The Flyers capped their four-game West Coast trip with a 5-2 win over the Coyotes on Monday night to take seven of a possible eight points (3-0-1). The trip couldn’t have come at a better time —well, playing a couple of bad California-based teams that is— as the Flyers have now climbed back to the proverbial .500 mark at 7-7-1 through 15 games.
But enough of that, let’s dive right into five observations from last night’s proceedings at Gila River Arena in Glendale, in no particular order.
Puck luck, or just any luck, finally
Hockey people will tell you that you have to make your own puck luck. Well tell that to them after last night, where the Flyers benefitted from multiple gracious bounces despite staking to a 35.92% Corsi For on the night. Though they trailed just 36-34 in shots on goal, much of this one was played on the Flyers side of the rink, friends.
The difference is that the Flyers capitalized on their chances, and got a gift from Darcy Kuemper and Michael Grabner on Sean Couturier’s glorified empty netter in the second to push the lead to 3-1.
Couturier scores on the wackiest play of the game thus far. pic.twitter.com/SaBmfaopg7— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) November 6, 2018
But that wasn’t it, the Flyers’ first power play found the back of the net late in the first with a Shayne Gostisbehere slap shot glanced off Derek Stepan and past his his own goaltender to give the Flyers a then 2-0 lead. Given how the Flyers’ power play (24th-ranked of this writing at 15.7%) has struggled through their first 15 games, it’s good to see an easy one to perhaps build up some confidence.
"Thanks, Derek" - Shayne Gostisbehere, probably. pic.twitter.com/SSetrv7U8a— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) November 6, 2018
Cal Pickard was phenomenal
The new normal in the Flyers’ crease is essentially a deleted scene from Animal House. Brian Elliott was stellar in allowing just four goals to both Anaheim and Los Angeles earlier in the week, then he got hurt in practice and will meet the Flyers back in Philadelphia. Michal Neuvirth is on IR now, and hey look: Alex Lyon is back!
In the midst of all that Calvin Pickard played a solid if unspectacular game in San Jose but bounced back with a great effort in this one against the Coyotes. Pickard made 34 saves on 36 shots and had no chance on Arizona’s first goal. He was tremendous with tons of pressure around his crease all night as evidence by the fine heat map generated by our friends at NaturalStatTrick, who also had the ‘Yotes with 15 high-danger chances for as opposed to just seven for the Flyers.
Who knows what the Flyers’ crease situation will look like going forward, but Pickard provided the club with a much-needed boost on Monday night and was a big reason that they grabbed two points in this one.
One assist and two shots on goal won’t tell the full story —and neither will any advanced metrics for most any Flyers last night— but Wayne Simmonds had himself a strong game. His effort on Claude Giroux’s second goal was next level. His pressure cause the initial turnover by Alex Goligoski at the blue line, then Simmonds out-muscled (through a pending hooking call) and out hustled a good skater in Goligoski to a loose puck, fed Giroux a backhand pass that the captain deposited behind Kuemper majestically to put this one away at 4-1.
The captain's second of the night! pic.twitter.com/JHhAMbRTJO— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) November 6, 2018
Still holding a two-goal lead, that’s the extra effort that the Flyers need from everyone night-in and night-out. Simmer could have easily turned off the gas after forcing Goligoski out of his zone and then peeled off for a change. Instead, he turned up the pressure and gave the Flyers what could have been a massive insurance goal.
Something, something, the penalty kill still sucks
With Alex Galchenyuk’s snipe 1:14 into the second period makes it eight-straight games allowing a power play goal for the Flyers. That is —and continues to be—completely unacceptable.
The Coyotes got set right up on their first man-advantage, with Radko Gudas and Ivan Provorov allowing Christian Fischer to park right on top of Pickard before giving into the the forwards. Scott Laughton then gave Galchenyuk space to walk in and pick a corner with Pickard completely screened off. The replay is real bad in slow motion, with neither defender paying Fischer any mind and Giroux and Laughton more concerned about a backdoor or slot play than the actual shooter moving in with a perfect screen in place.
Galchenyuk breaks Pickard's shutout bid. pic.twitter.com/9b0pVHr14v— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) November 6, 2018
But this isn’t a new issue, and it’s basically the way the Flyers are coached to approach the penalty kill. There are almost always bodies left wide open in front of the crease for the goalies to deal with and plenty of time and space all over the ice. Though they did kill off three more Coyotes power plays in this one, the passive approach to the penalty kill keeps burning them and it sure doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon.
Young guns stay gunning
Travis Konecny was flying all night, leading the Flyers with a 60.87% Corsi For, about 32% above his teammates on the evening. He registered one assist but formed the Flyers’ best 5-on-5 line with Giroux and Couturier that had a great night overall. TK has been a bit unlucky with all of the post hits lately, but those are going to start to go in with the way he’s been going.
It was another good night for Oskar Lindblom as well. The Swede finished off a great road trip with six points in four games, potting an empty netter in this one to finish off the Coyotes. He’s settling in nicely on that line with Nolan Patrick, who’s been flying himself, and Jake Voracek and is starting to reap the benefits.
Another young player with a strong night was Travis Sanheim. The defenseman started the sequence that ended with Couturier’s goal in the second, hopping in on the offense and creating a net drive that collapsed the Coyotes back check right into their goaltender to leave the layup for Coots. It was a small sample, but a look at the mobility that Sanheim has and how valuable mobile and active defenseman can have on the rush and put additional pressure on opposing defenses.
Bonus: Oh Captain, My Captain
Giroux was at it again on Monday night, scoring twice and adding an assist to give him 17 points in 15 games. It’s his sixth multi-point game of the season already, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down after a career-high 102 points last season. The Flyers needed to rebound on this road trip and their captain led the way —along with Lindblom— with six points in four games to help right the ship here so to speak.