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Flyers 5, Senators 3: Redemption time, baby!

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Some observations for your morning...

Flyers vs. Senators 2.3.18
Kate Frese / SB Nation

OK. Cool. Awesome. The Flyers did not get swept by the Senators. Last time, we said that the trap always prevails, but it did not in fact prevail. We’re so glad to be wrong. But, anyway, let’s dig into what we learned.

All stats via Corsica.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com

1. A return! (But not the one you’re thinking)

Oh dear. Thursday’s game was a dull one. The Senators aren’t always the most fun team to watch. Is this going to be another yawner, we wondered before the start of yesterday afternoon’s game?

Nope! Just 28 seconds into the period, while the starting lineups were still being presented at the top of the screen on the TV broadcast, Ivan Provorov took a feed from Giroux, and before we could even get settled in our seats, we were back out of them, as he notched the Flyers’ first goal of the afternoon.

It was a pleasant sight for a number of reasons: for the efficacy of the play, for the Flyers having struck first and so quickly, and also for someone who’s been causing some concern lately to get on the scoreboard. To be fair, it hasn’t been that Provorov has been making more big mistakes or slips, but rather that he’s been unfortunate in that they’re just leading to uglier results (see: the turnover on Thursday that led to the Panarin goal). But he’s fine, he will be fine, and he had a solid game yesterday. He finished the game with an adjusted 63.64 Corsi For Percentage at five-on-five, and looked both defensively cound and comfortable and active on the rush.

And this last thing was also feeding into the larger trend that we’ll get into next.

2. Offense from defense

Way back towards the beginning of the season, we talked a fair bit about the offensive contributions by the Flyers’ defensemen, but this was this was largely a by-product of the fact that this was just about as close to secondary scoring as we could get. But this isn’t an issue anymore, so we can just look at this as what it is: a big day for the Flyers’ blueliners.

Three of the Flyers’ five goals came at the hands of defensemen, with Hagg following Provorov into the scoring mix before we even hit the midway point of the period by collecting the puck and lasering it past Anderson.

And then Manning scored … whatever the heck that goal was.

The strange puck bounce happened and had it in the net so quickly with no Flyer even in the zone, I looked away for just a second and thought that somehow a Senator had scored an own-goal. But no. It was Manning’s first real goal of the game, after he was briefly given one earlier in the game before it was given to Nolan Patrick. But the weird one he got to keep.

And while it was perhaps a surprising shift to see this much offensive production from defensemen not named Shayne Gostisbehere, it served as a nice little flex of scoring depth within the team. Even if it may not be sustainable, it’s nice to know that the availability is there.

3. First line buzzing in reunion

If you remember back alllll the way to Friday, I noted that the first line, though certainly still effective enough with Raffl on the right wing, was left wanting for a prompt return of Konecny and his speed. Well, it looks like we didn’t have to wait that long, after all, as he was back in the lineup yesterday. And man oh man was the top line back and in excellent form.

It was this line that collected the puck out of their own zone soon after the opening faceoff and started the give and go between Provorov and Giroux that would culminate in Provorov’s goal. They set up Giroux’s breakaway goal. The flash was back, and this was the big story of their time on the ice, that of looking dangerous on the rush.

But the numbers tell the fuller story, and it’s one of more or less complete dominance at five-on-five. The top line was the Flyers’ most effective, posting an adjusted CF% of 77.06 percent, and generating five high danger chances.The Senators gave them a bit of space to work with, and they took (nearly) full advantage. It was a welcome reintroduction to the trio’s dynamism.

4. Speaking of buzzing: the bees!

Hello, I will never let go of this joke, thanks.

Anyway, the Laughton line also looked very good yesterday. One could easily say the whole top-9 looked very good—they would be right—but the Honey Bees continue to stand out. Metrically, they didn’t show the same level of dominance as they did earlier in the week, but still posted a respectable 44.3 percent adjusted CF% at five-on-five, and while they were held without a goal, they also did not allow one when they were on the ice, either. But was perhaps more striking is that they were left in their late-game arrangement from Thursday, which saw Weal returned to play with Laughton and Raffl, as the Flyers look to continue to exploit the chemistry between the trio.

It feels like we’ve been saying this most every time we bring them up, but things are bound to break for them soon, and goals will follow the excellent work they’ve been doing. They’ve shown that they have the ability to finish these plays, this shouldn’t be this issue. It’s just a matter of it all coming together.

5. The penalty kill (again)

We’re back at it again, folks. We’re back to talking about the penalty kill again. They took more penalties and had to kill them off, and it went … well, it went less well than it did on Thursday.

The difference was more or less immediately apparent—while not altogether passive, they were less aggressive in going after the puck, and backslid into letting the puck be cycled around the zone while they tried to block passing and shooting lanes. As such, when the Sens’ first-period goal came, it felt like an eventuality. But the good news is that this was the only one.

But it’s also worth looking big-picture on this one: we’ve talked again and again about how the PK needs shoring up, and the fact that this hasn’t been done, not completely, is cause for even greater concern as we creep closer and closer to playoff hockey. If they can get back to not taking penalties at all, that would be the best case scenario, but as this is likely not the most probable move, they’ll need to find a way to get back to being more aggressive and get the most out of their PK. For real, this time.

6. An offside challenge goes the Flyers’ way

Yes, you read that right. The Flyers challenged Smith’s would-be goal, calling the preceding rush into the zone offside. The officials confirmed this, and wiped the goal away. Which was fortunate for the Flyers, because the goal very well could have changed the entire tone of the rest of the game, and they likely just wanted to forget the ugly breakdown that led to the goal happening in the first place.

But what did we learn here? The apprehension surrounding the challenge itself shows we still don’t completely trust the coaches, or are maybe just still a little shell-shocked (see: the failed offside challenge in Nashville). But it also points to the complete 180 things have taken for the Flyers. Just a few short months ago, this call somehow would have found a way to bite the Flyers in the butt. Manning’s center ice would have sailed right past the net. They’ve come a long way, and they’re finally getting the bounces.

7. Oh captain, my captain

OK, so we touched briefly on Giroux’s goal, but we need to talk about it again. Actually, let’s just watch it.

It was masterful puck control and stunning moves to get past Anderson, and just like that the Flyers were back up by two after giving up the power play. And they had life again.

And this is something, as Charlie pointed out, that’s been one of the hallmarks of Giroux’s game of late—his ability to seize control and change the tone and momentum of the game all on his own. We could boast for, well, forever about how this is a sign of a great captain and a great hockey player, and how we all knew all along that he would be back to this form, but we’ll leave that one alone.

8. Oskar Lindblom doing ALL THE THINGS

Lindblom is just cruising along at such a nice clip, you guys. And he’s looking even better with just a bit more time up with the big club, and on the new line with Patrick and Voracek. He finished the game with a nice 60.69 percent adjusted CF% at five-on-five, and looked sharp in his time on PP2. He also deserves a nod for the work he put in to kick off the rush that ultimately led to Patrick’s goal (look at that footwork!).

He’s doing excellent support work, and is only lacking right now on the scoresheet.

So, perhaps this section title should be changed to “Oskar Lindblom is doing all but one of the things” for total accuracy, but that just isn’t as snappy. So he’s still waiting on the goal, but one can’t escape the feeling that, given all the good work he’s doing already, that it won’t be too far away.

9. Sixty minutes

If there’s praise to be had for the Flyers’ play in yesterday’s game, it stands to reason that there should also be a fair bit of critique as well. The Flyers played a very solid approximately 56 minutes of hockey, and that’s the thing.

The Senators gave them some trouble throughout the game, to be sure, but the Flyers did well to contain them. The final four minutes, however, saw them slipping, breaking down defensively and, consequently, giving up two goals. And, sure, while there’s something to be said for the fact that a team that goes up five to one will get a little lax at the end of the game. They didn’t let the Senators come all the way back, so it was fine in the end. But they’ll also to take this as a learning opportunity, especially as the playoffs draw nearer, to keep the foot on the gas and make sure that they’re not giving up chances for free.

10. The only damn thing I know

As you may have gathered, there was a lot to like in yesterday’s game, but we saved the best for last. Take a gander at this blast from the past.

There you have it. Claude Giroux in his first game in Ottawa ten years ago. Even younger then than I am now. Just a baby. Just look.

And maybe I’m sentimental, because his NHL debut was the first season I really got into hockey and yadda yadda yadda. It’s all very good and pure. Have a nice Sunday, all.