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This top six might be here to stay

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Analyzing the play of the Flyers’ forwards in Wednesday’s win over the New Jersey Devils.

NHL: OCT 09 Devils at Flyers Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers put together another strong performance in their second win of the 2019-20 regular season, which was a 4-0 decision over the visiting New Jersey Devils on Wednesday. The club gave the Flyers’ faithful hope that with a game-changing save from Carter Hart, a huge 5-on-3 penalty kill for a full two minutes, and adding on to a lead in the third period rather than sitting back are trends this team keep in place for the rest of the campaign. With that said let’s see how the forwards fared earlier this week.

The lines on Wednesday

Line Time on ice Corsi for % Unblocked shots for % Shots for % Unblocked shots for % in HPA Shots for % in HPA Expected goals for % Icing differential
Line Time on ice Corsi for % Unblocked shots for % Shots for % Unblocked shots for % in HPA Shots for % in HPA Expected goals for % Icing differential
Giroux-Hayes-Voracek 10:46 58.82 (10 for, 7 against) 57.14 (8 for, 5 against) 33.33 (3 for, 6 against) 71.43 (5 for, 2 against) 50 (2 for, 2 against) 73.33 Plus-1 (forced 4, iced 3)
Lindblom-Couturier-Konecny 10:37 89.47 (17 for, 2 against) 86.67 (13 for, 2 against) 85.71 (12 for, 2 against) 100 (11 for, 0 against) 100 (11 for, 0 against) 98.91 Plus-1 (forced 2, iced 1)
JVR-Laughton-Twarynski 8:55 52.38 (11 for, 10 against) 46.15 (6 for, 7 against) 36.36 (4 for, 7 against) 60 (3 for, 2 against) 60 (3 for, 2 against) 49.28 Even (forced 1, iced 1)
Raffl-Bunnaman-Pitlick 5:10 50 (2 for, 2 against) 33.33 (2 for, 1 against) 100 (1 for, 0 against) 100 (1 for, 0 against) N/A 85.31 N/A

Claude Giroux - Kevin Hayes - Jakub Voracek

Although they lost the battle in 5-on-5 shots, the line of Claude Giroux-Kevin Hayes-Jakub Voracek had the better quality chances on Wednesday. With the majority of their 10:46 together on the ice coming against the trio of Taylor Hall-Nico Hischier-Nikita Gusev, these three mustered a 33.33 shots-for percentage in the quantity fight but earned a 73.33 expected goals-for percentage in the quality fight. The strongest stretch of full-strength play from this trio came in the middle frame where they had five shots go unblocked (with four in the home plate area) while preventing New Jersey from recording a single unblocked shot attempt. These three were on the ice for Hayes’ power-play goal in the third period three days ago, but this line has yet to pot a 5-on-5 goal. How scary will this top six be when this line start scoring?

The Little Things

  • As a whole the Flyers had a few chances on Wednesday due to their mentality to get the puck to the net as quick as possible following a faceoff. The top line provided a pair of these chances in the win, as Hayes’ first with the Orange and Black came from firing a puck from below the dot after JVR created a puck battle following Giroux’s faceoff against Blake Coleman, but these three nearly converted on a faceoff play early in the game. On a draw right before the first tv timeout, Giroux won the puck back to Voracek, who nudged the puck to Justin Braun at the point. While the pass was happening Giroux cut the net in anticipation of Braun’s shot and was in the right spot to slam home the rebound, but the puck bounced over his stick.
  • Giroux-Hayes-Voracek produced a pair of noteworthy cycles in the victory, but they were also hemmed into their zone once. The first was a 27-second cycle with the pair of Travis Sanheim-Matt Niskanen four minutes into the contest occurred thanks to Voracek’s work to possess the puck behind Schneider’s net and Giroux’s ability to beat Damon Severson to a loose puck in the corner before he sent it back to Niskanen for a miss before Sanheim was unable to keep the puck in at the point. A 23-second cycle before the first tv timeout in the second period with Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg included Giroux’s shot off the post, Hayes’ nearly corralling the rebound for his first with Philly, and then Hayes setting up Giroux for a one-timer. As for the one notable cycle against the Devils’ line of Coleman-Jack Hughes-Wayne Simmonds put pressure on Philly for 24 seconds after Coleman caught a Sanheim outlet pass and was ended once Hayes flipped it out of the zone. The Devils didn’t register an unblocked shot on goal during the cycle, but a Hughes pass from below the goal line nearly found Severson in the slot.
  • On top of his goal, Hayes provided another scoring chance in the second period. While on the ice during the penalty kill for Michael Raffl’s trip, Hayes intercepted a pass from a miscommunication from P.K. Subban and Hughes before he drove right to Schneider’s crease for a chance. He also had a pair of penalties in the win, but neither were necessarily bad. A trip once in awhile from a forward who has shown an ability to effectively pressure opponents alone on the forecheck feels like the cost of doing business while reaching your hand down on a faceoff is an instinctual thing that still catches centers sometimes.

Oskar Lindblom - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny

Let my try and put this as diplomatically as I can: this line fucks. It makes sense given the players on the line (Sean Couturier and Oskar Lindblom are puck-possession monsters and Travis Konecny can shoot a little), but these three are molding a line that could take over games. This is the fourth game I’ve done a Line By Line for, but I feel like saying an 11-0 difference in shots on goal from the home plate area may be a total that isn’t touched all season. After Severson’s shot on goal with 12:14 left in the second period, Lindblom-Couturier-Konecny outshot New Jersey 9-0 over the final 32:13 of regulation. If that wasn’t enough, this trio closed out the contest with a two-goal third period where all five of their unblocked attempts were shots in the home plate area.

The Little Things

  • Lindblom-Couturier-Konecny put together a 30-second cycle and a 24-second cycle on Wednesday. The 30-second cycle came around seven minutes into the contest thanks to a Konecny takeaway. Konecny’s steal at New Jersey’s blue line resulted in a sequence where Lindblom and Couturier compiled three scoring chances in a three-second span. The 24-second cycle came just before four minutes passed in the middle stanza, this line pinned the line of Travis Zajac-Kyle Palmieri-Jesper Bratt in the Devils’ end for half a minute as the three kept passing back and forth with Niskanen at the point to keep the puck in the zone. The blue liner ultimately let go a shot that was blocked in front by Severson, but Konecny whiffed on a rebound that bounced right through his legs.
  • Just another night at the office for Couturier. His goal was one of his five shots on goal from the home plate area at 5-on-5, as he totaled seven individual shot attempts in the win. Aside from his offensive production Couturier also displayed his strength during a puck battle with Hischier in the Flyers’ zone with a little over seven minutes in the first period, as he dumped the first overall selection from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft with relative ease.
  • Much like Couturier, just another night at the office for Lindblom. He worked his way from below the goal line to the bottom of the left circle before he hit Niskanen with a saucer pass across the Devils’ slot nearly 11 minutes into the game and sprung Couturier on his chance early in the second period where he just kind of decided that this puck was going to be the last puck he ever touched. Lindblom also made a nice play to draw the slash out of Gusev in the second period, as he just put a shot on net and moved his feet to the cage for a rebound while Gusev stood still.
  • Even though he scored a goal it was a little quieter evening from Konecny, as his gift from Palmieri was one of only two shot attempts he had all night in all situations. His lone noticeable mistake came a little over four minutes into the contest, as an offensive zone turnover nearly led to a goal against. Out on the ice with Giroux and Hayes, Konecny tried to leave a drop pass for Giroux at the top of the slot but Subban was able to swoop in and carry the puck out of the zone. As the Devils took it the other way, Hall stopped in the right circle of the Flyers’ zone and hit a trailing Butcher for a cross-ice one-timer with Konecny trailing the play. It’s a timing play with two forwards he hasn’t been skating with, but it was still a careless play that almost gave Philly their first deficit of 2019-20 (dude’s got three goals and five points in two games, so I guess one mistake it’s okay.)

