Well, that was fun! After a nice but not the tidiest win over Anaheim on Tuesday, the Flyers came out against Buffalo and decided to go ahead and give us the extremely tidy win. They showed up earlier and decided to score all of the goals which made for a pretty fun product, if we do say so ourselves. Let’s do more of that. That would be neat.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
How’d they look out there?
5-on-5: 41 CF, 23 SF, 65.77 CF%, 66.67 xGF%
I could drop in for this section and tell you about how well the Flyers played last night, or I could let this graph do the talking for me. Let’s spice things up.
So, suffice it to say, the Flyers dominated this matchup just about from start to finish. They came out and looked a little shaky to start, but they didn’t let themselves get positively buried in the first period, instead were able to keep things pretty even until they were ready to really pull away. In short, they got the better of this match up at just about every turn.
The other piece is that they did better last night to get pucks into the higher danger areas for chances (seven in total), which is something Vigneault said they had been trying to get back to doing more of. And, with two of their goals coming from in close last night, it seems to have paid off.
Power play: 10 CF, 5 SF, 1 HDCF
Oh boy did the Flyers sure have a whole lot of chances on the power play last night. The Flyers got five chances on the power play last night and picked up goals on three of them. Which, I’m told, is pretty good?
But here’s the thing—these weren’t really plays that the Flyers will look at and say “yep, we can definitely replicate those on a nightly basis.” They had two deflect in off of Sabres defenders in front of the net, and then the third saw Kevin Hayes make a series of pretty stellar moves to keep possession of the puck, then draw Carter Hutton to his side before setting up Matt Niskanen with the feed to shoot into a wide open net. It was all great and fun to see, but it’s not something we can expect to see every night. And it doesn’t mean that everything’s fixed on the power play now.
That said, the process overall did seem to be improved, if only slightly. They’re connecting a little better, which is a step in the right direction.
Penalty kill: 3 CA, 1 SA, 1 HDCA
We saw much less of the Flyers’ penalty kill last night, just about three and a half minutes of them, and on the whole, it was a pretty positive showing. The Sabres were obviously missing Eichel’s presence on the power play and at times looked a little out of sorts trying to get their timing right, but the Flyers also did well to be disruptive when it looked like a chance was developing. In that way, it was good work as usual.
There is, of course, the issue of them giving up a goal to break Carter Hart’s shutout bid, and that was a tough one. It wasn’t a complete breakdown or anything like that, the Sabres were just able to connect on that play and Justin Braun screened his own goalie. Again. Which, if we’re being super blunt, really has to stop. We don’t have too many complaints about him in general but man, you can’t be doing that.
1. James van Riemsdyk
It was two more goals for van Riemsdyk last night, bringing him up to 10 points in his last 11 games, which is a pretty respectable tear if you ask us. Van Riemsdyk was pretty well doing his thing last night and getting himself around the net and looking for quality chances, but he also showed a bit of versatility and put away a shot from the left circle. Let’s watch those goals again, shall we? They were fun.
JVR on the doorstep! pic.twitter.com/LL1k5u5xpK— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 20, 2019
That's ANOTHER own goal for the Sabres. It's 6-0. pic.twitter.com/V5DtABgwCb— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 20, 2019
And folks, this may well just be regression finally hitting—van Riemsdyk had been doing just about all of the right things to start the season short of actually putting the puck in the net, which was a bit frustrating to watch, but not altogether surprising, knowing what we do about how he’s been streaky throughout his career. The process was good, but now the results are finally coming around.
2. Mikhail Vorobyev
We talked a little after Tuesday’s game about how, in general, we’ve been liking Vorobyev’s game since his recall from the Phantoms and, well, last night didn’t change that even a little bit. He came out of the night with an adjusted 67.47 CF% and, of course, the goal—his first of the season with the Flyers which was nice to see him get and also proof that he may never score a normal goal in the NHL ever.
Vorobyev, with a little help from Sheary! pic.twitter.com/PqUbwDadU0— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 20, 2019
We’re not the only ones feeling positive about Vorobyev’s recent play, as Alain Vigneault made note after the game that he feels that Vorobyev looks even more confident in this stint and has been looing like he just wants the puck more, which harkens back to that engagement level that we noted above. He’s got the not insignificant chance in front of him to prove that he earned his call up and he can really stick and be productive in the NHL, and so far, he’s doing well at it.
3. Kevin Hayes
It seemed like just about everyone was scoring goals last night but unfortunately, in a way, this didn’t include Kevin Hayes. The good news, and why we’re talking about him, is because he did assist on van Riemsdyk’s first goal and Niskanen’s power play goal by making the aforementioned stellar play, and all around had himself a solid night. Let’s watch the power play goal one more time before we continue.
Hayes pulls Hutton out of position and Niskanen buries it! pic.twitter.com/6FbvVoNeWk— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 20, 2019
By the numbers, as well, Hayes comes out of this one looking really positive, as he recorded an adjusted 76.45 CF% and 80.01 xGF%, both of which were good for second on the team. He was looking threatening and put up a solid effort last night, but perhaps what’s been nicest to see is how he’s stepping up, of late. With a number of key players missing, you want to see everyone stepping up to produce, but the “big guns,” even more so. It’s expected just a bit more from the veterans, and Hayes has been able to do just that.
Two loose observations
1. A good first period? In this economy?
It wasn’t a perfect, full 60 minute effort, but this may well have been the closest we’ve seen in recent memory. The first five minutes or so had the Flyers looking like, well, like how they’ve looked in many of their first periods, as they struggled against Buffalo’s aggressive forecheck and couldn’t seem to break the puck out of their own end. And then they started to build up a bit of momentum, and then Vorobyev scored and it really injected some life into them. And then when they scored their second goal not long after, it felt like things were just about over. The Flyers were taking momentum and running with it and there was no way they were going to blow this. Or so it felt, at least.
The Flyers showed up earlier in this one and it really paid dividends. I mean, this is also probably how a game where they’re playing an opponent with only 10 (and later nine) forwards should look. But their individual efforts remained sound. So the point stands.
2. Depth scoring!
Another nice piece to come out of last night’s game was the fact that we were seeing scoring , and quality chances in general, coming from just about all over the lineup. The power play was scoring, as we said. The fourth liner got two goals. The third got one. And while the Couturier and Frost lines were both held off the board, they had four and three scoring chances, respectively, and the Couturier line also put up three high danger chances. It was a pretty complete team effort, it wasn’t just one or two lines carrying things completely. And, as we alluded to in our last section, it can be pretty easy to run through an already struggling team that starts with 10 forwards and without its best player, but the fact remained that everyone showed up last night for the Flyers. It was a good team win, as they say.
The only damn thing I know
I think probably my favorite moment of last night’s game came when, as a scrum was breaking out, it sort of kind of looked like Travis Konecny was going to go after Rasmus Ristolainen. He ended up tangled up with Rasmus Dahlin, but I respect the energy of thinking about picking a fight with the biggest guy on the team. It’s just amazing.