As expected with a game vs. a Peter Laviolette coached hockey team, the game opened with plentiful amounts of aggressive forechecking and heavy play. The Flyers would counter this with some forechecking of their own which lead to the first goal of the game. Strong work by the second line of Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek along the boards got the puck to the point, where Radko Gudas got the puck on net. Couturier was in perfect position for the rebound and made an elite level pass to Voracek for the tap-in, and a 1-0 Flyers lead.
What a pass by Couturier to set Voracek up for the goal! pic.twitter.com/shaNk7x5HV— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 21, 2018
A strong pace dominated early on, not too many whistles, a really tight checking game. The breakouts were encouraging as the Flyers were able to turn defense into offense consistently, even if a whole lot of offense wasn’t created as a result the team was getting back into the offensive zone. Just like his opening game on Tuesday night, Carter Hart faced minimal action.
Scott Laughton would generate a solid scoring chance with about 4:30 remaining in the opening period, cutting to the middle for a shot after escaping the Nashville defense behind the net. Nolan Patrick had an opportunity to slam home the rebound, but alas fanned on the shot. The Laughton, Patrick, and Michael Raffl line looked strong in the first, spending most of their time in the offensive zone down low near the slot and the goal mouth.
A shot block by Simmonds and patented spectacular puck protection from Voracek which lead to a penalty taken by Nashville, gave the Flyers the game’s first power play that would carry over to the second period. Claude Giroux would step into a blast as the period ended, but Rinne answered it and kept the score 1-0 after the first period. In net, Carter Hart looked strong in the opening 20 minutes again, stopping all eight shots.
Gameflow/heatmap after 20
Despite two solid chances from Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux, the Flyers were unable to capitalize on the man advantage, but what else is new? Luckily for them however, they’d quickly get the chance to redeem themselves as the Predators’ Ryan Hartman committed a delay of game penalty just moments later. Once again Gostisbehere specifically would be snakebitten, as he rang one off the pipe. Back-to-back power plays and back-to-back missed opportunities.
And of course, when opportunities like those are missed, the other team tends to get a little bit of luck to bounce their way. This would be the case for Nashville as a weird bounce lead to a wide open net for Nick Bonino who had a gaping cage in front of him, and made no mistake tying the game up at one.
The Predators fed off of that momentum and kept the orange and black hemmed in their own zone for the next few minutes. The Flyers struggled to find their footing defensively and when they did, were unable to get the puck out of the zone or maintain possession. Sean Couturier would almost score a dazzling goal as he knifed through the Preds defense and got a shot off on Pekka Rinne, but was denied.
The captain however? He would not be denied. Giroux stole the puck at center ice and quickly transitioned into a partial two-on-one with himself and Travis Konecny, and the captain made no mistake on the shot that whizzed by Rinne giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead around the halfway mark of the second period. The Flyers had missed a few chances due to over passing, and Giroux made sure that would not be a concern on this play.
What a shot by Giroux! pic.twitter.com/bR1jLSot0j— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 21, 2018
After a shot went in on Hart, Ivan Provorov and Craig Smith started jawing and Provy was called for a high sticking penalty in the scrum. Upset with the call, Provy gave the ref a slight push as he was taking him to the penalty box, earning him a 10 minute misconduct. This is the kind of thing he just can’t do, no matter how bad the call is. It’s been a frustrating season for Provorov, but it gives him no excuse to put hands on a ref, even if it’s as light as that contact was.
As the Preds power play came to an end the Preds committed another penalty sending the Flyers to their third man advantage of the night. Before this however, Carter Hart would once again come up huge on the penalty kill, making some key saves to keep the score 2-1.The power play would come to an end early however as Simmonds was called for what looked to be a weak hooking call. Then on a clearing attempt Radko Gudas ah ... well ... he just kinda sent it into the crowd, resulting in a delay of game. Then on the ensuing faceoff, Andrew MacDonald high sticked a man and the Flyers would be on a five-on-three penalty kill for quite some time.
Robert Hagg has been much maligned in his short time already in Philadelphia, and it definitely is deserved at time, but on this penalty kill he was an absolute warrior for the Flyers. Two huge blocked shots, and solid defensive zone coverage. Hart was solid as well, coming up with huge saves and getting a stoppage after the two blocked shots by Hagg. New bench boss Scott Gordon also became a factor, calling a timeout after that stop by Hart to give his penalty killers a much needed rest.
The Flyers would kill off the two five-on-three penalty kills and head into the third period still on the kill, but still up 2-1 and carrying a load of momentum into the final period. The fans gave the team a standing ovation as they headed off the ice for the second intermission. It’s fair to say we haven’t heard the Wells Fargo Center that loud all season long. It may only be two games, but the Flyers have certainly changed the attitude of the fans, there’s finally some life in the building again, and it is so nice to see.
Gameflow/heatmap after 40
The period would begin with the Flyers miraculously finishing off the penalty kill, killing off the final 44 seconds of the Nashville power play. Carter Hart would come hup huge yet again just moments later, with a point blank save. Nothing like baptism by fire, babby.
Refereeing in the second period was shoddy to say the very least, and it continued in the opening minutes of the third. A missed hold on Simmonds and trip on Voracek, that killed offensive chances for the Flyers trying to counter the Preds attack. After swallowing their whistles, they fished them out again for a hit by Laughton on Ryan Ellis which was deemed “elbowing.” They’re just guessing at this point, folks.
The penalty kill would come up big yet again though including the Flyers new netminder, who is making fans fall in love with the 20 year old already. It’s just one game, but the penalty kill looked spectacular tonight and maybe this is the kind of game they need to turn things around.
After a solid attack from Nashville, and more strong saves from Hart, Scott Laughton sucked Anthony Bitetto into an unsportsmanlike penalty sending the Flyers to the power play. Alas, the power play would come up empty handed yet again and the score remained 2-1 Flyers, desperately trying to hang on to the one goal advantage. Now, let’s talk about some officiating.
Ryan Johanson, clear as day, blatantly, egregiously, boarded Sean Couturier DIRECTLY in front of a referee and nothing was called. Add this onto the numerous amount of missed calls on Nashville in this game, this was the boiling point. Then, with around three minutes remaining in the game Michael Raffl was called for a trip only furthering the rage of the Flyers faithful. The Preds would pull Rinne giving them a six-on-four power play for two minutes.
Somehow, by some kind of miracle the Flyers killed off the final power play, and kept the Predators at bay in the final minute and change, and hang on for the 2-1 victory giving them their second straight victory. It may only be two games, but this team has completely rejuvenated the fanbase in the course of these two games. Carter Hart was fantastic, and this team is pretty fun right now. It’s about damn time.