James van Riemsdyk - Scott Laughton - Carsen Twarynski

Based on this game’s performance and looking at what they can realistically produce offensively, this may be the first line broken up this season. The trio of James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Carsen Twarynski worked against Coleman-Hughes-Simmonds often in their 8:55 together at 5-on-5 to a 52.38 corsi for percentage and 60 percent of the shots from the home plate area, but it also resulted in a 49.28 expected goals-for percentage and 36.36 shots-for percentage. In theory, this line is built to be a group that can grind their way to long stretches of possession in the offensive zone with one of the two power forwards on the line eventually getting a chance off a feed or rebound in front (which has happened on a couple of occasions). Perhaps these three kick it into another gear over the next few games, but part of me thinks once Nolan Patrick can go we might be seeing a JVR-Patrick-Joel Farabee third line in the near future.

The Little Things

  • An example of how this line can help the squad came with a cycle that lasted exactly one minute with nearly eight minutes left in the first period. A Laughton faceoff win resulted in four shot attempts for Philly with a shot on goal from Sanheim that concluded the extended zone time. Board play and battling for puck possession below the goal line from JVR and Twarynski resulted in John Hayden (for some reason) feeding the puck to Miles Wood at the top of Schneider’s crease, where he passed the puck right to Laughton for a wired shot from the left dot that was blocked by Sami Vatanen for perhaps the best chance of the shift. It didn’t result in a goal and it wasn’t pretty, but it was a full minute the Devils spent below the faceoff dots in their own zone while the Flyers’ top six rested.
  • Another bottom-six accomplishment from this line was their ability to force an icing a few minutes into the game. Thanks to pressure on Hughes in the neutral zone, the first overall pick from this year’s NHL Entry Draft was unable to gain the red line before he fired the puck down the ice.
  • The biggest stretch of play from Wednesday’s win was the two-minute 5-on-3 penalty kill that featured maybe the save of the year already from Carter Hart. Laughton not only started the kill with Ivan Provorov and Braun, but he came back out for a second shift to intercept a pass from Hall in the Flyers’ zone and flung the puck down ice to close out the two-man advantage. Laughton also did a nice job causing problems by himself on a forecheck in the second period, when he stick lifted Schneider behind the Devils’ net but Butcher was there to jump on the loose puck for a clear a second later. A negative play was when Rooney beat him to a loose puck in the left corner of the defensive zone with about three minutes left in the first and then put a nice move on Laughton for a scoring chance.
  • JVR’s best scoring chance of the game came on the power play in the second period. With Gusev in the box Voracek stood at the top of the left circle and saucered the puck to JVR, who was camped out at the far post, but he wasn’t able to catch the pass. The former Toronto Maple Leaf also set up Sanheim with a nice chance in the slot with a pass from below the goal line just minutes after his missed power-play chance. JVR also had a nice hustle play when he beat out Andy Greene to cancel an icing call against the Orange and Black late in the opening frame.
  • Twarynski flashed some offensive upside with a play early in the second period. After he carried the puck into the Devils’ zone, Twarynski skated through the right circle while JVR moved his way into the slot. Twarynski quickly dished it to JVR for a one-timer that was gloved down by a sprawled out Schneider. These are the types of plays we need to see more of from this line.

Michael Raffl - Connor Bunnaman - Tyler Pitlick

As you can see from above, this line didn’t play that much against the Devils. A lot of special teams’ play and a lot of icings in the tilt may explain how this happened, but either way Michael Raffl-Connor Bunnaman-Tyler Pitlick only saw one unblocked shot from the home plate area all night at 5-on-5.

The Little Things

  • Pitlick and Bunnaman each drew a penalty in the game. Pitlick showed restraint as Wood freaked the hell out over nothing and roughed him halfway through the first period and Bunnaman drew a hook out of Coleman a little over five minutes into the final stanza.
  • Raffl tripped Hughes in the second period to give New Jersey a 5-on-3 power play for 12 seconds, but he nearly made up for it as soon as he left the penalty box. The Austrian forward darted out of the box and beat Butcher to a loose puck on the other side of the neutral zone before he took it the other way for a shorthanded chance he backhanded off the post. He then parked himself in the slot and just missed redirecting a Hayes’ feed from the corner.
  • Both Raffl and Pitlick provided a hit on Wednesday that actually changed possession. Raffl forced Subban deep into the Devils’ zone on a breakout attempt and planted him into the boards nearly three minutes into the game, which led to a Voracek missed shot shortly after. Earlier in the shift, Pitlick dislodged the puck from Rooney at the Devils’ blue line to let Provorov grab possession.

Lines on the Fly

*Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com.