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Flyers 4, Rangers 3: One step closer to our next winning streak

Some observations for your morning...

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Friday again and we’re here to talk about a Flyers win! Not like last Friday, when we had to talk about a much sadder loss. So it goes. But now it’s almost the weekend, and it’s, by and large, good news. The Flyers beat the Rangers! They didn’t fall for the trap! Let’s talks some more about it!

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

1. ??????

If you can picture it, the first minute and a half of the first period, my face was just the expressional equivalent of angry question marks. Can you picture it? We’ll still move on if you can’t.

The first minute and a half or so saw the Flyers scrambling to get set, to match the Rangers’ speed, to do much of anything. They were hemmed into their own zone and couldn’t seem to hold onto the puck long enough to clear it. It just kept drifting back to the Rangers, who got to work with it. And by the time the Flyers were able to control the puck and start moving out of their zone, Jordan Weal took a hooking penalty and sent the Flyers to the penalty kill.

The good news, perhaps, is that the penalty kill came up big for them. It wasn’t the prettiest effort, by any means, as it saw them spending more time caught in the zone while the Rangers cycled the puck, but they were ultimately able to break up their rush. And once the penalty was killed, they were finally able to get on track, claiming offensive momentum for their own. But oh man, was that not the kind of start you want to see out of your team, just a few weeks from playoff time.

2. Travis Konecny. Hello.

Do we even have to say actual words about Travis Konecny’s efforts last nights? It seems like excited hand gestures would suffice, but we’ll do our best to put together some written sentiments.

We’ll be talking later about shot selection on the whole, but we should also note that this was a particular strong point for Konecny last night, as he showed no qualms about getting the puck in deep and getting set up close to or in front of the net. His first goal came through traffic in the crease, as he flexed excellent vision and the shot that just keeps improving.

It wasn’t a perfect showing for Konecny, with his turnover in the neutral zone leading to the New York rush that culminated in Zibanejad’s goal. But even Hakstol couldn’t fault him too much for this, he said, as it was an unfortunate result of a sequence where he was just trying to make a play. And the he redeemed himself in the second period, again going to the front of the net to set the screen, and he was able to pick up the deflection on Radko Gudas’s shot from the point. So the flash was there and we were back to feeling good about his game.

And then, after scoring half of the Flyers’ goals on the night, Konecny found himself stapled to the bench for much of the third period. It’s a story we’ve heard before, that of protecting a lead, so you sit the defensive liabilities. But somehow last night was different. After the game, Hakstol was particularly adamant that Konecny wasn’t “playing the right way” at the end of the game. And with no particular late-game shift that jumps out as The One, it’s hard to say exactly what went wrong there. The one thing I do know? My sentimental brain wanted him on the ice once the Rangers had pulled their goalie, just to get the chance at the empty netter, and his first hat trick. Come on. It would have been so nice. And we were deprived of it.

3. Our highlight reel play of the night…

Okay guys. There’s no use beating around the bush. Let’s just go right to the tape on this one.

A peek behind the curtain: my working title for this section was “Jake just owned like three Rangers, oh my.” And it works. Jakub Voracek carried the puck deep into the zone, held it through traffic, and somehow deked past Georgiev. It was a masterpiece. Not as good as him owning Madison Bowey, but this is up there.

This is just part one of our running thread of “members of the second line had really good nights last night” (and more on that later!). Beyond the goal--which came at just the right time, to reestablish the Flyers’ lead and get them back on track when it looked like they may fall back into a rut—Voracek put up two shots and an adjusted 53.01 CF% at 5-on-5. Additionally, he was trusted to see double shifts in the third period, with Konecny benched and Matt Read moved up to the top line. And how do we wrap this up neatly, and tie it up with a bow? Just remind you that this is more or less what we’ve come to expect with Voracek—some solid work and some moves that give us a reminder of oh yeah, and he can do that.

4. The power play

Ah yes, this again. It’s the same old story here, folks. You know where this is going. The Flyers had two chances on the man-advantage last night and just couldn’t get it done. The first unit looked sharp, and was able to put up two shots with a nice bit of movement while New York worked to kill the Hayes penalty, but they just couldn’t get it done. And the can of “when in the world is the power play going to actually, really shape up?” gets kicked further down the road.

The silver lining, perhaps, that comes with talking yet again about how the power play continues to fail to produce, is a note on how the second unit had perhaps its best showing in recent memory last night. We’ve lamented them being kind of a mess through much of the season, and the stretch of shifts where they just couldn’t even seem to get past the blue line to try to do anything. But they may be turning a corner. Though also held off the board in their brief shift on the Hayes penalty, the second unit was able to get right down to being set, with some of their crispest passing and shots in the direction of the net, though none of which registered as proper shots. It certainly wasn’t a perfect effort, but it was at least an improvement, and one we’re eager to see them build on, going forward.

5. Lyon time continues

Given his performance in relief of Petr Mrazek on Tuesday, it comes as little surprise that Alex Lyon got the start last night against the Rangers. He was, once again, able to come in, stop the bleeding, and give the team their best chance at coming back. He was solid and he earned the subsequent start.

