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Maple Leafs 4, Flyers 3: The one where they lose in a shootout

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Some observations for your morning…

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that sure was something! Just like Friday night and also just like the last time the Leafs were in Philly, this game went to a shootout, because we’re just condemned to having to watch shootouts for forever now, I guess.

Anyway, the Flyers, on the second half of a back to back started a little slow but brought a good bit of energy through the second and third periods, and did well to keep themselves in this game against a talented Leafs team. A win would’ve been nice, but sometimes you have to be fueled by loser points. So it goes.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

How’d they look out there?

5-on-5: 41 CF, 22 SF, 50.95 CF%, 54.04 xGF%

Despite a shaky start which saw the Leafs looking like they were going to pull away with all of the momentum and just torch the Flyers as they tried to keep up, the Flyers were able to collect themselves as the first period was ending and then work to pull that momentum back in their favor. They didn’t get frazzled when the Leafs were getting to their cycling game a looking dangerous, they just stuck to their own details and kept chipping away.

The end result was that they came away with the edge in both shot quality and quantity—not by a massive margin, but enough for us to feel pretty comfortable saying that their efforts were solid and they played themselves a good game.

Power play: 13 CF, 9 SF, 2 HDCF

If there’s one thing the Leafs did really well last night, it was take penalties. During regulation, they took 10 penalty minutes, and then an additional two in overtime, and then two more with .2 seconds left that also wiped out the penalty they just drew, so that one doesn’t really count. The point is that the Flyers had 12 proper minutes of power play time to work with, and they did pretty well in it. Their puck movement was crisper and they were able to generate a fair number of chances.

But the real takeaway is that the first unit seemed to have gotten tired of us talking about how good the second unit had been and decided to get themselves on the board (twice!). The first was a goal for Ivan Provorov, which we’ll be talking about in a bit, and then another from Claude Giroux (seen above). They’re looking sharper on the man-advantage, and it’s a much needed development.

Penalty kill: 5 CA, 2 SA, 3 HDCF, 1 SF

The Flyers didn’t see a whole lot of time on the penalty kill last night, so we don’t have quite as much to break down. They only played 2:15 on the penalty kill, and their work in that time was pretty solid. They limited the Leafs to just two shots (though they also allowed the three high danger chances), and were even able to generate one nice shorthanded rush for themselves. They kept the Leafs pretty well tied up, and were able to get the job done and keep their power play off the board.

Three standouts

1. Ivan Provorov

As we alluded to above, Provorov did some really solid work on the power play last night, and really, just as he has been doing all season. He picked up a goal, but on the whole just looked much sharper and more confident distributing from the blue line. He seemed to have a much better command of the situation, and he just looked that much sharper.

At even strength, his play was also sound. What really stood out was one play late in the game that saw him left trying to defend a very fast Kapanen who was looking for a breakaway chances. Provorov couldn’t completely close the gap, but he was able to close in on him enough that he forced Kapanen to change his route, and ultimately prevented the chance from happening. And we’ve said this before, but we’ll say it again: it’s really nice to see him puling things back together and looking more like the Provorov of two seasons ago.

2. Joel Farabee

He didn’t get himself on the scoresheet last night, but there was a lot to like about Farabee’s game. He saw himself promoted to the top line, and came out of the game with seven individual shot attempts and six scoring chances, both of which had him tied for second on the team. Just as he has been since he was recalled, he was zipping around generating some really nice chances, but still has found the puck luck working against him. He’s got a good process going, it’s just that the results aren’t going his way right now.

That said, we can’t help but feel like once the bounces keep going his way, he’s due for a hat trick or something. He’s doing just about everything right.

3. Travis Sanheim

Well, it certainly was something of a mixed bag for Sanheim last night. He’s had a rough start to the season, and it looked like that was just going to keep rolling into last night’s game. Because he fell down again, and left space open for Kasperi Kapanen to score. And then he just about put the puck in the net on the Jason Spezza goal. Just a couple of worst case scenario breakdowns.

And then he scored a really lovely goal and we started to wonder if maybe things were starting to shift back in his favor.

He’s obviously working through some stuff right now, by his own admission, but all he can really do is to keep plugging away. Both player and coach seem to feel confident that he’ll pull himself out of this funk eventually, it’s just a matter of that happening.

Two loose observations

1. On rallying back

This game, in short, was kind of a weird one. The Flyers looked really flat through nearly the first 15 minutes of play, and I said at one point that I couldn’t even say something to the effect of “wow, this really looks like one team on the back half of a back to back against a team that’s been off since Tuesday.” The Flyers just looked sloppy.

But then the tables turned. They got some help from quite a few penalty calls going in their favor, and converting on the power play to shift momentum back in their favor, but on the whole they just really picked up steam as the game went on. They kept their energy up, and while they did have a few breakdowns to lead to the goals against, they were pretty consistently getting the better of play through longer stretches, keeping the Leafs on their heels. In short, it was energy, energy after a couple of games where they were undeniably struggling to muster it up. They kept their foot on the gas, and they deserved the point they got last night.

2. A moment to contextualize

With all of that considered, that makes this a pretty important point that the Flyers picked up last night. Pulling three points out of a back to back is tough, and it’s nice to see them not giving up valuable points for free.

We also feel good about this win in that they showed a good amount of effort, and that’s something that was lacking in a big way in their games against the Islanders and Penguins. It looks like the Flyers are moving in the right direction, but we’d be right to have a bit of pause, still. The Devils aren’t a very good team. The Leafs were still missing key players in John Tavares, Jake Muzzin, and Zack Hyman, and still working Travis Dermott back up to game speed. The Leafs are still a dangerous team, but they aren’t at full strength right now. The Flyers have a couple of tough opponents coming up this week, and that’s going to be the real test of if they’ve really righted the ship.

The only damn thing I know

I want to preface this by saying that now that Dave Hakstol is away from Philly, I kind of don’t really want to hear about him anymore. I want us to get over our ex and move on to bigger and better things.

But with that said, I will say that there’s something sort of funny about the Flyers putting two up on a Hakstol run penalty kill. That’s all.