The Flyers entered last night’s game looking to right the ship following a disastrous performance against the San Jose Sharks. What they delivered was a convincing victory, even if the final score of 2-1 doesn’t exactly show it.
Ahead of the game we learned that not only was Michael Raffl ready to make his return to the lineup after missing the past ten games, but also that the Flyers had loaned Morgan Frost to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It was a somewhat-surprising move, given the Flyers lack of centers, but they seem to be comfortable with Raffl centering one of the team’s bottom two lines for the time being. And last night it worked out well for both him, and the team.
With Raffl on the ice at 5-on-5 the Flyers took ten shots at goaltender John Gibson, while the Ducks fired seven Brian Elliott’s way. It might not sound like that much of a difference, but the Flyers’ shots held an average expected goal value of .062, and the Ducks’? Just .011. While Raffl, Andy Andreoff, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel weren’t shutting down the stars, their primary opposition was Maxime Comtois, Isac Lundestrom, and Jakob Silfverberg line — Anaheim’s third line. It wasn’t just a fourth line beating up on another fourth line, they were punching up.
It was one game, but a good night is a good night. Andreoff, who cleared waivers over the weekend, may be on his way back to the Phantoms sooner rather than later with Scott Laughton’s looming return, but maybe they’ll look elsewhere and see what they have in this fourth line. If Raffl, who has played center in international tournaments and sporadically with the Flyers, can prove that he can be successful in the NHL at center, the Flyers’ lack of depth down the middle with Nolan Patrick out becomes a lot less troubling.
Would you look at that. The Flyers, on the road, played a good game! The Ducks had the early jump, both on the scoreboard and in shots, but the Flyers took over the game late in the first period and never looked back.
The Flyers were in control for a large majority of this game, and Ducks goaltender John Gibson was the main reason why it took overtime for them to secure the two points. It was incredibly important for the Flyers to not only win, but show more than they did on Saturday night against the Sharks. Even if Gibson had stole this game, there were positives to build on. That being said, I’m sure they’re more than happy to take a real victory in place of a moral one.
Let’s talk power play, again
In our game preview we didn’t even ask for the power play to be good — just competent. And competent they did not look with little pressure, and just two shots (one on goal) in a little over three minutes of power play time. The Flyers did not even own the best scoring chance on their power play last night, rather it was a Silfverberg breakaway that took the cake. He would end up missing the net, high, on what would have been a tie-breaking goal with less than two minutes remaining in the second period. No harm, no foul this time, but who’s to say what their next adventure on the power play entails.
The power play has been talked about so much already this season that there’s nothing new to say. It’s been bad, it was bad again, and it will probably continue to be bad. How do they fix it? It’s not as easy as just moving Claude Giroux back to the left wall more permanently, but it can’t hurt to make that the starting point. Two nights ago, in one of the rare moments that he’s been set up on the left side, he picked up a primary assist on an Ivan Provorov blast from the point. That’s not a high percentage play by any means, but it’s at least something.
Good night for the Flyers’ middle pair
While the team’s top pair of Provorov and Matt Niskanen had a quiet, so-so night, Travis Sanheim and Justin Braun were able to keep the Ducks’ top lines from generating much of anything at even strength. Both defenders saw fifteen minutes of ice time at 5-on-5, with around twelve minutes coming against either Ryan Getzlaf, or Sam Steel. They each finished with a Corsi-for percentage north of 57, and an expected goals-for percentage over 70. Away from Sanheim and Braun, Anaheim’s top two lines owned about 60% of the shot share.
The Flyers’ pair of Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg also had a good night by the numbers, though it’d be remiss to ignore that they saw more time with the Ducks’ fourth line than any other pair had seen. Still, they did see success in the little time that they spent against the Steel line. It’s a pair that has seen significant time together over the last two seasons, and to date the results have been ugly. So while they may have their problems, it’s nice to see them have a decidedly not ugly game together.
Bad timing for an individual’s bad night
On the heels of Frost’s demotion and Andreoff’s placement on waivers, it looked like Mikhail Vorobyev may have done enough with his most recent call-up to stay with the Flyers a bit longer. Then tonight’s game happens and you can’t help but wonder if what we assume their plans are take a turn.
He finished the game with a team-low 29.98 expected goals-for percent at 5-on-5, and committed two penalties, the second of which causing more concern. About five and a half minutes into the third period Vorobyev tripped Korbinian Holzer, and instead of retrieving the puck to stop play, it looked like he stopped skating and started to glide. The Ducks were able to maintain possession and delay the penalty call, allowing them to play six-on-five.
Kurt put it perfectly:
Hard to imagine something that will infuriate a coach more than Vorobyev committing a trip in a tied third period and then coasting to the loose puck, not getting to it in time, and letting Anaheim get 30 extra seconds with an extra attacker.— Kurt (@Kurt_BSH) December 30, 2019
Following that tripping penalty Vorobyev saw the ice just once more, a shift that lasted 18 seconds. Granted, it was somewhat late in the game after he exited the box, and his line with Tyler Pitlick and Joel Farabee was never going to be one of the more trusted units for Vigneault and the Flyers. Still, the real question is how much will last night impact their decision on who to send to the Phantoms once Laughton returns. Was a poor night from Vorobyev and strong one from Andreoff enough to tip the scale in the latter’s favor?
Voracek heating up, climbing charts
It was a big night for Jakub Voracek, whose two assists pushed him ahead of both Rick MacLeish and Eric Lindros on the franchise’s all time assists leaderboard. Only five players have recorded more assists as a Flyer than Voracek’s 370.
His second, the only assist on Kevin Hayes’ overtime winner, was a beauty.
Kevin Hayes is your overtime hero!— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 30, 2019
With 16 points in his last 17 games, Voracek has been the team’s most consistent offensive producer of late, and now has 29 points in 39 games this season. Only Travis Konecny (34) and Sean Couturier (30) have more.
Up next for the Flyers are the Los Angeles Kings, as their annual post-holiday break western road trip continues. They sit 29th in the standings, but also sit 5th in the league in adjusted 5-on-5 Corsi. They’re surrounded by a bunch of teams currently in playoff spots, and also the Tampa Bay Lightning, who should be winning more games than they have.
So while it’s a game they’ll be favorites in — as they should be — the Kings probably aren’t actually the third worst team in the league this year. They’ve had trouble finishing, but aren’t getting pushed around like the Red Wings and Rangers have, for instance.
Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick