Well, that sure was…something. By far not the strangest of games that we’ve seen from the Flyers to date, but it was certainly a ride from start to finish. And here’s what we learned…
All stats and graphics via Corisca.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com
1. The slow start that wasn’t actually a slow start?
Ah, yes, a return to the old story, it seems. The Flyers put together an interesting first period. Their clean passing eluded them, but only to a small degree, and certainly less so than in game earlier in the season when they looked little short of a mess. Despite a handful of chances, they couldn’t seem to pick up a goal. They outshot, but were outchanced by, the Canadiens. But, through the first six or so minutes of the period, they held the Habs without a single shot on goal.
And that last thing is what I really want to hone in on, here, as it’s really a reversal of fate from those afore-alluded to other slow start games. In this, the Flyers were the beneficiaries in some ways of the tight checking, defensive game, as they focused on breaking up plays before they could completely come together, and negating much of the danger of a speedy Montreal team. The first third of the third period was the very same story. And while, of course, the goals against suggest that they weren’t completely successful in this endeavor, the neutralizing work they were able to do helped to keep them from being dug into an even deeper hole than they were, to begin with.
2. It’s Ghost’s world baby…
…and we’re just living in it, let me tell you.
As we touched on a bit above, the first period was something of a strange one. There wasn’t an altogether lack of activity, but through the first half or so, we couldn’t escape the feeling that we were hoping for something more. Maybe that something more was more goals. Maybe we were spoiled by Sunday’s game that saw so. many. goals. But I digress.
What wasn’t lukewarm in the first twenty minutes was Shayne Gostisbehere. He was easily one of the most noticeable players on the ice, showing a bit of flash with some speed and fancy stickwork, as well as strong puck control where others of his teammates were struggling.
Beyond the flash of the first period, the game closed out as a solid one for Gostisbehere. He put up three shots and picked up assists on both of Jake Voracek’s goals, evening out his offensive contributions with defensive steadiness. Caught on an odd-man rush, he broke up the play and kept the Habs from getting a potentially dangerous shot off on Alex Lyon. Maybe it feels redundant at this point to talk about just how good Ghost is, but we’ll take that risk.
3. Oskar party
It was the biggest piece of news on Flyers twitter for approximately half an hour on Monday night: Oskar Lindblom had been recalled from the Phantoms and would (likely) be making his NHL debut on Tuesday.
And while news of the Petr Mrazek trade may have overshadowed Lindblom’s recall for some, you guys, it’s still huge! He earned this! He probably should have made the team out of camp, deserved to, but now he’s finally here!
And, even better, he had a really solid night for his NHL debut. Given a top nine role immediately, and a bit of time on the second power play unit, he flourished, showing little sign of growing pain. He kept pace with his linemates and flexed is defensive aptitude along with the offensive flashes, providing a distinctly well-rounded game.
By the numbers, he did pretty well, if I do say so myself. He put up one shot, and registered an adjusted CF% of 69.93 percent, placing him first among not just all forwards, but all Flyers.
But beyond the numbers, what also resonated particularly was the praise he already accrued from his teammates. Both Scott Laughton and Voracek commended his positioning, two-way play, and overall immediate NHL readiness. And this all showed through—he’s made his debut, earned the trust of his teammates and coach, and showed that he’s well on his way to being a high-impact player.
4. The new and improved bees
At this point, it kind of feels like we’re always making new and improving the Laughton line/Honey Bees, huh? They were solid on Sunday against the Rangers, and continued to hold up well last night against the Canadiens, even with the removal of Jordan Weal and addition of Lindblom (hey, him again!).
The third line was in some ways the most effective line on the ice. They led each of the four lines at 5-on-5 with and adjusted CF% of 63.27 percent, and combined for five shots, between the three of them. But above all, what was most remarkable was how, again despite the small personnel shift, they were able to remain steady and stick to their game. It wasn’t a flashy showing, as it rarely is, but it was solid. And one wonders what more they can do, as they further settle into their new arrangement.
5. Next up through the revolving door…
I have to start this section with a feeling. A proclamation:
Alex Lyon gives me heart palpitations.
We talked way, way back in the beginning of the season about how Brian Elliott’s style makes us very nervous, since he looks sort of crazy and out of control of his body. (Note: he definitely cleaned that up, and thank heavens for that). This has been decided. But Lyon may have come with the one-up.
Really, it’s just the fact that he’s pretty aggressive when it comes to leaving his net to play the puck. Which is fine. But it stresses me out big time.
But let’s move on. Lyon got the start last night after Michal Neuvirth’s injury and Mrazek’s just having arrived very early yesterday morning. So how did he do?
There was the first near-goal of the game, where a wraparound attempt ended with the puck trapped under his pad just shy of crossing the goal line, which could have been very ugly, but wasn’t.
The first goal was a bummer, but with Lyon left well screened, there wasn’t too much that he could do on that one, even if it’s one he’ll want back. The second goal was uglier, saw him drifted too far out from the goal and then down, leaving the net open. There’s, of course, something to be said for the fact that this goal likely never would have happened if Brandon Manning hadn’t been burned at the blue line on the rush leading up to it, but the result remains.
But I don’t want to sound like it’s all bad news, here. Lyon’s made a handful (sorry) of nifty glove saves throughout, and by and large came up big when they needed him to. To repeat a sentiment from the previous paragraph, the result remains, and that result is that the Flyers were well matched in this game, and still found a way to win, and Lyon was a big part of that. And that’s not nothing.
6. Nolan Patrick. Hello.
We talked above about how Simmonds’s injury left a 5-on-5 void to be filled, and how Lindblom works to remedy it, in part. But what we didn’t talk about was how is absence is filled on the power play.
It’s a fill that we saw for at least one odd shift a few weeks ago, and it meant moving Nolan Patrick up to PP1 to serve as the netfront presence. And guess what you guys, it was great.
After a relatively slow start and a few missed chances, the first unit hit its stride, and with the puck zipping around the zone, it went from Claude Giroux to the net area, and all that was left was for Patrick to make use of those soft hands we’ve been praising highly to collect the rebound and pot the first Flyers goal of the night. Perfectly orchestrated. So darn pretty.
But it’s also worth noting that the first unit as a whole, despite only going one for three on the night, looked particularly sharp. The sequence leading up to the Patrick goal was perhaps the best example of this, with the speed and the quantity of movement they were able to get going, but we saw shades of this through all three attempts. And this is good news: the power play has been solid through much of the year, and there was a definite concern that it would lose efficacy without Simmonds playing, but Patrick seemed to filling in well, and the unit pressed on without seeming to lose a step.
7. Jake Voracek. HELLO
I mean, what even is there left to say? Voracek was given the MVP robe for the night, and he absolutely, hands down deserved it. What a night it was for him.
It didn’t look like we would be able to say that the whole time, there. Given the play where he and Giroux were left alone on a rush against Carey Price—which served as their best chance to tie the game—and Voracek passed up the chance to take a shot in favor of making one pass too many, we were left feeling jilted, and hoping that this wasn’t the chance that was blown.
But, of course, you know what comes next. That’s right, redemption time, baby. We here do love a good story arc, and you can’t write one better than this. With just under a minute and a half left in regulation, just as Lyon was able to get off the ice, Voracek took the pass from Sean Couturier and scored the game tying goal. And then, to make things better, just under a minute and a half into overtime, he joined the rush into the zone and, surprising Carey Price,took the shot to close it out, and picked up the game winner, as well.
Here too, perhaps it feels redundant to talk about how good Voracek is. We know he’s very good. But sometimes it’s nice to have a night where it all comes together with the reminder, where we get a bit of flash, and yes, where we see two goals from the league’s leader in assists.
8. Let’s talk about discipline
Let’s take a little trip back in time. It was around November. We were all ready to light ourselves on fire. The Flyers looked like they were imploding. There was that whole ten game losing streak thing (remember that?) going on. And the Flyers just kept finding new and more inventive ways to lose games. But one of the threads carrying through those losses was that of discipline, or lack thereof. They were getting frustrated and racking up penalties, and doing so at inopportune times. And we could not stop screaming at them to get it together.
But then a funny thing happened: they did it. And they did it in a big way.
The Flyers were able to draw three minor penalties against the Habs, without taking any of their own. This marked the third game in a row in which they didn’t take a single minor penalty. Which is kind of huge. Their PK’s been struggling, on the whole, and they’re doing themselves a big favor by sparing themselves deploying them at all.
However, last night the Flyers weren’t able to get off completely without any penalty minutes taken. And that’s the other thing we have to talk about.
There was one Flyers penalty on the books: a fighting major for Manning that was offset by Deslauriers’s fighting major. And this has become routine, by this point. Manning feels the need to pick or at least get involved in a fight so that we all (and of course, the coaches specifically) don’t forget about him. And, to put it plainly, we don’t need it.
9. Tying it all together
We’ve got a few loose threads left on this article, so why don’t we take a moment to wrap it all up. For a while there it looked like things were going south for the Flyers with this one, like they might not be able to pull it off. But they did. So what went right for them?
Well, yes. This is true. But we can’t just leave it there. I mean, we could. But we won’t. I have more left to say.
The Flyers’ success—and near-greater success—falls largely on their shot selection, how they were able to put a greater emphasis on creating chances from high-danger areas. Even if they weren’t rewarded accordingly, not completely, they got something, and the pressure was felt.
The opposite side of this is how they also found success in limiting the number of high danger chances Montreal could take. Outside of one pocket (where the Flyers also got burned from, to be clear), they were largely able to help Lyon out and keep a majority of the Canadiens’ shots to the outside, again neutralizing at least some of their danger, and again, keeping them from inflicting more damage.
So, in closing, more of this please.
10. The only damn thing I know
As usual, I have one (1) thing that I know for you this morning. I don’t have any real breakdown for you, but I must say: this is art.
Jori Lehtera: "INCOMING!" pic.twitter.com/x4mtH8geX6— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 21, 2018