So that was a weird one right? By the numbers, on paper, the Flyers looked like they could have been killed in that game, but somehow managed to pull off a huge win over the top of the Eastern Conference Bruins in pretty flashy, spectacular fashion. But, like we said, there was some weirdness going on, so we have a few things to break down. Let’s get into it.
All stats and graphics via Corsica.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com
1. Please stop doing this
Have you had enough of talking about this? The slow starts and struggle to get settled and sustain offensive pressure? I have, and I’m sorry I have to bring it up again, as the issue popped up again yesterday. Sigh.
The Flyers spent the first few minutes of the period having their shots well suppressed, only being able to put up one to the Bruins’ five. And it’s not really a question of just why this happened—Boston was doing well to stand the Flyers up at the blue line and force them to result to chip and chase, and then subsequently beating them to most of those loose pucks.
A nice shift by the Laughton line (more on them later!) broke this up, as they saw a shot from the point get chipped around in front of the net to earn them three total shots on the board, but no goal, and the Flyers’ best shift so far. It gave them a nice bit of jump, and they were able to get going after that, again, it wasn’t exactly the start you want to see from a rested team facing off against one on the back end of a back to back.
2. Claude and co. do actual magic
Given what we just talked about up there, the Flyers having trouble establishing sustained offensive pressure early in the game, we were reasonably sinking into a feeling that this might be a rough one for them, and that goals might be hard to come by. But we didn’t have to wonder for long when the first one would come—Giroux had us covered.
It started with Provorov actually carrying the puck across the blue line—which seemed like a monumental feat at this point in the game—then a quick distribution to Konecny, who zipped the puck laterally over to Giroux, who positively lasered it home. It was little short of a thrilling combined effort, and a testament to how dangerous their top end talent can be when controlling in the way that they want to be.
But this wasn’t the end of the flash for Giroux for the night. His overtime goal (see below) was a real stunner, as he took what had been a dull showing of 3-on-3 to that point and getting the Flyers a much needed two points in the standings.
Claude Giroux with the OT winner! pic.twitter.com/oKthUzOdtj— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) April 1, 2018
His two points on the night also landed him at 95 for the season, tying him for second in the league in scoring, and pushing him to a new career high. And I don’t think we’ve talked enough about just how incredible of a year this has been for him. I don’t know that I’ve even been able to process how unreal his season has been. He’s scoring 95 points (and counting!) at 30 years old! 30! People were worried he might be getting close to dropping off a cliff after last season! And now we’re here! I need to go scream in the streets a little bit. You’re welcome to pause from reading these observations if you need to do the same. I won’t be mad. This is wild.
3. Mrazek’s back!
In case you missed it, the Flyers’ goaltender drama continues, still. Wednesday saw Neuvirth’s return to the ice after being away for about six weeks, and we were ready for it. He looked very sharp against the high powered Avalanche. And he lasted a little over one period.
That’s right, he’s back to being injured—currently listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury—and we’re back to our Mrazek-Lyon tandem. And it was Mrazek—who came in relief on Wednesday—who got the start yesterday. And he did pretty well.
Given his shakiness of late, the apprehension at seeing him back at it, and against the Bruins no less, was reasonable, but he did well to stop them. Boston came at him hard, putting up 39 shots in total, of which he stopped 36. He wasn’t perfect—see the Acciari goal, where he just kind of shrugged his shoulder like he was reacting late, and the puck just sailed by him—but he was good enough. And he still had his flashes, with the sprawling save on Pastrnak serving as a particular high point.
With Neuvirth and Elliott both looking like they could be back any day now, the question remains open about when we’ll see Mrazek next, but after the drama that’s surrounded him recently, it was nice to see him looking like he was getting back on track, and able to come in and just get the job done.
4. No longer the Honey Bees, the Laughton line still looking good
This is a tangent, but I miss the Honey Bees. It was a really impeccable nickname for a nice line, and I miss getting to talk about them. But I’ll get over it, I’ll stop lamenting. We’ve got business to discuss.
The snappy nickname-less Laughton line had a very solid game yesterday. Their adjusted CF% tells something of a lukewarm story, as the forward trio of Laughton, Read, and Lehtera averaged an adjusted 47.85 CF% at 5-on-5, which, while not excellent, was fine enough.
But they also had some high points! Like zero goals against while they were on the ice. And Laughton leading all Flyers with four shots. And Matt Read looking the sharpest and most dynamic as he has since his callup. So, are results in the future? Read seems to think so, as he alluded to post-game, and I’m inclined to agree. There may be something to be said, or questions to be had, about their ability to finish, but it sure seems like after this many times knocking at the door, something’s bound to break their way.
5. Travis Konency. Oh my.
I sometimes like to offer a peek behind the curtain on the working titles of these sections, so here’s another one: “Travis Konecny just owned Patrice Bergeron holy [redacted so my editors don’t get upset with me].”
You guys. What a huge day for Konecny. Holy smokes.
He started the game looking sharp, picking up an assist on Giroux’s goal, and making some nice defensive plays, holding steady in the face of defending Bergeron’s line. And then he kicked off the second period with a bang.
