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Flyers 3, Maple Leafs 2: They’re good at shootouts now

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Well, at least right now they are, I’m not quite sure how long that will continue.

Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

With their win last night, the Flyers have now won three straight, and four out of their last five. Since the 7-1 loss to Pittsburgh, they’re on a five-game point streak with their only loss being an overtime loss, to these very Maple Leafs. It’s almost like freaking out after two really bad games was probably not the smartest thing to do.

The Metrics

5v5 Corsi-For: 49 CF, 48.51 CF%, 52.68 CF% SVA

This was a strange game from what I saw in regards to eye test vs. metrics. In the first period, the Leafs out-chanced the Flyers 15-11 despite the Flyers appearing to have control for the entire 20 minutes. Then in the second period, when it looked like the Flyers took a step back, they were tied with the Leafs in shot attempts. Now the third period gets thrown out of the discussion because it was just a crazy gongshow as soon as the Leafs tied it up.

Overall, I think the Flyers played a solid game and gave one of their better defensive efforts of the season. The Leafs still got their chances, which was bound to happen given the firepower they possess, but before the chaotic third, the Flyers had things pretty well under control from a defensive standpoint.

Since the train wreck performance on Long Island, and then in Pittsburgh, the Flyers have tightened things up defensively and it’s leading to wins. The backcheck looks stronger, the defense is making better reads, Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Sanheim are looking more like the players we know they’re capable of being; it’s all come together. Keeping that effort going will be key, but for now, they’ve got it going on.

5v5 Shot quality: 25 SCF, 8 HDCF, 1.89 xGF, 55.55 xGF%, 59.92 xGF% SVA

Not only did the Flyers excel at keeping Toronto’s machine gun-like offensive firepower to the outside, they ripped apart their defense as well. It’s the worst kept secret in the entire NHL that the Leafs aren’t exactly good at the whole defense thing, and the Flyers made sure to keep it that way. The heatmap for this game tells the tale.

For a team as highly skilled as the Leafs are, there is zero reason the bulk of their chances should be coming from anywhere near the point. It doesn’t look as bad with how many chances they got in the third period, but after 40 minutes the Flyers exclusively held them to the point or at least from right there at the top of the right faceoff circle.

Meanwhile, the Flyers were feeding the slot seemingly all night. Phil Myers scored his goal from there, and the Flyers could have had many more from that area if Frederik Andersen wasn’t standing on his head much like Carey Price did for Montreal. The fact this team has run into two very good goalies in the past two games, and come away with wins in both, is quite the encouraging sign.

Five Observations

1. Blowing leads though, not encouraging

It’s hard to nitpick in games like this in which the Flyers definitely deserved to win, but it is a little worrying that they gave up another lead to send this game to a shootout. As long as this doesn’t turn into a consistent problem, it’s not going to be something to stress over yet. And realistically, once the Leafs were sent into “full offense” mode, it was going to be tough to keep them back.

If Andersen doesn’t rob Andy Andreoff of his first goal in his first game as a Flyer, we’re not even talking about overtime, let alone going all the way to a shootout.

2. Leafs fans were ... really quiet

This is totally unrelated to the actual on-ice action, but it also kinda isn’t? Anyway, I just wanted to ask what the hell was with that crowd? Even when the Leafs came back to tie the game it was as if the fans inside the Air Canada Center (yes, I know it’s the Scotiabank Arena now, but it will always be the ACC to me) were afraid to make too much noise in a library.

I mean, it’s Hockey Night in Canada, the Leafs are an exciting young team that to be fair has underachieved a bit, but come on show some energy. I counted one, just one “Go Leafs Go” chant all night and even that was lackluster. Do better, Leafs nation.

3. The shootout goals

ICYMI, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier absolutely dunked the fuck out of Andersen in the shootout.

First of all, Brandon is absolutely correct, shootouts do indeed still suck. However, that’s not going to stop me from watching these shootout goals on a loop for countless hours. Giroux lead it off with a clap bomb to end all clap bombs, and it was glorious. We know what he’s capable of attempting to deke out the goalie, but man there is something so incredibly satisfying about watching a slap shot goal on a breakaway/shootout attempt.

As for Couturier, this was his second shootout game winner this week, which is something I never imagined saying. Even I, a fan who has defended this guy for his entire career, can admit shootouts haven’t exactly been his strong suit. Except maybe this year? His two shootout goals in two attempts already is a single season high for Couturier, who only has six shootout tallies in his career.

4. Ghost may have figured things out, folks

Tonight was undoubtably Shayne Gostisbehere’s best game of the season. Not only did his metrics back up the eye test, they surpassed them. Gostisbehere lead the Flyers in Corsi with a 76.19 percent, and expected goals with a staggering 94.68 percent.

What stood out to me most about Ghost last night, was his ability to elude opposing forwards. Early on this season, he’s struggled a bit with an aggressive forecheck which is supposed to be on of the things he handles best. He looked overwhelmed constantly, and made poor decisions as a result. Last night, he looked like the Ghost of old.

He turned on a dime multiple times to avoid forecheckers, and made quick passes to either break the puck out of the zone, or lead a counter rush. He made strong reads defensively, and immediately turned it into offense. While I’m fully aware people will solely contribute this to Robert Hagg no longer being his defense partner, this is more than that. Individually he wasn’t playing well, but if he can build on what we saw last night, this defense is an even bigger threat.

5. The fourth line looked ... good?

It’s no secret that the Flyers’ fourth line has struggled this season. General Manager Chuck Fletcher has tried numerous options to get that line going, but none have really panned out. Last night was Andy Andreoff’s turn, and boy did he not disappoint. Andreoff was flying around the puck all night, hitting everything in sight. Not only was he supplying some energy to the fourth line, he almost chipped in some offense.

This save on Andreoff kept the Flyers lead at just one, and shortly thereafter the Leafs tied the game. By far, this was one of the best games — if not the best — the fourth line has played all season. Sure, it wasn’t just Andreoff, as Michael Raffl and Tyler Pitlick both had strong games. Pitlick finally seems to be getting into a rhythm after missing training camp and preseason, and man was he fun to watch at times.

Not only were these guys getting in on the forecheck, and making life miserable for the Leafs defensemen, they were creating offense as well. If they can get that kind of effort consistently from the fourth line, this team is going to have an insane amount of depth when Nolan Patrick finally returns.

All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick