The Flyers got back in the win column with a comeback, 5-4 win on the road against the Wild on Tuesday night. Here’s a look at 10 things we learned from a huge win ahead of a three day break before a home-and-home series with the Red Wings this weekend.
Ghost is still kind of broken
Call it a physical or mental error or both, but Shayne Gostisbehere should have gotten an assist on the second Wild goal. Ghost appeared to be trying to clear the puck up the middle but didn’t get anything on it and the puck went right to the stick of Luke Kunin, who beat Anthony Stolarz with a quick snap shot to make it 2-1. Both mental and physical errors have propped up pretty frequently in Gostisbehere’s game this season and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.
For a player who thrives when his confidence is high, this has to be the lowest we’ve seen his play drop to since joining the Flyers. Part of the reason the mistakes are so glaring is that Ghost hasn’t produced offensively like he has in the past and that makes the mistakes in his own zone jump out like a sore thumb.
Maybe he’s playing hurt or maybe he’s just having one of those seasons where just about nothing goes right, but it’s a huge reason why the Flyers are having a disappointing season and they’ve got to figure out how to get him back on the right track and fast.
Power play breathes in life
JVR’s PPG midway through the second pulled the Flyers within one at 3-2. Nice power play setup with the double deflection going on with Simmonds out high and JVR in front of the crease. Down 3-1, the Flyers badly needed a goal from their special teams with Minnesota carrying play all over the ice in the first 30 minutes of the game.
A double deflection! pic.twitter.com/ZRbFxBiitH— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 13, 2019
The momentum from JVR’s goal carried the Flyers through the rest of the period, and they were rewarded with another power play not long after. Though they didn’t score on that one, and didn’t look great during it, Sean Couturier would tie things up at 3-3 with 6:03 left in the period after a great individual rush from Travis Sanheim.
The Flyers closed the second period strong and found themselves in a tie hockey game after 40 minutes thanks in part to the boost of energy that they got from the power play.
Sanheim flashes again
One of the more frustrating things with young players, and especially defenseman, is their performance night-in and night-out. What separates the Drew Doughty’s and Victor Hedman’s of the world is their ability to bring it on a nightly basis with consistency.
Travis Sanheim shows you flashes like this where he just has elite ability to skate and create from the back end. He has the physical tools to blow by an NHL defenseman then the offensive instincts to drive the net with skill and end up with a primary assist. The NHL is starving for guys like this on the blue line and he’s special when he’s on his game and playing with confidence.
What a move by Sanheim, and Couturier with the finish! pic.twitter.com/DCk3IzChKI— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 13, 2019
The scary part is that he’s just starting to scratch the surface (last night was game 106) and is only going to get better with more experience. His coach noticed him last night, too, as he spent over 24 minutes on ice in this one and provided two helpers. It’s the second highest ice time he’s received this season and he’s been over 20 minutes in each of his last five games.
Raise your hands if you expected the Flyers to fold like a deck of cards after Luke Kunin’s second goal of the night (and just fourth of the season) made it 3-1 Wild in the first. Off that emotional and frustrating loss to the Penguins it seemed likely that the Flyers would lay down facing the second end of a back-to-back on the road and already down two after 20 minutes.
But the Flyers pulled together and put up a solid showing in the second half of the game thanks to their power play, their goalie, and a bunch of Wild issues and turnovers. It sure wasn’t pretty but it was a much needed win given that both Buffalo and Carolina picked up wins ahead of the Flyers on the same night.
JVR on the rebound! pic.twitter.com/u18O1dKgI0— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 13, 2019
Keep calm and Stolie on
It looked like it was going to be one of those nights for Anthony Stolarz early, but after surrendering three goals in the first period he tightened up and allowed the Flyers to play themselves back into the game later on.
When the hulking goaltender was at his best was later in the game, he made a couple big saves down the stretch to keep the Flyers within one in the third period and then later on after Giroux had tied things up with his laser. It wasn’t always pretty, but Stolarz stayed in position and controlled his rebounds. Like his crease mate Carter Hart, the positioning allowed him to come up with some unreal saves that the team in front of him absolutely needed.
In the end he turned aside 35 of 39 Minnesota shots on the night and again was reliable in keeping the Flyers in the game —something that other goalies simply couldn’t do earlier in the season. He’s 2-0-1 in his last three starts since returning from injury and has looked great in two of the three and really solid after settling down against the Wild. Veteran Brian Elliott is starting an “extended” rehab stint, but Stolarz has earned the right to play with the big club.
Ivan the incredible
On a night where several Flyers showed up in a big way, could there have been a more impressive skater on the ice than Ivan Provorov given everything? He played 10:59 in the first period thanks to a slew of Flyers penalties but followed it up by tallying 20:47 through two periods. Sensing that his club needed to pull out all the stops to grab points in this one with a few days off before their next game, head coach Scott Gordon rode his horse in the third and Provorov finished with over 30 minutes of ice time.
To put that into perspective, Minnesota’s Ryan Suter played 25:33 and is second in the league averaging 26:42 a game. Provorov topped that by nearly five minutes and even given the Flyers’ relaxed schedule over the next few days it’s pretty darn impressive. Provorov was on the ice for two Flyers goals and just one for the Wild, Zach Parise’s power play goal.
If Ivan Provorov returns to the level of play from a year ago down the stretch, there’s a real good chance the Flyers complete that crazy run and somehow make the playoffs. He’s that much of difference maker on the back end.
Another night, another weird goal against
Jared Spurgeon gets this one, scoring on an almost impossible angle near the goal line to beat Stolarz above his shoulder. The confusion was that the puck went over Stolarz’ shoulder and the goalie moved the net off its moorings, causing the puck to sneak out the bottom of the net while it was lifted off the ice.
The puck goes in off of Stolarz and out through the bottom of the net, goal. pic.twitter.com/D8oaTm4Hry— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 13, 2019
Another look at this one.
That goal was Wild. pic.twitter.com/pz54NV3JD2— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 13, 2019
Much like the Sidney Crosby goal a night earlier, it was a strange goal that halted the forward momentum of the Flyers and put them in a hole. Fortunately this time they were able to dig out of that hole and turn a two goal deficit into two points on the road.
Giroux finishes with authority
In what started off as a tough night for the captain, he sure responded in the later half of the game. First he sent Travis Sanheim down the wing on Sean Couturier’s eventual tying goal at 3-3 then tied the game up himself later in the third at 4-4 with this wicked slap shot. No doubt Giroux was a bit frustrated given how the Penguins game went and his start in this one, but he let all that frustration behind this puck that may very well have burned through the back of the net behind Devan Dubnyk.
After already completed a two goal comeback earlier in the game and again finding themselves down a goal, the captain stepped up and provided a massive goal for the Flyers. People often talk about Giroux’s leadership, but nobody could ever deny the effort that he put forth to get the Flyers a much-needed win in this game.
NHL officiating just has to be better
Leaving the mess that was the Nolan Patrick no goal against the Penguins on Monday, the officials in Minnesota giving the Wild a four minutes power play for high-sticking their own player has to be a new low.
Robert Hagg was accessed a double-minor for the infraction on Jason Zucker in the first period when really it was Zucker’s teammate —Jordan Greenway— who busted up his grill. Replay showed that Hagg’s stick was nowhere near Zucker’s face and the Flyers were left to deal with yet another raw hand from the men in the zebra stripes.
Despite the win, the Flyers stayed status quo in the standings and got zero help from the two teams above who lost to the Sabres and Hurricanes, two teams the Flyers are chasing in the playoff race. Sure there are other teams to catch as well, but leaping those two is a start and the Flyers continue to ride this hot streak and inch closer towards what could be an improbable playoff run.
They’re off until this weekend, there four huge points loom against the very beatable Red Wings. Time to relax, rest for a few days and sweep Detroit over the weekend to (hopefully) gain more ground.