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Flyers 4, Devils 3: Back in the win column

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A Forsberg deke, Carter Hart looking sharp, and a much better defensive effort lead to the win.

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After two miserable games vs. the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers answered back last night with a huge win over the New Jersey Devils. While it won’t go down as their best-played game of the season, they did enough to get the win. This team needed a win like this, now we hope that momentum carries over.

The Metrics

5v5 Corsi-For: 37 CF, 53.62 CF%, 54.86 CF% SVA

Overall, the Flyers really didn’t generate a whole lot in this game with regard to shot attempts. Where they won the Corsi battle was in not allowing a lot of attempts. In the first two periods, the Devils only managed 15 shot attempts to the Flyers’ 24. This was a chippy game with not a whole lot of action for extended periods of time, but it was the defensive effort at 5-on-5 that was so encouraging to see.

Against the Penguins and the Islanders, the Flyers simply put were awful at 5-on-5 defense. This game, from purely a defensive standpoint, looked more like the team we saw in the first two weeks. They did allow a few too many high percentage shots — which we’ll get to later — but overall this game was a much needed step in the right direction.

Offensively there was definitely a bit left to be desired. They weren’t held entirely to the perimeter, but it’s not like they were getting slot shot after slot shot. I wouldn’t be surprised though if head coach Alain Vigneault put a major point of emphasis on the defensive effort tonight, and maybe had the team thinking less offense.

5v5 shot quality: 14 SCF, 1 HDCF, 1.02 xGF, 41.43 xGF%, 43.25 xGF% SVA

This is where the Flyers really struggled offensively. The Devils totally outclassed them in most shot quality metrics, with the only close one being scoring chances where the Devils had 17 to the Flyers’ 14. While not encouraging, I don’t think this is something that can be taken too heavily either. This was the definition of a “grind it out” game between division rivals, and the Flyers did just that.

The second period was by far the defense at its best, only allowing six shot attempts overall that period and an expected goals-for of 0.07. Not only did the Flyers shut them down from a quantity standpoint, but from a quality one as well. Sure, the first and third periods didn’t go as well, but the game never got out of hand. They’ll need this defensive effort again tonight facing a dangerous Toronto Maple Leafs team.

Five Observations

1. Carter Hart made the big saves when he needed to

One of the most noticeable trends from Carter Hart in this rough patch from him, has been his movement in net. We know him as a guy who has a calming, Carey Price-like presence in goal. He’s typically subtle with his movements, and isn’t flopping around like a fish out of water to make saves. Lately, that hasn’t been the case. He’s looked far more jumpy and getting himself out of position because of it.

Last night however, Hart looked like his old self. He was stable in net, squaring up to shooters, and corralling most of the rebounds. It’s hard to fault him on really any of the goals, and even though his stat line (23 saves on 26 shots) won’t look the best, he was strong in goal. The first goal was a result of Philippe Myers — who was making his first start of the season —not marking Wayne Simmonds directly in front of Carter Hart. Even though the Wayne Train has certainly lost a step, he’s not going to miss from that spot often.

The second, a direct result of Travis Sanheim falling down (again) defending Nico Hischier who, with the extra room, found Sami Vatenen who blasted home another power play goal. While there wasn’t an exceptional amount of traffic, it’s hard to fault the goalie when the play only happened because the defenseman fell down.

Speaking of defensive follies, Justin Braun got beat by Taylor Hall which, haven’t we all, but then shoved him in the back which surely distracted Hart as the puck slid by him. This one I’d like to see Hart have the five-hole sealed off here, however with Braun letting Hall get by for a 2-on-1 and Shayne Gostisbehere going down way too early, it’s hard to place too much fault on Hart. Overall, he looked much sharper in net, stopped 20 of 21 even strength shots, and was clutch in the shootout. Speaking of which, his celly was fantastic.

2. Sean Couturier did The Forsberg, I repeat, Sean Couturier did The Forsberg

‘Cause he’s got the moves like Foppa, moves like Foppa, he’s got the moOoOoOves like Foppa. Judge me, I dare you.

Sean Couturier is 4-18 in his career in shootouts, with the most shootout attempts in a single season coming in at seven in 2014-15. Which, by the way, is absolutely hilarious given his usage that season but I digress. Look, it’s no secret if you follow me on twitter (@yachobscoracek shameless plug) that Couturier is probably my favorite player on the team. I’ve backed this dude for ages knowing his offensive breakout would come. But I gotta say, there is no way in hell I would have ever predicted he’d pull off the bloody Forsberg move in a shootout.

3. The new guys

As mentioned earlier, Phil Myers made his season debut last night, but there was another debut as well. German Rubtsov, the Flyers’ first round pick in 2016 made his NHL debut on the fourth line centering Carsen Twarynski and Chris Stewart. So, how did the kids fare?

For Rubtsov, in a team low eight minutes at 5-on-5, he had a Corsi of 44.44 percent. Although he didn’t play much, he made a few nice subtle plays that resulted in good opportunities. He even almost scored his first NHL goal, with Chris Stewart making a nice centering pass after beating P.K Subban to a loose puck in the corner. His only major blemish was a turnover behind his own net, that resulted in Braun taking a penalty.

Myers had an up-and-down game, the down of course being a big one, but otherwise a decent game.

4. The Gostisbehere/Braun pairing shows promise

Outside of the third goal, which again was extremely bad for both guys, this pairing was pretty much exactly what we had seen in preseason. Gostisbehere looked a lot more confident with the puck on his stick, and Braun was typically in position to stay back and play defense while Ghost pinched. There were some bad pinches from Gostisbehere that almost resulted in odd-man rushes the other way, but the Flyers lived to tell the tale.

All in all, if this pairing can have this kind of performance more often than not, it will have been a successful decision for Alain Vigneault.

5. Joel is finally on the board

After getting his first NHL goal called back before in Chicago, Joel Farabee finally notched his first NHL goal, and boy was it a big one. Trailing 3-2 in the third, the Flyers needed to answer and Farabee did just that. Michael Raffl made a centering pass that deflected to Farabee after he used a power move to get around the net, and Farabee whistled the puck by MacKenzie Blackwood to tie the game. Video review wouldn’t be able to take this one away.

It was bound to happen for Farabee, who was flying out there last night. He was his usual pesky self on the forecheck, got himself into open areas, and created offense for himself. One thing is certain with Farabee, he is absolutely good enough to hang in the NHL already, which is extremely exciting.