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Flyers vs. Rangers recap: Hello, the playoffs, how we’ve missed you so

#GirouxForHart

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame:

I usually don’t start with anything in these, but the Flyers broke out Kate Smith and “God Bless America” for this one and oh man, first time I’ve had chills watching this team in a while, that was awesome.

1st Period:

The Flyers started this game off well, getting some early pressure on Henrik Lundqvist with a nice shift from the Jori Lehtera line, and a Shayne Gostisbehere one-timer. Both unfortunately were stopped by Hank, but the Flyers applied early pressure.

On a delayed penalty call, a pass down low was sent to Sean Couturier who banked the puck off of Ivan Provorov in front, just like that the Flyers have the all important first goal. The Flyers displayed fantastic patience on this delayed penalty waiting for the right pass to open up, they got it, and Couturier made the high hockey IQ play we know him for.

What was nice to see from the Flyers right after the goal, was the commitment to stay aggressive. They refused to sit back and let the Rangers come at them — they attacked and continued to try and score — just as they should. Defensively, the orange and black did a solid job early on of gathering rebounds and sending play the other way. Over the past few months and really over the course of the year this has been a struggle for them, so this change of pace was nice to see.

In the biggest game of the season, the Provorov and Gostisbehere pairing looked very strong in the opening period. Shutting down any hope the Rangers had of extended offensive zone time. Brian Elliott was forced to make his biggest save of the game to that point with about five and a half minutes remaining, stopping an in-close shot. Lundqvist would match Elliott moments later after Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny almost completed a beautiful 2-on-2 rush, with Patrick getting a mini-breakaway out of it.

The period would end 1-0 Flyers, a very nice way to begin this all important game. The top line did a fantastic job driving play, creating plenty of chances and shutting down Rangers rushes with ease. Shot quality was a bit of an issue in the period as demonstrated by the heatmap below, but as long as the Flyers continue to get traffic in front of Lundqvist, this should not be too much of an issue.

1st period heatmap/gameflow

2nd Period:

The Flyers would head to their first actual power play just a little over three minutes into the second period, as Matt Beleskey attempted to get Scott Laughton to drop the gloves, but Laughton did not oblige. Although the power play was unable to convert, WE GOT TO SEE TRAVIS SANHEIM ON THE SECOND UNIT (!!!!!).

For much of the first half of the period, the Flyers and Rangers were pretty stagnated. Neither team was able to generate all that much offense and when they did, it was snuffed out quickly. The defensive effort was very nice to see however, as even when the Flyers weren’t attempting for offense, they shut down the Rangers and didn’t allow many high percentage shots. The Rangers were almost able to get a quick re-direct but Provorov deflected it with his stick perfectly, denying the chance.

Steven Fogarty of the blueshirts would then high stick Matt Read sending the Flyers back to the power play. Claude Giroux would send a weak shot on goal and Patrick almost deflected it by Lundqvist, but Giroux scores to put the Flyers up 2-0, and giving Giroux his 100th point in what should be a Hart Trophy winning season (yeah I said it). Giroux has had the best season of his career at the age of 30, after having a 58 point season, this guy is incredible and we all should be proud to call him captain.

After a surge from the Rangers, Claude Giroux once again creating offense drove down the wing, got the Flyers set up, and Michael Raffl spun and fired one by Lundqvist to put the Flyers up 3-0 and before I could even finish writing that sentence CLAUDE GIROUX SCORES AGAIN. It would be 4-0 Flyers then and for the remainder of the period. I’m still not sure what the hell just happened but who’s complaining?

This was about the best period the Flyers could have possibly had, putting themselves up four goals with just 20 minutes to go, Couldn’t have asked any more of them from that period. The first line and top defense pairing yet again dominated in the period, just as we’d want them to in a big game.

2nd Period heatmap/gameflow

3rd Period:

The theme of this hockey game continued to start the third, despite having a 4-0 lead, the Flyers refused to let up and sit back (or at least not sit back the way they usually do). While at times this season, Dave Hakstol hasn’t sat back all the way as he does most of the time, this was something different. This was a coach refusing to let this game slip away, this kind of mentality is something I hope we see come playoffs.

The Flyers defense continued to stifle the Rangers on every chance. Then Claude Giroux put the exclamation point on an incredible season, and an incredible game. Sniping the puck by Lundqvist on a breakaway for the hat trick, giving him 102 points in his fantastic season. If you’re not on the #GirouxForHart bandwagon by now, it’s time to hitch a ride. This was also Claude Giroux’s first regular season hat trick, as you may remember, his playoff hat trick was game two of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs vs. Pittsburgh where Couturier also notched the hat trick.

This season has been one hell of a rollercoaster, and to end the year the Flyers played most likely their best game of the season. Literally could not have pictured a better way to end the year. A trip to the playoffs after dominating their division rivals, in a year where they lost ten games in a row...what a year. Giroux’s first 100 point season, Jakub Voracek almost quietly having a point per game year, and Sean Couturier finally having his breakout season. Ivan Provorov got even better, and Gostisbehere turned himself into a star not only offensively, but defensively as well. Nolan Patrick got hot, Oskar Lindblom came up late, etc. The best part is, this year isn’t over yet. Playoff hockey is back in Philadelphia.

Final heatmap/gameflow