So how did that start go? Certainly not a smoothly as Tuesday’s showing, but it was enough. Lyon stopped 33 of 36 shots faced for a respectable .917 save percentage. He made a handful of nifty and timely saves throughout, looking sharp, and was helped out by some lucky bounces when he wasn’t as sharp.

And the three goals allowed are still three goals, but it’s hard to be too terribly upset about all of them. The first saw Lyon challenging Zibanejad and getting beat. Zibanejad made a very nice shot. And it’s a bummer. The second goal was even more so, as the puck was deflected in straight off Ivan Provorov’s skate. Not much you can do there. But the second Fast goal is one we can sigh a bit more deeply about, as it saw Lyon just drifting out of position and leaving too much space. When the goal happened, we weren’t surprised. But what was perhaps more remarkable was that he didn’t let himself be rattled, and didn’t let himself be beaten by this same mistake for the rest of the night. And that’s certainly not nothing.

6. It’s happening…

What did we say, folks? The floodgates have opened and the points keep on coming for Oskar Lindblom. He had another big night last night and picked up his second NHL goal in just the second game since notching his first. And it was the kind of result that we’ve been waiting to see from him—with all the time he spends camped right in the front of the net, and working at generating chances, it was nice to see him finally get the reward for that good work. And, yes, more of that please.

Beyond the goal, we saw him continuing to do well by our play-driving metrics—the Patrick line as a whole continues to do very well in this department, and Lindblom alone put up an adjusted 58.06 CF% at 5-on-5, putting him third among forwards behind just Nolan Patrick and Jori Lehtera. And are we surprised? It’s falling right in line with what we’ve been seeing, and he’s only getting better.

It was a good night for him, but Lindblom ever humble, or critical, or self-aware, made note that he should have had another goal or point or two, with the chances he had in front of him last night. And while closing on those chances is and will be important, the good work remains. And there’s always next time.

7. No longer the Bees, I don’t know what to call them

I know it was easy to get very excited about all of the scoring and flashiness that last night’s game brought, but it’s also worth taking a moment to acknowledge the quieter efforts of the Scott Laughton line. In short, they were very good. Though held off the board in the points department, they were the Flyers’ most effective line, by Corsi, with the trio of Laughton, Read, and Lehtera averaging an adjusted 53.3 CF% at 5-on-5. We saw them shuffled in the third period, with Read promoted to the top line in Konecny’s stead, but the first portion of the game proved solid for this line. While on the ice, they were able to keep the Rangers’ offense largely at bay, and open up space for themselves to work with. The results weren’t there, in that they weren’t able to score, but the fact of also keeping the Rangers off the board is still something. We’ve talked a lot about the seeming eventuality of the goals coming for this line, and while they still haven’t, the door remains open.

8. A note on shot selection

It’s time! It’s time again! We have shot locations to talk about! Let’s jump down to the trusty old heatmap.

Particularly noteworthy about the Flyers’ efforts last night was their work in generating high-danger chances. They put up 17 high-danger chances across the evening, and the results they saw were more or less aligned with that, as all four of their goals came from the home plate area. They had a handful more of those chances on which they were robbed, just couldn’t seem to close, but the effort was there, and it’s one that they could stand to replicate heading down the stretch.

On the other side, they also did well to suppress the Rangers’ attempts to set up in front of the net—allowing just 13 high-danger chances, while keeping them from setting up screens to make their perimeter shots more dangerous.

And, if nothing else, one person who was particularly grateful for this work was Alex Lyon. He said so much himself after the game, making particular note that while he wasn’t without activity faced in the last period, his teammates made his job easier by largely limiting the quality of the shots New York got off. It got the job done, and hey, if Alex is happy, I’m happy.

9. Reiterating

Okay. So now we’ve arrived to what’s becoming a semi-regular section, where we yell about the amount of time the Flyers are spending caught in the defensive zone. It has to happen again. So let’s just get right into it.

Flyers. Dudes. You have to stop doing this. You have to find a way to get out of the dang zone. We talked about it way up in the first point as an issue than manifested itself at the very start of the game, and it reared back up at the tail end. Trying to hold onto their lead, with just a few minutes left in regulation, and with Georgiev pulled, the Rangers were trying to make their last push, and the Flyers were just letting them. And while bookending this game, it was a problem we saw in spurts throughout. While they did well enough in preventing quality chances, on the whole, some of the Rangers’ best chances came from being allowed to just set up in the zone for an extended period of time. We’ve talked about this enough, and seen them burned by it enough. They know it’s a problem, and sooner or later they’re going to have to find a way to solve it.

10. The only damn thing I know

So last night’s game was another sponsored one, this time by the Rothman Institute at Jefferson, and their thing was showing concussion factoids on the board, like how long it takes symptoms to manifest, and how it takes less to incur one than you might think, etc. And something felt off about it, projecting bits about concussions at a game for a league that has, historically, not been great with pretty much everything surrounding concussions. So I have to ask: Rothman, who are you really talking to here? Because I suspect it’s not me.