In a huge game for the Flyers heading into Thanksgiving, they came away with a 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets, securing back-to-back wins after a four game losing streak. This team loves to pull that kind of stuff, don’t they?
5-on-5 Corsi-for: 34 CF, 45.33 CF%, 47.64 CF% SVA
These numbers are largely deflated by a third period in which the Flyers were simply trying to survive, but still not the greatest regardless of that. After a relatively even first period with the Flyers leading 15-13 in shot attempts they dominated the second period not in how many they had, but the quality of said attempts, and how few they allowed. Columbus only attempted five shots in the second period in a dominating defensive effort from the orange and black.
While the Flyers only had 11 in the period, they made them count and scored one 5-on-5 goal to tie the game, and finally a power play goal to take the lead. This wasn’t an offensive performance to remember, as Columbus had the Flyers on their heels seemingly all night long, but finally we saw a bit of the finish that has been lacking of late.
5-on-5 shot quality: 19 SCF, 5 HDCF, 0.95 xGF, 34.32 xGF%, 37.06 xGF% SVA
Again, not the best numbers, but outside of the third period the Flyers held their own in the expected goals column. Through the first two periods, the Flyers held the edge 14-8 in scoring chances, were tied in high danger chances, and just about even in expected goals. They’ve seemingly always struggled with John Tortorella coached teams and their aggressive style, and that didn’t change tonight.
The Jackets were all over them from a checking perspective, and it created quite a few anxious moments and high quality chances. While it was generally under control in the second, the few chances they gave up that period were of the high-danger variety. It wasn’t the smoothest defensive performance, but the Flyers did the little things extremely well last night and it got them the W.
1. Brian MF’ing Elliott
Without the showing from Brian Elliott, the Flyers do not win this game, plain and simple. Elliott stood on his head for the orange and black, most notably in the third period where he stopped all 15 shots including a few dazzlers. The Flyers were in pure survival mode and Elliott was up to the task. The amount of times he’s done this already this season where the entire team is in disarray, but Elliott somehow stops everything that comes his way. I was about to type “but Elliott’s calming presence” when I realized he gave us all mini-heart attacks with that, ah, well ... that attempt to play the puck. We all thought a goal was going in there, right?
Elliott’s ability to be a more than competent backup or “1b” kind of goalie this season has been a pleasant surprise. When the news broke that they had re-signed Elliott for this season, I had my doubts. A goalie with a good bit of injury history, and one that really wasn’t all that great last season when he did play. This season, he’s been exactly what we needed as a compliment to Carter Hart. When Hart was going through that rough patch, Elliott came in and played well enough most of the time to get the Flyers through it until Hart returned to form. Now, with Hart on his game, and Elliott still playing well, the goalie situation is looking quite solid for the time being.
2. Tyler Pitlick continues to find his rhythm
There’s no question the Minnesota native was struggling to start the season. He had missed all of training camp and preseason with a wrist injury, and it clearly affected him. But now, Pitlick looks exactly like what Chuck Fletcher hoped he was getting when he signed the winger this summer. He’s been a tenacious forechecker which has complimented Michael Raffl’s game exceptionally well, creating a fourth line duo that is just a nightmare to play against.
Pitlick scored his second goal as a Flyer tonight and it was the quintessential Pitlick goal. He got himself into an open area, took the shot, followed it up and buried the rebound. It was a hard-working, greasy kind of goal with a touch of skill that really brought it all together. The quick transition he made to bring the puck to the backhand and get an accurate shot off in traffic was a blur, but one of those plays that upon further inspection really catch your eye. Not to mention the fact it tied the game at the time, despite the fact Columbus would retake the lead shortly thereafter.
3. The power play could use some work on zone entries, methinks
Woof, where do we begin with this? The power play would end up scoring last night and actually contributed the game winning goal, but by in large the Flyers power play was an unmitigated disaster. Watching them attempt to enter the zone was square peg in round hole levels of rage inducing. They had about as rough a time entering the zone as Carson Wentz has completing passes under 10 yards. (I would like to clarify, @’s are not accepted at this time.)
But when they finally did enter the zone and get set up, which was rare, Columbus’ aggressive forecheck proved too much for them more often than not. I’d imagine that’s large in part due to at a certain point the players had to just be laser focused on getting the puck in that they didn’t know what the hell to do when they actually did enter the zone. I don’t think this is something that can be solved by changing up the units, but rather a scheme change. Michel Therrien has done a decent job I’d say so far managing the man advantage, but he really needs to start stressing zone entries or that percentage is only going to continue to decrease.
4. A strong game all around for the third line
One of the bigger issues for the Flyers at 5-on-5 has been getting the third line going with Kevin Hayes centering it. Not much has worked, but Alain Vigneault may have found something here with Scott Laughton and Joel Farabee on that line. The trio combined for the Flyers’ second goal, where Hayes dealt to Farabee from behind the net, who made a straight up spicy feed to Laughton who darted backdoor for the goal.
Laughton and Farabee are such pests to play against on the forecheck. Pairing them with a great puck possession player like Hayes seems like such a great fit, and it certainly was last night. How long this line stays together will be interesting to see, but for now it finally looks like Vigneault has four lines he can count on to at the very least not drag the team down.
Hayes ➡️ Farabee ➡️ Laughton pic.twitter.com/WD4ZbgVXKN— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) November 28, 2019
5. Exorcising some demons to celebrate Thanksgiving
The last time the Flyers had won in regulation in Columbus was December of 2005. To put things in perspective, the goal scorers that night for the Flyers were Peter Forsberg, Sami Kapanen, and a rookie Jeff Carter. The goalie you may ask? Robert Esche. Two seasons ago they broke the losing streak overall in Columbus with a 2-1 overtime win courtesy of a Sean Couturier tally, but this finally puts an end to the regulation losing streak.
Not only did this win exercise those demons, this was another game you look at at and say to yourself “hm, don’t think last year’s team comes away with two points.” Despite the struggles at times with this team, there’s a lot of things I point to and can clearly distinguish from any team in the Dave Hakstol era. How important is that in the grand scheme of things? Maybe not that important. But this team needed to get away from the feeling of that era, and a win like this goes a long way in doing that.
All data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick