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Flyers 3, Bruins 2: What we learned from a thrilling sixth straight win

This team never fails to surprise.

Claude is a mood.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

1. Well, not exactly the start we were looking for

Despite picking up the W in this one, the Flyers’ start would have lead you to believe they were not on their way to one. The Bruins dominated much of the first period in both the shot and shot attempt column. It was only moments prior to the opening goal for Philadelphia that the tide slowly began to turn, then following the goal, the script had been flipped. Boston held the shot attempt advantage 13-12 after the first period, but the final 5-on-5 totals came out 52-49 in favor of Philadelphia.

It really wasn’t even that close until Boston’s late surge before the end of regulation, as the Flyers had dominated for much of the second and third period. This team has been outplayed a few times during this win streak that has now incredibly reached six games, but this was not one of those nights. They controlled the pace of this game against a very good, albeit just a bit top heavy, hockey team. These are the kind of games the Flyers simply were not winning before, but are now. Call it luck, call it playing with house money, good teams win these kinds of games. And right now, this is a pretty good hockey team.

2. Now that’s the Provorov we know and love

I’ve been of the opinion that Ivan Provorov has been turning the corner, and tonight he helped solidify that opinion even further. Provorov was arguably the Flyers best defenseman in tonight’s game. He had the second best Corsi percentage behind defense partner Travis Sanheim, all while playing 26:12 at 5-on-5 and 30:20 overall. Not to mention the line he faced most often in this game, was one of the best lines in all of hockey featuring Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak.

A lot has been made of the fact Provorov’s play-driving metrics simply aren’t where we thought they would be. And, while to a certain degree I can understand and agree with that, look at what his workload is. He just played 30 minutes at the age of 22, on the road against one of the more physical teams in the league, and against one of the best lines in hockey. I would have been happy if he just managed to break even in Corsi, let alone have a 54.17 on the night good for a 5.17 relative. I think it’s safe to say he’s back, folks.

3. Top six showed their muscle

The Bruins and Flyers are a bit alike in being top heavy hockey teams, but last night the Flyers had just enough depth to get the job done. The top line of Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, and Travis Konecny was generating offense all night long, and the second line was just as, if not more effective. Giroux lead the Flyers in Corsi and chipped in a beautiful breakaway goal after Jakub Voracek found him on a spinning pass from the boards.

With Scott Gordon juggling the lines a bit in this one, we saw Voracek and Giroux together more than usual, but there was no rust to shake off between the two of them. The second line featuring Voracek, Sean Couturier, and Oskar Lindblom were impressive in their own right with Voracek coming in behind Giroux in Corsi and Couturier and Lindblom not too far behind.

Lindblom would also score the game-tying goal that allowed the Flyers a shot to even get to overtime, although it was on the power play and not with his traditional linemates at 5-on-5. Regardless, the Bruins are essentially a one line team, and last night the Flyers had two effective lines that were able to keep the Bruins hemmed in their own zone for much of the game.

4. David Pastrnak is one hell of a player

This of course is common knowledge at this point, but the Pasta Man was absolutely incredible last night. Pastrnak scored the two Bruins goals and they were both in highlight real fashion. The first one, granted, was more about the sensational cross ice pass from Torey Krug, but a dazzling goal nonetheless. Pastrnak had missed a similar chance just seconds earlier, and he simply was not going to miss the second one.

His second goal came on an absolutely unfair deflection in front of Carter Hart that the Flyers netminder didn’t stand a chance on. I just mentioned how the Bruins are essentially a one line team, well last night they may have been a one player team. Not bad for a 25th overall pick, eh?

5. Carter Hart was great when needed to be

The Flyers generally did a good job last night of keeping the Bruins at bay and limiting the workload for Carter Hart. Something tells me it had a little bit to do with the onslaught Anthony Stolarz dealt with on Tuesday, but I digress. Hart, in his fairly limited action of just 25 shots overall (22 at even strength), was steady as can be in net. He stopped 21 of 22 even strength shots, and only faced two power play shots with the leftover shot coming shorthanded.

This is Hart’s fifth straight victory and his fourth straight start with a save percentage of .920 or better. To say this kid has been a breath of fresh air would be an understatement. Right now, there seems to be this sense of ease among Flyers fans when Carter Hart is in net. Needless to say, it’s not often when something like that is said about a goaltender in Philadelphia. Not to mention, he’s doing all of this at the age of 20. He’s stepped into an impossible situation seemingly, and handled it with the poise of a 10 year veteran. We’re running out of words to describe just how good he has been for this team, and fanbase alike.

