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Flyers 7, Wild 4: The Nolan Patrick Redemption tour

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Some observations for your morning…

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

What a weird game that was. We had two teams that have struggled to score goals combine for 11 on the night. We had an offside review. We had a non-goal reviewed for lack of goaltender interference. We had Devan Dubnyk take a shot at Scott Laughton. And, perhaps weirdest of all, we had the Flyers pull out a pretty decisive win. Wow [/Owen Wilson voice].

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

1. Starting with some jump…

That they did! After a rough game in Jersey on Saturday where the Flyers just didn’t really look like they had it, didn’t have the energy or push they needed, they came out in last night’s game and showed some signs of life.

And then, well, then the wheels started to come off. With two goals given up in 52 seconds, the Flyers were on their heels and looking rattled. And then a rare occurrence! Scott Gordon called a timeout to have some words with his players but also give them a chance to reset, to stop the bleeding. And it worked—the first few shifts after the timeout, the Flyers still looked a little off, but they got themselves back on track and worked to gather some momentum for themselves, which certainly paid off (but more on that later, but maybe not that much later).

2. New looks

Hey, did you guys hear that the Flyers ran a first power play unit with five forwards? That’s pretty wild, right? And, even more wild (OK we’ll stop now, sorry), was that it worked!

Well, just the one time. And it came from a Jake Voracek bomb from the point deflecting in off of James van Riemsdyk who was parked in front, and this sounds like what this unit should be doing. Let JVR do his thing, parked in front of the net, right? That works.

But if we’re looking for negatives on this, we would start with the fact that they had four more tries on the power play and couldn’t replicate those same results. They generated some chances—seven shots in total—but it didn’t quite come together. And then there was the fact that Claude Giroux didn’t really look all that comfortable bumped over to the right side, and that’s something of a concern. So what do we take from this? It’s an interesting setup that still did get some results, but could be in need of some tweaking. And we’re interested in seeing what those tweaks are, going forward.

3. A man called Jorald

I’m gonna level with you guys: I didn’t think we were going to see Jori Lehtera dress for another Flyers game for the rest of the season. What with all of the drama of the legal issues and the fact of his hockey skills being, er, suspect, I just had a good feeling that his last game a month ago would be, well, his last. And, as it turns out, I was wrong.

So we had one Lehtera back in the lineup last night, and we feel compelled to talk about how that went. In short, it was fine. He played 6:51 and that feels just about right. Might Dale Weise have been more effective, considering how well he’s been playing of late? Sure, maybe. But there may well be other variables at work here that we don’t know about. So, all in all, we can say he was fine. He didn’t make any of those loud Jori Lehtera mistakes that he can be prone to. So that’s a win.

4. Killing penalties

We’ve got a bit of bad news, folks. And it comes from the Flyers’ penalty kill, which has by and large been effective of late, even if not always pretty, hitting a snag. The Wild had two chances on the power play on the night, and were able to convert on their first chance. And, in a way, that didn’t feel like much of a surprise when it happened.

This happens every once in a while, that the Flyers seem to revert to their old and bad habits, and slip back into a PK showing that’s decidedly pretty stationary. They can’t clear the puck and start relying on blocks, and then they get burned.

The good news, if we’re looking for it, is that they were able to shut the Wild down on their second attempt, and did limit them to just the one shot, but as we said a few points back, this was the start to that early spiral, and we’d have preferred if they cleaned that up a bit.

5. Starter Hart

We led with this in the intro, that this was a weird game in a lot of ways. It was one rife with momentum swings, and some personal performance swings, as well. Carter Hart would be the first to tell you—and he did, post-game—that he just didn’t have it for the first half of the game. And we’d be inclined to agree—two soft goals and the look of him not tracking the puck as well as usual had us a bit nervous about how this game was going to go. But, because evidently he’s the master of hitting the reset switch, he was able to regroup and turn things around for the second half, when Minnesota really turned it on.

And, it’s a good thing that he did, because they made it clear that they were going to be testing him in this one. All told, he stopped 34 of the 38 shots he faced for an .895 save percentage, and served as something of a stabilizing force, keeping the team in it while the forwards looked to cushion their lead further. So what’s the moral of the story? It wasn’t a perfect performance from Hart, but we commend him for his ability to make adjustments and improve in-game, saving us from having to say that this was just one where he didn’t have it at all.

