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Flyers 6, Red Wings 1: A Black Friday miracle

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Some observations for your morning...

Detroit Red Wings v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Black Friday game hasn’t always been the kindest to the Flyers, but this year saw a very nice reversal, as the Red Wings came to town and the Flyers pretty neatly dispatched of them. It’s not too often that you get to see your team put up six goals in one evening, and it was … fun? Are we allowed to say that? It was fun.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and nhl.com.

How’d they look out there?

5-on-5: 47 CF, 30 SF, 54.79 CF%, 63.77 xGF%

A phrase we heard rattle around the locker room quite a bit after this game—and which we could also pretty well confirm just by watching—was that this wasn’t the Flyers’ best game. They gave up a lot of chances early in the game, and struggled to break down even the more set plays the Red Wings were going for (every time we saw Tyler Bertuzzi wide open and parked just in front of the net the little voice in my head started to scream), and even if they made it out with the lead, we knew that it wasn’t their most complete effort.

But, that said, sometimes we’re our own worst critics, and this really wasn’t their worst game either. Indeed, after the somewhat slow start (which, again, still had them hitting the first intermission with a 2-1 lead), they pretty well took over the game, getting the better of the Red Wings in winning both the shot attempt and high danger chances shares, on top of the obvious onslaught of goal scoring. We appreciate the team being somewhat self-critical, because they didn’t come out as sharp as they could have and left some chances on the table, still, but it’s also not as though they came out and got torched in every possible metric but still managed to eek out a win. The process, while not perfect, was still good. And we can live with that for now.

Power play: 7 CF, 5 SF, 1 HCDF

It wasn’t the cleanest effort we’ve ever seen from the Flyers’ power play yesterday. In their time on the ice yesterday they gave up nearly as many chances as they registered, allowing four shorthanded shot attempts and three shots on goal. We understand how things got a little weird, as Matt Niskanen, after taking a puck to the face in the first period, didn’t return until the second, so his presence was missed some on the second unit and they had to find a way to cover. The bright side, perhaps, is that even with all of that going on, the Flyers were still able to pick up a power play goal thanks to Shayne Gostisbehere on a neat almost-spin-o-rama play. And maybe that makes us feel not so bad about the process still needing some work, because hey, one for three isn’t too bad! But there’s still a bit of work to be done.

Penalty kill: 8 CA, 5 SA, 3 HDCA

Grass is green, water is wet, the Flyers’ penalty kill was successful again. Yesterday was something of an “it isn’t pretty but it works” type of showing from the penalty kill, as they still gave up a couple of good chances that Carter Hart was able to bail them out from, but in the end, they got the job done. They got the clears they needed when it mattered, and still made one nice shorthanded breakout of their own to put up a shot attempt of their own. Did they also get a bit of help from the fact that Detroit’s power play has been struggling pretty mightily recently, and that this bled into yesterday’s game? Almost certainly. But hey, whatever gets the job done.

Three standouts

1. Shayne Gostisbehere

First game back and Gostisbehere picks up a very nifty goal on the power play? I mean, come on.

A lot’s been made of the three games that Gostisbehere was healthy scratched over the last week, and we’re not really here to relitigate that, just to make a note that based on the results we saw last night maybe it paid off. He picked up two shots and four attempts as the offense started looking like it was coming back for him. But more importantly, we saw some flashes of the old Gostisbehere last night; between the offense and the elusiveness, there was something.

He may not have shaken off all of whatever dark cloud of misfortune was hanging over him—he regained enough confidence in the third to attempt a bomb from the point and his stick shattered—but the initial look was good. It was, if nothing else, a step in the right direction.

2. Carter Hart

This is probably going to sound pretty familiar, but the Flyers had a bit of a rough start to this one. They were outchanced and outshot in the first period, as Detroit came out and pulled away with some of the early momentum in the first period. The skaters did well to largely keep them to the outside, but it wasn’t all perimeter shots, and Hart still had some work to do to make sure the Flyers didn’t fall behind early.

And, because we’ve come to expect nothing less, he was successful in this, and had himself a solid night overall. It wasn’t his busiest night, but he still had to face 33 shots and 11 high danger chances across the evening, and he came away from it with just the one goal allowed and a very nice .969 save percentage. We’ll talk later (spoiler alert!) about the Flyers not playing down to their competition and letter a worse team run through them, and while a lot of credit goes to the skaters for that, just as much is owed to Hart, who kept the game in check when he needed to.

3. James van Riemsdyk

Well would you look at that, van Riemsdyk snapped his goalless streak and picked up his fifth of the season last night! The game was all but over when it happened, with the Flyers already holding a 5-1 lead and Detroit looking like they had lost a good bit of their fight, but it was still nice to see him get one, at long last.

We’ve been talking about this a lot recently, the one goal that will break the slump and hopefully give a player more confidence and get him going again. He’s been doing just about everything right up until the point, making sure to get himself to the front of the net and looking for high danger chances, it’s just that nothing was going in for him. Hopefully this is the one that opens the floodgates, as van Riemsdyk is pretty much the last player that the Flyers need to get going again. He may be close.

Two loose observations

1. Room up the middle

In some ways, this game at times felt like it was pretty wide open. There were a lot of chances for both sides, and particularly there seemed times when there was just a ton of space open straight up the middle of the ice for chances on the rush, for both sides. And we can take this two ways. On the one hand, remembering back to the game against Florida, we’ve seen how these types of chances can really hurt the Flyers. We’ve seen them burned by nearly or full breakaway chances up the middle of the ice before, so we’d like to see them cut down on the number of chances they were giving Detroit there.

On the flip side, with the Flyers also getting some of those similar chances, we might have liked to see them cash in on a few more, themselves. And maybe it ends up all being a wash because of the end result, but there were also some missed opportunities for the Flyers to do a bit more defense as well as capitalize on a few more chances offensively. So it goes.

2. Didn’t fall for the trap this time

When we talked after the Flyers’ game in Ottawa a bit back, one of the more frustrating pieces of that game was how the Flyers let a team with a lesser roster and record just run straight through them. We know that things don’t always go how they should on paper, but the Flyers really should have had that one in the bag. But they didn’t. They fell for the trap game.

And with that considered, and maybe I’m not the only one, but despite how much Detroit has struggled to start this season, I was a little worried coming into this one. Because it still wasn’t clear if the Flyers had moved past the point of lowering themselves to the level of their competition.

They may not have played their best or cleanest game yesterday, but they did still keep it together enough to pull out a win. They kept their foot on the gas and didn’t give Detroit a real chance to claw their way back into this one. And maybe this game wasn’t the best litmus test for how the team is doing in general, but it also seems that they cleared an important hurdle—you want to see a good team be able to beat up on a struggling team sometimes. It sounds harsh to say, but it’s something they need to learn to do, and it seems that the Flyers are working on it.

The only damn thing I know

There’s a chance that I say this every time the Red Wings come to town, but I’m going to say it again because I also feel a little bad about how bad they are, so I want to say something nice. Their away jerseys are just beautiful. They’re my favorite in the whole league, I think. Really crisp, really lovely.