The Flyers got back on track with a 4-2 win over the Hurricanes in Carolina last night. After going down 2-1 with 9:56 remaining, the Flyers railed off three goals to stave off the Hurricanes and earn a huge two points in their playoff hunt. Here are five observations from the proceedings last night.
Why you always Lyon
Alex Lyon got the nod in net in a massive game and rewarded coach Dave Hakstol big-time. The box score gives Lyon 23 saves on 25 shots, but many of them were clutch saves that kept the Flyers on life support long enough to get pucks behind Cam Ward at the other end. His pair of stops in tight on Noah Hanifin with the Canes up 1-0 with a few minutes left in the first period were huge to keep the Flyers from going down two goals before intermission.
He also came up with another momentum save near the 10-minute mark of the second period, somehow getting a piece of a Brock McGinn deflection in close to again keep the Flyers from a two-goal deficit. Lyon wouldn’t be so lucky on the Jaccob Slavin go-ahead goal with about 10 minutes left in regulation, but it was a world-class shot from the defenseman. Neither Hurricanes goal was all that stoppable, the first coming on a perfect deflection of a point shot by Jordan Staal and then the roof job from Slavin.
In all, it was a great effort from Lyon and a much needed one to help halt the Flyers’ recent skid. Petr Mrazek wasn’t all that bad against Columbus, but the last goal he gave up opened the door for Lyon in this one and he took the opportunity and ran with it.
Hey, secondary scoring!
Needless to say, Valterri Filppula has been in some kind of a slump lately. Coming into this one he had just four points in his last 11 games, with two coming in that crazy 7-6 affair down in Tampa. But man, was that a huge goal for Filppula and the Flyers last night.
Tie game less than six minutes in regulation, on the road against a non-playoff team. The Flyers absolutely needed to come away with points and Filppula’s game-winning goal assured two of them. Was he late getting back defensively? Probably. Did he also read the play perfectly and make himself available for the breakout pass from Wayne Simmonds and then keep it simple and beat Ward with a quick snap shot? Yes.
The Flyers are always going to be reliant on top dogs Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier, but lately they’ve gotten absolutely zero secondary scoring help and that was a huge goal for them. Michael Raffl, ending a 16-games goal drought, potted the empty netter to end a stretch that has seen him have chances nearly every night but fail to find the back of the net.
Good shots, really good shots
Shots are great, I had a few of them yesterday. But shots are just shots unless they come from good areas of the ice. The Flyers love some point shots, and their heat maps generally show a ton of outside shots, but their chances in this game were in close and they were rewarded.
As you can see, the Flyers’ three goal came in the danger zone right in front of the crease. Getting pucks through to the net can be challenging, but when it happens the results tend to be pretty good. Travis Sanheim gave Travis Konecny a perfect shot to re-direct, and Jake Voracek did some fine dangling in front of Cam Ward for a goal right on the doorstep.
Amid a rough stretch to start March, the Flyers made a conscious effort to get pucks to the net on Ward and got rewarded with a trio of goals as a result of keeping things simple. While three of the goals came as a result of good in-close danger chances, Ward kept out a slew of other ones that could have easily turned the tide for the Flyers earlier in the hockey game.
The kids are alright
Since becoming a thing, aka since Nolan Patrick was promoted to second line center and Oskar Lindblom came up and arrived in the top six, the Flyers’ line has been just wonderful. Along with Jake Voracek, noted play driver, the young line has been too impressive for even Dave Hakstol to break up. They were at in again on Saturday, providing the only Corsi For percentage above 50 percent among Flyers forwards. While everyone else was being run around by the Hurricanes, that trio posted a combined Corsi for of 56.3% for the night. They were creating all evening and got rewarded with Voracek’s goal and an assist for both Patrick and Lindblom.
Did we mention that yes, in fact, Oskar Lindlom will eventually score a hockey goal? ‘Cause he’s gonna, and they’re gonna come in bunches because he’s doing literally everything else right.
Speaking of kids, how about this Travis Sanhiem fellow? He seems like a top six NHL defensemen eh? Sanheim was at it again on Saturday, leading all Flyers with a Corsi For of 60%. He gave Konecny a perfect shot to deflect on the first goal, and was strong in all three zones in his 15:52 on ice. What Hakstol won’t like is another penalty, but the Flyers’ penalty kill bailed him out this time around. The kid is having some success, and some failures, but at least he’s doing it at the NHL level and is 100% better than Johnny Oduya. It will be interesting to see what happens when Robert Hagg comes back, but it’s not hard to see that Sanheim has outplayed Brandon Manning of late.
The Flyers’ 28th-ranked penalty kill has operated at just 73.9% in March, but has killed off four straight over the past two games. They were particularly good against Carolina in killing off all three penalties in a key game. Alex Lyon needed to make just two saves on those three power plays for Carolina and faced that many shots when the Flyers were a man up.
Killing off three power plays might not seem like a lot, but when the Flyers have been so bad this year killing them, any game where they don’t surrender a goal a man down is a win. Especially when you consider how they’ve struggled to score in recent weeks, getting a clean sheet from the penalty kill goes a long ways in getting back in the win column.
The Flyers are largely a middle-of-the-pack club (15th in goals for, 14th in goals against), so having a terrible penalty kill really hurts in the close games that the Flyers are almost always a part of. Given how the power play has gone cold, the bad penalty kill has put a lot of stress on the Flyers to be near perfect at even strength lately. Last night the penalty kill had a strong showing and allowed the Flyers to dig out of a hole that would have been much larger had they not gotten their job done.
As I said, it’s not a ton of progress, but it’s at least something. The Flyers will need a few more clean sheets from their penalty kill down the stretch if they want to be playing hockey well into the spring.