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Flyers 6, Ducks 2: Back on track

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Some observations for your morning...

Anaheim Ducks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Another weekend, another weekend win. After dropping their last game on Thursday to the Kings in pretty brutal fashion, the Flyers came back and responded in a big way. No emotional hangover, here, just results. They stared down their second “they really should win this one” game, and they did just that. And things are good again.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

1. My Varone has a first name (sorry, sorry, trying to delete)

The Flyers struggled mightily to produce offense in said brutal game on Thursday, but the same couldn’t really be said for yesterday’s matchup. Right out of the gate they were looking to get themselves on the board, and that fateful goal came from, relatively speaking, an unlikely source.

Just 2:44 into the first, it was Phil Varone who got the Flyers on the board, picking up a pass to the crease from Michael Raffl below the goal line, he was able to slip it past Chad Johnson. Varone would pick up an assist later on in the period on Sean Couturier’s goal (more on that later), while also registering an adjusted (blank) CF% at 5-on-5, rounding out what was, on the whole, a very solid night. it was contributions from the fourth line, alleviating some of the pressure from the other lines, and it was nice to see—the forwards up in the lineup have been producing well, and now some of the depth players are starting to get going, as well.

2. Starter Hart bailing them out early

Normally we wait to talk about the goalie until a little later on in these things, but the way things were going early on, it necessitated some earlier talks. The Flyers did get themselves on the board early, and were able to put up three more before the first intermission, but this didn’t mean they were completely dominating. They gave up a couple of quality chances, including a breakaway, and Hart came up big for them. He had himself another very solid night—stopping 30 of the 32 shots he faced for a .938 save percentage—but he had his work cut out for him through the early part of this one.

And it’s time again for us to make a note of how great this all feels, having a goalie that we know can make the big stops when needed and we don’t have to stress or grit our teeth whenever a puck heads in his direction. The players feel this. We’re feeling it. It’s good stuff.

3. More trouble getting through the neutral zone

We alluded to an early offensive push that bought the Flyers’ their first goal of the game, but they hit something of a rough patch after that. They would find themselves hemmed into their own end for a bit, and then they would be able to control the puck long enough to start a breakout, but then… that was it. They couldn’t move cleanly through the neutral zone to get anything set up offensively, and we were starting to get nervous. It wasn’t the same level of struggle or sloppiness that we saw on Thursday, but the Ducks were doing well to shut them down in the middle of the ice, and got themselves in the best position to make their comeback.

However, *narrator voice* they didn’t.

4. Well, that didn’t last long…

If the question, then, was “what’s going to happen when the Flyers finally do find a way to break out of this funk and get themselves through the neutral zone?” the answer was “immediately score a goal.”

Almost as soon as they were able to break out of the defensive zone, they were creating a chance on the rush and Sean Couturier was putting it in (after two deflections), and just like that, the funk was broken.

And, would you look at that. That’s another very good game for Couturier. He picked up three points (with the goal and two primary assists), while also registering a team-high five shots across all situations, as well as first among forwards adjusted 66.17 CF% at 5-on-5. And those numbers sort of speak for themselves, but we’ll reiterate, Couturier is playing some very good hockey, of late, and seems to be heating up at just the right time.

5. Killing penalties

It’s been nice, recently, being able to talk about the penalty kill and just say that they’re doing well and not have to complain a whole lot. It was nice run. Because we’re back to complaining. The penalty kill went two for four on the night, and just didn’t quite look as effective as they have over this stretch. They did well enough in limiting shots (five over the four attempts), but the Ducks were still right in there, in the crease, getting to work. So the results didn’t feel like much of a surprise.

But the bright spot, of course, was this moment.

This is what happens when the Flyers are executing really well, when they’re getting really aggressive after loose pucks and exploiting some space. It’s been a while since we had a shorthanded goal, and Michael Raffl seemed deserving of this one.

6. The power play!

The theme of these special teams talks, it seems to be, is that of coming back down to earth. After their pretty stellar run where they went seven for their last ten attempts heading into Thursday’s game, the power play seems to be evening out a bit. What this looked like was the Flyers having a bit of trouble getting set up in the zone, but otherwise getting some puck movement going, but not a whole lot of consequence. They registered eight shots over their five attempts, but could only manage three high danger chances. But, the good news is, one of those turned into something.

That’s right folks, if there’s any good news to be had here, it’s that the second unit is still getting it done. This time it was Nolan Patrick from Couturier and Travis Konecny, and the new second unit really is out here scoring some goals. Wow.

7. Oskar Lindblom, hello

So, it way be that there is a prophetic nature to our observations. Is that too dramatic? Fine. But we can say that after Thursday’s game, we gave Lindblom a nod for his sound play, despite not registering a point, and said that it was only a matter of time before things broke open for him. Well, he kept up the good work and finally got himself the reward.

In a way, this is sort of prototypical of Lindblom’s game—getting himself to the front of the net to cause a bit of havoc and hunt for rebounds, and bonus points if he’s able to play the puck in his skates to make something extra happen—and it finally got him on the scoresheet. That’s things breaking open, folks. More of that please.

8. Travis Konecny, also hello

This point was supposed to be a way to work into talking about the goal Konecny scored in yesterday’s game, but I’m going to derail that for a second to talk about him sticking leftover tape all over Lindblom while he was trying to do his post-game interview, and then getting wailed with a ball of said tape once the interview was over. Because that was a fun and delightful things that happened.

Anyway, Konecny also did some hockey things yesterday. He generated four shot attempts and two scoring chances, as well as a secondary assist on Patrick’s goal. Oh, and then there was the goal of his own to cap off the Flyers’ scoring late in the third.

And, as was the case with Lindblom, the results felt a proper reward of the process, as Konecny has been picking up some momentum, of late, and has been playing more completely. He was buzzing in this one, and in a way it felt like a goal be badly needed.

9. Shots and all

By the numbers, this one wasn’t too bad for the Flyers. They won the raw shots and shot attempts battles, putting up 68 and 40 across all situations to the Ducks’ 62 and 32, while also registering an adjusted 54.36 CF% at 5-on-5. The work there was solid, and we can’t complain too much about that, all things considered.

But what is worth noting is that, while the Flyers led in all of those ways we just listed above, they trailed in high danger chances. This has been an issue, of late, and again the Flyers bled more dangerous chances than they were able to produce (15 to 10, in this case). Scott Gordon spoke well of his team’s efforts after the game, noting that they had taken a step forward and done better in limiting their opponents’ high danger chances, but they’re not out of the woods yet. There’s still work to be done.

10. The only damn thing I know

I guess the idea of doing the homer thing is to not give your opponent too much credit. Or to say any nice things at all, but we’re going to ignore that for a second. Because, I have to say, watching the Ducks is fine or whatever, purely because Rickard Rakell is one of my favorite hockey names. That’s all I’ve got.