Guys! Guys wake up! It’s over, the game is over. And the Flyers won! We learned some things too, we took some notes while you were dozing and have a host of (well, the usual ten) observations for your consumption. Let’s dig in.
All stats and graphics via Corsica.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com
1. We really are condemned to live in this boring early game purgatory, huh
That first period was, uh, yeah it was a real yawner. After watching two Flyers-Blue Jackets games so far this season, we should’ve known what we were getting ourselves into, but somehow they exceeded expectations.
We saw a total of nine shots through twenty minutes, and a whole lot of shot blocking and tight checking. It was effective enough, as it kept the puck out of the back of the net, but it was a less than enthralling departure from the high activity, run and gun style under which the Flyers have flourished recently.
But the bright side of that is the Flyers once again did very well with that shot suppression thing. They allowed a whopping total of two shots through the whole first period, and did well to block shots in the zone, but most of all to break up plays in the neutral zone before they even had a proper chance to come together, in the first place. (And they were helped out by the fact that the Blue Jackets just couldn’t seem to hit the net during those first twenty minutes. That too).
2. Let’s check in with our new first line, yeah?
The injury bug continues to bite the Flyers—after taking a shot to the foot in Tuesday’s game, Travis Konecny was listed as day to day, and noted to be a game-time decision. And even after taking line rushes in warmups, it was decided that he would sit. And so a new arrangement to the top line it was!
Slotting in on the right wing was Michael Raffl, an exciting addition, given his play-driving skill and the line that has historically done well in this, as well. And they just about lived up to expectations, in this area. In a game where it’s hard to call anyone dominant, this was the Flyers’ most effective line at 5-on-5, averaging an adjusted CF% of 51.59 percent, and were the only forwards over 50 percent, on the night. They generated a handful of chances, but were only able to capitalize on the one, where Claude Giroux was sprung for
However, what was missed from this top line was the speed that Konecny brought to the table. This paired with Sean Couturier and Giroux’s visions has made them veritable odd-man rush generating machines, and this was something that was lacking last night, by and large. And while they still did well enough in its stead, to be sure, this speed is something we’re all eager to have returned.
3. Peter without the e
I started thinking about this section during the first intermission, and I worried “oh man, what am I even going to say for this section? Petr Mrazek’s faced, uh… *counts fingers* two shots so far.”
But, not to worry, we’ve got some things to talk about.
Mrazek’s first showing with the Flyers was a good one. He stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced, for a .950 save percentage, only allowing the one goal on an already dangerous Artemi Panarin breakaway. He made a handful of highlight reel saves that not only kept the deficit in the score from growing further, kept the Flyers in the game when they were being thrashed in the second period (more on that later), but also drew big cheers from the fans in attendance—we’ll see how long that enthusiasm lasts, of course. All in all, Mrazek flexed speed and composure, and remained steady, even if he didn’t face as much pressure as he otherwise might have from this Blue Jackets team. It was a solid performance, and an impressive opening night in Philadelphia.
4. Well, that whole not taking penalties thing was nice while it lasted
Remember on Wednesday, when I talked about how great it was that the Flyers weren’t taking minor penalties. How they were doing themselves a real favor and just generally making themselves look good? Welp, that’s over.
The Flyers took two minor penalties in last night’s game, which isn’t an altogether terrible figure, but feels a jarring shift from their streak of zero. But all streaks are bound to break, eventually.
But perhaps this isn’t the worst news, because given the opportunity, the penalty kill came up big in both cases. On the whole, they kept with their more recent model of being more aggressive in going after the puck and breaking up plays, and the results speak to the efficacy of this. The Couturier breakaway chance, even if it didn’t result in a goal, was still a quality chance, and one they likely never would have gotten had they fallen back into just standing by and trying to block shooting lanes and hoping for the best. To be fair, there was one of those on the Blue Jackets’ second power play, where we watched nervously as the crease was collapsed and collapsed until it looked like a goal was inevitable, but still the Flyers escaped unscathed. It was two solid efforts, and while of course we hope they can get back to taking zero penalties, we can take this more aggressive style as a consolation, in response to those that may be taken.
5. Yikes, that second period
So, we hit the first intermission last night feeling pretty good—they hadn’t scored any goals, but the Flyers were doing well to outshoot the Blue Jackets and keep them contained. Surely they would be able to keep up that effort, and even build on it some as they went forward, right? Well, not quite.
The second period served as a full reversal from the first, and saw the Flyers outshot 14 to six, and found their offensive efforts hampered by time trapping in their own zone, plays broken up around the blue line, and blocked shots (huh, that sounds familiar). In this way it’s a testament to Mrazek’s efforts (or maybe a miracle) that they made it to the second intermission only allowing the one goal.
The good news? They were able to stop the bleeding, even making an offensive push late in the period, and were able to recover for the third. They didn’t completely dominate, but rather were more opportunistic, scoring on a Giroux breakaway and a power play. And, in the end, it got the job done.
6. *sigh* the power play
The upside, given what we talked about above with the Flyers getting back to taking penalties again, is that they were still able to draw more than they took. In total, they had five chances on the man advantage, and looked poised to really seal off the game, considering how dangerous the power play—particularly the first unit—has looked of late. But it didn’t quite work out that way.
The first four Flyers power plays were, in short, not great. They saw a fair bit of shuffling the puck around waiting for a lane to open that never did, a struggle to get set, a sprinkling of turnovers, and one shift that saw them chased out of the zone and looking like they were soon to give up a shorthanded goal. They went for 0 for 4 on those first four chances, with the first unit not quite able to fully get going, and the second unit (now down one Travis Konecny) still something of a mess.
7. Nolan again // the ole switcheroo
That’s right folks! Nolan Patrick is once again the power play hero. Despite those first four tries where he and the rest of his unit just couldn’t get it done, there finally came one where they did. Their fifth and final power play saw some of their best chances of the game, but no finish, until a perimeter shot was sent in by Ghost, blocked by Sergei Bobrovsky but not held, then to be collected by Patrick and shot around Bobrovsky’s down pad and into the net for what would be the game-winning goal. And once again net-front presence Nolan Patrick comes up big.
But beyond the power play heroics, it was a solid night for Patrick. He led the team in shots (with four), for 42.18 adjusted CF% at 5-on-5 and 1.49 xG. His line with Jordan Weal and Jakub Voracek saw a few good looks early in the game, but really came on in the third when Oskar Lindblom was moved up and Weal returned to Scott Laughton’s wing. They showed a nice bit of chemistry already, and looked the most dynamic they did all game, with Lindblom slotting in as one of the closer approximations to Wayne Simmonds’s style of play that had been working so well on this line before. Hakstol spoke highly of this new arrangement after the game, and it will be interesting to see if it’s one that they stick with heading into Saturday’s game.
8. Shots and all
Ah, yes, we’ve finally arrived. The point in the article where we talk about shots.
Spoiler alert: there were not a lot of them.
Unlike in their last meeting, where the Blue Jackets specifically seemed to just be throwing absolutely everything at the net. Last night, however, the two teams combined for 40 shots in total, with 20 a piece. So after all the thrashing, and then the being thrashed, things all evened out in the end. But what about the quality of those shots?
Oh, well would you look at that symmetry. That’s neat.
But Flyers, here too, did well enough but not perfect. The bulk of their shots came from the home plate area, but they also allowed the Blue Jackets to match them in this. They were able to generate some high danger chances with the relatively few shots they were able to get off, and were rewarded in turn. So again we circle back to our old narrative of “it wasn’t pretty, but I guess it works.”
9. Quick hits
We need to talk about how nearly the entirety of the Flyers’ brand came together in the final few minutes of the period.
Another player—Brandon Manning—seemed to be hurt. He went off to the locker room, but was back on the bench for the last few seconds of the game.
The Blue Jackets pulled Bobrovsky and the Flyers had control of the puck, sent it down the ice, and missed the net.
Valtteri Filppula had a clear look at the empty net on an odd-man rush, and instead opted to pass.
With an offensive zone draw in the final seconds of the period, who was on the ice? The Filppula line.
And we can laugh about how these are the Most Flyers things to happen, but we should also offer a nod to the new Most Flyers thing, the new normal, perhaps: despite allowing the first goal and falling into a hole, they find a way to get back. When they were once finding ways to lose, they’re now finding ways to win.
10. The only damn thing I know
There’s sort of a sad irony to the fact that last night was another authentic fan night and the place was pretty empty. All those paper “authentic fan” fans taped to the backs of seats and no folks to sit in them. Have we all turned against the Flyers suddenly? Do we hate Thursday night hockey? Did they somehow predict this game was going to be boring as hell and just bag it in favor of not going out in the rain? I wouldn’t blame them if it was that last one. Oh well.