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Flyers 2, Stars 1: At long last

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Some observations for your morning…

Dallas Stars v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

They did it! We don’t really have any more words than that! The losing streak’s snapped! And here’s what we learned!

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

1. Not bad, but strange

We love to talk about the starts to these games, because, well, it’s free real estate, as they say. They haven’t started very well in very many games so far this season, so that’s built in complaining space. We’re here for that.

In any event, we might be able to say that this was another rough start for the Flyers, but it might be more appropriate to call it strange. We can say that they did well enough in the possession battle, in that they did indeed possess the puck for some stretches of time, but they weren’t really able to do anything with it. They came out of the first period with a pretty distinct lack of offense, with just six shots and zero goals. But the better news is that they still registered 16 shot attempts, but Dallas did well in defending them from turning into anything of real danger, and also the fact that Dallas didn’t play a very good first period, either, so the Flyers didn’t have themselves in any kind of hole. The point we’re getting at is that it was 20 minutes of super fun an engaging hockey. Absolutely.

2. Doing some defense

A key piece of why the Flyers—and the Stars, for that matter—struggled to generate much in the way of offense through the first 20 minutes is that they weren’t really able to get themselves set up in the zone. Some of that came down to Dallas’s defensive zone play, how disruptive they could be, but even more so it was a matter of the Flyers getting stood up at the blue line and not being able to exit the neutral zone cleanly.

Really, this was the story for both teams in the first period, as the Flyers also did some work to keep the Stars bottled up in the neutral zone. So we might say they were effective in that way—if they were getting shut down, at least they were mirroring the effort and not getting caved in in the other end. It doesn’t make for a terribly exciting on-ice product, of course, so we can also be grateful that some space opened up, as we went.

3. Nolan Patrick!

But we’ve got a win now, friends! And there were things to like about this one! So we’re going to highlight a few individual performances.

Folks… Nolan Patrick… is back? Is that a bit of an overstatement? Maybe. He did have himself a solid game, and for the first time in recent memory was just plain noticeable out there. It wasn’t the flashiest of performances, as he put up one shot and an adjusted 51.95 CF% at 5-on-5, but we could see him being active and creating out there. And the lead-up to that shot was pretty nice, with a break in on goal, flexing a bit of speed, and putting the shot on from in close. We’re pulling at small details, here, but we suspect you know where we’re going with this—Patrick has had sort of a rough go, of late, and hasn’t been terribly noticeable, but we appreciate this as a gesture towards what he can do, and perhaps take it as a suggestion that he might be close to turning a corner. We hope.

4. Travis Sanheim, hello

And we’ve got more praise to hand out! We’re sticking with our theme of dropping some praise of strong individual performances, and we would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to talk about Travis Sanheim, who just seems to be piling up these types of positive showings.

It’s a bit more nebulous of a case, but even when the Flyers were struggling to generate pressure, we would have been hard pressed to look at Sanheim and not say “wow, he really is out here actively trying to keep play alive and create something in his time on the ice.” He didn’t come out of this one with a point, but we can still feel pretty comfortable saying that he played a solid game, and that he’s continuing to thrive in top pair minutes, and that this is, in short, a real delight to see.

5. Starter Hart

We’re back to this point and we’re talking about Carter Hart and it’s really just about the same story that we’re bringing, yet again. He was good, friends.

We made note earlier that some space opened up for both teams as we went on in this game, but it was really Dallas that was taking advantage of that. They put up 38 shots on the night, including 10 high danger chances for, and were testing Hart as the game went on, but he seemed to have their number. He stopped 37 of those 38 shots, and the one goal he gave up, there wasn’t a whole lot he could do—when Jamie Benn’s left all alone in the slot, that’s going to be a tough shot to stop. But, all told, Hart looked solid in this one, as he has really in all of his recent games, outside of the one in Carolina. So, that said, it’s nice to see the team in front finally pull out a win to reward him for just how well he was playing for them. Hart deserved this one.

6. Get [clap] pucks [clap] in [clap] deep [clap]

We’ve all heard it before. Our favorite hockey player adage. The key to winning all of the games and maybe the universe itself.

Okay, we joke a bit here. And the truth of the matter is that the Flyers could have stood to get more pucks in deep through the first period of action, as we noted above. Because, well, when you do that, good things happen. As we saw in the first minutes of the second period.

All told, the Flyers did well to create chances in close, with eight of their 22 total shots in all situations being classified as high danger chances for. They didn’t generate a ton in this one—which gave things the chance to go south in a bad way—but a good portion of what they were able to generate was of a high quality. And we’ll take that? Sure.

7. The power play that wasn’t a power play

The Flyers had their chances again on the man-advantage last night, and it’s been a foregone conclusion, of late, that this means just about nothing, but this is no longer the case! They actually were able to do something last night! It took a bit of cycling with the goalie pulled and the extra attacker out on the delayed penalty, and just when it was starting to look like they were starting to overthink it, to try to hard for their perfect chance, they found their play care of a shot from Claude Giroux in his spot, a tip off of James van Riemsdyk in front, as well as a Dallas defender, and we had a Good Hockey Goal.

This is also the second goal of the night that directly benefited from getting van Riemsdyk to the front of the net to do his thing. This one admittedly came from a lucky bounce, as well, but it’s the right work being done. More of that please.

The Flyers also had a couple of power plays that were power plays, but unfortunately we don’t have as much to say about them. Mostly, it was business as usual, and by business as usual, we mean, that they were able to generate a handful of chances—five scoring chances, in total—but weren’t able to close on them. So, dare we say, let’s maybe try that van Riemsdyk at the net front thing, but with more minutes now? Get him on the top unit maybe? Just a thought.

8. Killing penalties

On the other side of the special teams discussion, the Flyers also had themselves a good night on the penalty kill. Which is never going to not feel weird to say, after how things started out this season. Normally we might say that the Flyers didn’t bring a particularly flashy performance, but indeed they actually did just that in this one. Not only did the keep pressure on the Stars, but they were able to force a couple of turnovers, two of which they were able to turn into 2-on-0s going the other way that they just missed on closing on (and really we should credit Anton Khudobin for making those big stops).

Moral of the story? It’s not super fun to watch a team kill penalties, so to have the Flyers be both effective and a little bit flashy in doing so makes it just a little bit easier to watch.

9. Context, who?

I left this last point blank immediately after the game, and waited to decide what my last section would be on. And then the universe smiled down on me, it seems, and made me do very little work, and fed me my last thought, care of a talking point by Scott Gordon. In his post-game presser, he made particular note of the idea that something the team needs to do going forward is play the same way, no matter the context of the game—winning, losing, no matter what.

And this isn’t something we’ve seen from the team so far this season, plain and simple, and it also feels easier said than done. But there was a weight to the comment that left me at least with the feeling that something’s different now, that this is an aim with weight and that there’s now accountability at stake.

10. The only damn thing I know

In case you’re wondering where I’m at with, well, everything with this team, when the buzzer sounded to announce the end of the first period, I had no insight to offer, just closed my laptop and announced that it was pretzel time. There you have it.