’t too far away though, as he picked up two points in the second period. He made a really nice set up on Wayne Simmonds’s goal from below the goal line (just like how he set up Nolan Patrick’s goal on Tuesday), and then picked up a goal of his own as a result of crashing the net and getting set up in the crease. There was some question about whether it would hold, if there was a distinct kicking motion that would wipe it off the board, but he had some help from a deflection off a King’s stick in front, and we had a Good Hockey Goal. Along with his two points, he put up an adjusted 54.48 CF%, putting up a very solid evening, overall.

4.NAK Watch 2k18

So Tuesday was our first look at Nicolas Aube-Kubel, in his NHL debut, and as it was a decidedly short look (he played under six minutes), we’re keeping watch on his adjustment and production as he continues to settle in. And guess what, you guys? He’s still looking good!

He had a quiet start to the first period, but once things got rolling again after the first Kings power play, he was a noticeable presence on the ice. He was flexing speed and doing well to get himself to the front of the net. He also had one particularly pretty shift in the second period, which saw him carry the puck through the neutral zone and across the blue line with speed, chip it into the boards behind the net when pressured, and then promptly getting to it and out-muscling a King along the boards to regain possession and try for a wraparound attempt. indeed, he was knocking on the door a couple of times, either himself or from setting up his linemates, but the finish wasn’t there. But, if nothing else, his 71.26 CF% at 5-on-5 suggests a well rounded game and an edge that, if maintained, should have the results following soon.

We’re seeing his ice-time increasing, but he still only played 7:16 in this one. And it remains to be seen if this time will be increased as we go on, or if this is just his Role, but he sure seems to have earned a bit of a bump, based on his play so far.

5.What’s up with the power play?

One of the open questions heading into last night’s game was in regards to the power play—would they return to the old configurations, or stick with the shuffles that they made to start Tuesday’s game? And could those new looks provide results again?

It would turn out that we would have a pretty small sample to try to glean those answers, as the Flyers only had one chance on the power play in this one. In this one look, they did stick with those revised units and they were able to create some chances (with four scoring chances, all of which were high danger), they just weren’t able to close on them. We’re getting some good looks from these new units, so we’d like to see a little more from them, give them a chance to get settled and get going. Here’s hoping the Flyers don’t slam the panic button and decide to change them up before they get a chance to get rolling.

6.Brian Elliott does the thing

A peek behind the curtain: when I started outlining this bad boy, I started the game with the header “Brian Elliott does or does not do the thing,” and it was a big mystery where we would go from there.

The good news from that is that things went positively. Elliott’s been playing pretty well all season, and he came up big for them again last night. He faced 26 shots in total, and turned aside 24 of them. He was good at 5-on-5 (and kept them in it when the Flyers picked up off the gas a little bit, but more on that later), but he really came up big for them on the penalty kill, making a couple of really big saves and preventing a goal against when the play in front of him was breaking down. It was a bit of flash that we don’t see from him often, but it was timely, and we’re hardly complaining about it.

7.Ivan Provorov, also hello

We’ve got a running section emerging, folks! Ivan Provorov’s had a second very solid game in a row and it was a real delight to behold. We got some flashes of the good stuff we’ve been seeing so far this season already, with his strength in play away from the puck coming through, and his vision remaining sharp. But it was another game last night where we really saw him looking sharp on the offensive side.

And we can also take a moment to appreciate that this goal was only possible because Dale Weise whiffed on his initial shot, which put everybody in position to have Provorov take the pass in front of the net. But the goal itself was very nice, and it’s come, for the second game in a row, as a result of him activating on the rush and crashing the net, doing the good work and capturing some momentum along the way. And this is perhaps the best piece of news, the suggestion that Tuesday against Anaheim wasn’t just a fluky single good game, but rather a first step in him finally getting settled in.

8.Working harder, working smarter

And that last piece serves as a nice little segue for us. We’ve touched a couple of times by now on individual players crashing the net and emphasizing the creation of high danger chances, but really this was a theme for the Flyers as a whole, last night.

The Flyers put up 15 high danger chances for across all situations last night, and were rewarded well for their efforts, in turn. Jack Campbell’s no Jonathan Quick, but he did play well for the Kings last night, and they had to keep their heads down and not just work harder to beat him, but as the title suggests, work smarter. We’ve seen their perimeter game failing so far this season, and they needed to find a way to break out of that. They did so on Tuesday, and they did it again last night, and, wow, would you look at that, they’re scoring goals now. They’re doing good work in generating high danger chances right now, and we can only hope that they don’t wind up regressing back to shooting from the outside in the future.

9.And we must repeat…

We’re not out of the woods yet. When we talked two days ago, the Flyers had just snapped the losing streak, and they were looking better. That was a step in the right direction. And then last night they looked a little better. More than a little better, really. This is the best we’ve seen them look in a bit, here, and that’s encouraging.

But we should also put this in perspective. Like the Ducks, the Kings are a team that’s struggling right now. it was a messy showing for them, and the Flyers still gave them a fair number of chances. Around the middle of the third period, they were doing what we’ve seen them do time and time again—they sat back with the lead and let their opponent get to work. LA wasn’t able to convert, and Claude Giroux was able to cushion their lead further with that breakaway goal, but the chances given up can’t be ignored. They’ll be facing a tougher opponent tomorrow in San Jose, and they still have quite a bit of cleaning up to do.

10.The only damn thing I know

We thought the 10:00 start on Tuesday was rough. And it’s only a half hour’s difference, but somehow the 10:30 start is infinitely worse. This is awful. It should be outlawed.

Will I ever stop complaining about the late starts? Absolutely not. I’m a 90 year old trapped inside a 22 year old’s body. Let me go to bed at a reasonable hour, the NHL. I’m begging you.