6. Shot quality solid all night long

Not only did the Flyers win the overall territorial battle, but they won in regards to the quality of those chances as well. They posted 19 scoring chances to the Bruins 14, and nine high danger chances to the Bruins six. Boston was pelting them with chances late in regulation, but the shots were primarily coming from the outside.

Keeping opponents to the outside has been a staple of this hockey team for the most part since Dave Hakstol was hired, and since Scott Gordon took over they haven’t missed a beat. Sure, they have their off nights like every other team, but with the additions of Rick Wilson and Scott Gordon, the defense appears to improve each night. With players like Provorov and Sanheim establishing themselves more and more, and the likes of Radko Gudas continuing a strong campaign, this defense is looking pretty strong. And, oh by the way, they did this without Shayne Gostisbehere.

7. Speaking of Flyers defensemen, Travie the hero!

Went six observations deep before even going in depth on the hero of the game, Travis Sanheim. Ivan Provorov still gets my vote on best Flyers blueliner last night, but it was Sanheim who picked up the overtime winner. Not only did he win the game, Sanheim was the best play-driving defenseman in terms of raw Corsi alone posting a 59.57 with 22:45 of 5-on-5 ice time. Just as Provorov did, Sanheim spent the majority of his night taking on the top line of the Bruins and he handled it extremely well.

But now for the juicy part, the overtime snipe. This was an overall spectacular play from Sanheim before he even scored the goal. After playing catch with Sean Couturier, Sanheim rotated with the Flyers center to the top of the point, skated to the left faceoff circle and right at the top of the circle with a screen of Wayne Simmonds in front, sniped it home. This play showcased the patience and outstanding vision that Sanheim shows off on a nightly basis, but this time with the finish to boot. Sanheim could make a strong case of his own to have been the Flyers best blueliner last night, and it would be entirely fair. His progression this season after the nonsense he dealt with last year has been a joy to watch, and he’s only going to continue to get better.

8. The bottom six, on the other hand ... not so good

As previously mentioned, the top six of the Flyers carried them in this game. The bottom six however was another story. The third line of Nolan Patrick, Wayne Simmonds, and Scott Laughton was good at times but simply too inconsistent. The fourth line, meanwhile, may as well have not even laced up the skates tonight. When they were noticed on the ice it wasn’t for the right reasons, and they were hard to notice as is.

Against a team like Boston, the bottom six will be able to get away with this kind of play and live to tell the tale. Against deeper teams however, they need to be better. The third line had its moments so it’s fair to give them a bit of a pass for this game, but the fourth line needs to pick it up. Vorobyev is a prime example of that with his recent call-up. With concerns about his work ethic and compete level up in the air, he needs to make the most out of this chance, instead of performances like he had last night.

9. Power play has a perfect night

With more changes to the power play, came a perfect game on the man advantage. To be fair, it was only two power plays, but it was a perfect outing nonetheless. Ivan Provorov stepped onto the first unit for last night’s game and did a solid job in a role he hasn’t seen much of (if any) in his NHL career. The first power play goal though came from a mix of the second unit and the first, as Oskar Lindblom buried a pass from Jakub Voracek by Tukka Rask.

The power play managed seven shots on their two chances, hopefully signalling turning the corner in an unlucky season for both units. If the Flyers power play can start to improve the same way the penalty kill has, this team becomes all the more dangerous as they look to make the mad dash for the playoffs. By the way, how silly is it that this team was on their deathbed about a month ago and now sit just nine points out of a playoff spot?

10. Enjoy the ride

This has been quite the streak of late for the Flyers. A lot of us were dead set on the stealth tank and having a shot to land Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, and now all of a sudden the chances of a postseason birth are growing by each win. This team could absolutely fall by the wayside, and land right back into a favorable lottery position; we’ve seen them have runs like this before only to follow it up with massive losing streaks. But, for right now, enjoy this.

This team has been frustrating — or as our own Bill Matz likes to say, funstrating — but fun is also exactly what they are. They’ve shown a lot of effort and will throughout this streak, and that should be commended. The projected savior of goaltending in Philadelphia is lighting up the hockey world, Claude Giroux is still a point per game player in his age 31 season, and the young studs are finding their games. This is what we wanted. Sure, it’s later than we would have liked, but we got it. Enjoy the ride folks, while it lasts.

All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and hockey-reference

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