6. James van Hat Trick

Okay, full disclosure, I lifted this joke from Kyle from our slack chat last night. It was a good one. Needs more eyes on it. Well done, Kyle.

Also, you know, well done, James van Riemsdyk too, right? He had an okay game I guess? Actually, yeah no, we can’t even joke, he had a very solid game.

We’ve been making note of this more and more recently, that we’ve had a couple of games where it finally looks like van Riemsdyk is starting to come on, after all of the slow start and injury happenings that had plagued him to this point. He’s buckled down and gotten back to his game, and we’re reaping the results.

He came out of this one with the power play goal that we talked about earlier, and then this second one at 5-on-5, and then he sealed things up with the empty netter that also earned him the hat trick. We like to talk a lot around here about quietly sound efforts, but there was nothing quiet about this one—van Riemsdyk brought more than a fair share of flash, and, if nothing else’s it was fun. And it’s exciting to see him getting back to old form, and getting some results.

7. Nolan Patrick, hello

And we’ve finally arrived to the point that gave us our headline. It’s the Nolan Patrick redemption tour, friends, and it sure is sweet. We’re going to start with this goal because it’s important and we can’t go any further without mentioning it.

Filthy. And it was also his second of the night, which was, as we said a good one. He totaled for four points, picking up assists on both of Simmonds’s goals, and registered three shots of his own.

Now, we appreciate the flash that he brought to this one, but we want to get even a little more abstract, still, in our praise. We’ve gone through a stretch here, where it was fair to say that Patrick looked all but invisible out there, and that was some cause for concern. He was in some kind of funk, sure, but when would he be able to shake it? Could he? And now, it seems, he’s well on his way to doing that. He’s not facing as difficult of competition as he was earlier in the season, playing fewer minutes, but he’s using that space to get back to his game. We’re seeing him show a bit more pace, and making plays, showing us more of that potential that we saw at the end of last season. He’s back, folks (or at least getting there).

8. Wayne Simmonds, also hello

You know who else is back? Or might be? That’s right, one Wayne Simmonds.

It’s the same sentiments as with Patrick, in a way, that somehow despite the fact that he’s been registering points, that he hasn’t been terribly visible through this first half of the season. And we understand why this would be the case—it was insane to posit that he would be completely good to go and in proper shape for the start of the season after having a similar surgery as the ones that took Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux almost full seasons to recover from. I’m not a medical doctor, but that just doesn’t check out. But, in any event, Simmonds had himself a solid night, with those two goals on his two shots on the night. And, I mean, that’s good and sustainable right? Sure...

Jokes aside, it was one of the best games we’ve seen from Simmonds so far this season, and while there may remain some questions about what he’ll look like for the rest of the season, this look at what we could call vintage Wayne Simmonds was a good one.

9. Shots, and all

Okay, so we’ve made it all the way to this point saying a lot of good things about this game, because there were a lot of good things to be said. But, let me tell you, the numbers are kind of rough. They were outshot 38 to 27 in all situations, and 32 to 16 at 5-on-5, while giving up 15 high danger chances for. They only had four players with an adjusted CF% above 50 percent at 5-on-5. And yet they were still able to put six goals past Wild goalies. We can attribute this in part to getting traffic and screens in front of the net, as well as some pretty stellar shots from the Flyers, but they also got some help from the fact that Minnesota’s goalies just didn’t really have it last night.

It wasn’t their cleanest effort, but it got them the win. And maybe they were due for one of those, eventually.

10. The only damn thing I know

I’ve been thinking a lot about something I saw today. There’s this gravel parking lot down the street from where I work that they flood in the winter and let freeze over so people can skate on it. And today was the first day it had been cold enough that it got to the point where this was doable. So I passed it on my way home, just as it was starting to get dark, and a couple of kids had cleared off a little spot in the corner where they could shoot pucks. And I hate to wade too deep into the [nostalgic old man voice] “oh, yes, the good old days of skating out on the pond with the boys” territory. Because that’s all kind of insufferable at this point. But I will say it was a nice image. So I’ll take that.