Travis Konecny just scored and we're speechless.— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) April 1, 2018
Goal of the year? pic.twitter.com/PCVNr5YPSR
Honestly, I don’t know if we can say enough about how great it was to see Konecny deke around Bergeron like he’s not one of the best defensive centers in the league. It was a real thing of beauty. And even more than that, it was timely. The Flyers’ top line was pretty well thrashed by shots in their matchup against Boston’s—garnering a 43.95 CF% at 5-on-5 for the game—but they were still able to generate chances and capitalize on them at just the right time. And while we’d like them to be dominant all the time, perhaps what we saw yesterday was an even more encouraging sign for the future—even in the face of meeting a tough matchup of top-end talent, they can still keep their heads down and work with what they’re given to generate offense while preventing goals against.
6. Special teams
So, I guess it’s about that time again. Time to talk about special teams. As we’ve probably come to expect by now, it was something of a mixed bag in terms of results.
The good: when Sanheim took the interference penalty, we couldn’t get too mad, knowing he had to take it to avoid a goal, but we also needed the penalty kill to come up big. And they did. They were able to keep the puck tied up and cleared out of the zone, and largely frustrated the Bruins’ efforts.
The less good: the PK’s second effort was less sharp, as they were hemmed into their own zone and were slowly being collapsed into the crease, giving the Bruins room to work with.
The fortunate: they were able to get a clear, and Brad Marchand literally could not resist crosschecking Andrew MacDonald in the face, which was promptly called, effectively ending their chance, and giving the Flyers an abbreviated power play of their own. So, thanks, I guess?
More not so good: the power play. That’s it. They were not good. Neither unit really ever looked like they could get settled enough to generate any particularly dangerous chances on either of their attempts. They had a chance to cushion their lead nicely, but they just weren’t able to get it done. Again. And something’s got to give.
7. More on the kids!
But we’ve done enough lamenting here, let’s move back to the positive for this one. We talked a few points ago about the huge night Konecny had, and he wasn’t alone—bringing the flash in equal measure were Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick. Let’s go to the tape.
VORACEK➡️ LINDBLOM➡️ PATRICK➡️ 3-1 FLYERS pic.twitter.com/WTkE1gw9zh— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) April 1, 2018
With the Flyers still holding a one goal lead early in the third period, but looking for more of a cushion, it was Lindblom and Patrick who came up big. Breaking out of their own zone, where they had been caught for much of the game, Lindblom executed a perfect saucer pass to Patrick who picked it up while still on the move, and deked and froze Khudobin low on his net, and picked him off high.
It was an exciting play for the simply for the fact that it propelled the Flyers into a two goal lead, but also for its role in showing the continued chemistry between Patrick and Lindblom. They’re showing a real knack for creating space and finding each other at just the right time, and now that the results are coming, they have no sign of slowing down (and at just the right time too!).
8. Shots and opportunism
So we mentioned way back in the introduction that this was a weird game. By the numbers, if you removed the score and just looked at the shot metrics, one would think the Flyers should not or could not have won this one. They were outshot 39 to 24, and averaged an adjusted 47.6 CF% at 5-on-5, and were unable to crack 50 percent through the first two periods. So, how did we get here?
Perhaps the piece working most in their favor was shot quality. The Flyers, though not able to generate a huge number of shots, held the edge in the high danger chances for department. Through regulation, they were able to generate 21 scoring chances and 9 HDCF at 5-on-5, and were rewarded for this effort. On the other chance, they were able to keep the Bruins from getting too well established in the crease, and limited them to just 14 SCF at fives, keeping their efforts spread out through the zone, and giving Mrazek a bit of help, in the process.
But beyond this, as the title suggest, they were able to close on those high quality chances that they were generating. They took advantage of a tired team, defensive breakdowns, and a backup goaltender, and they got the job done. And this also brings us close to our next point…
9. “It isn’t pretty but it works…”
I wanted to circle back to something we touched on a few points back, in closing, about the Flyers not dominating in their efforts, but still getting the job done. When the Bruins scored to tie things up with three seconds left in regulation, there was a pretty palpable feelings of “well, we knew this was going to happen, right?” They had been outshot and outchanced through much of the game, and were saved an earlier tie by some nifty saves and a handful of lucky bounces. If the game had turned any earlier, we would have been sad, but we would have understood. It wasn’t a poor effort, by any means, but it wasn’t their best.
But, as we’ve seen the Flyers being more and more able to do through this back half of the season, they found a way to win. This time it came from their stars doing what they do and capitalizing on the opportunities they were able to create. And, like we said above, you want them to be dominant all the time and just own everybody, but maybe there’s something to be said for working smarter, when the need presents. And, hey, a win’s a win, and I’ll take it.
10. The only damn thing I know
Going into the game, I thought I might use this section to address some Serious Business, like the rest of the Metro and the Flyers’ place in the standings, since we’re getting down to the very serious part of the season or something, but that’s cancelled, you all will be spared the business for now. Why? That’s right you (probably didn’t actually) guessed it--there were birds in the building yesterday.
Three of them, to be exact. We saw one flying around just before the first intermission, and them two more joined the flock! And I have so many questions! How did they get in there? How do they get out? Will they still be there on Thursday? Why did none of them perch on my press box ledge to become my weird little bird army? That is all. Have a nice week, folks.