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Flyers 2, Canucks 1: The streak lives on!

Some observations for your morning...

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

For those who are keeping track, that’s the Flyers’ eighth straight win. Yes, eight! It’s pretty wild to think about, considering where we were not too long ago, but there’s something pretty remarkable happening, here. Things are good and fun again. Imagine that.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

1. Killing penalties

Let’s get right into it, shall we? As we’ve noted in past articles, these sections are outlined more or less chronologically, and we had another penalty kill to watch very early in this one, before we could manage to string together any other thoughts about the game, when Nolan Patrick was sent off for tripping just 1:10 into the first. The good news is that they were able to keep the Canucks pretty quiet on that first attempt, and even were able to set up a breakout for a scoring chance of their own. So the penalty was killed and they didn’t fall into an early deficit

And this would really be the story of the rest of the night—the Flyers had two more penalties to kill after the Canucks made it a one goal game, and they certainly had their work cut out for them. The Canucks registered eight total shots on the power play, including six HDCF, but the Flyers (largely Carter Hart) held them off the board. They allowed themselves to maintain their one goal lead, and this would turn out to be the difference maker.

2. Not a whole lot going on early

We’ve heard this one , we know, we know, but we’ve got to hit on it before we get too much further. It was something of a weird start to the game—it wasn’t one where eight or so minutes have gone by and no one has a shot and everyone looks like garbage, but the Flyers did struggle to get much going offensively in the first half of the first period. Granted, so too did the Canucks, as turnovers were committed and plays took a few extra moves to develop. It wasn’t a particularly clean start for either team, and it’s no question why it took a bit of time for any sort of momentum to come together.

And, somehow, we don’t feel as bad talking about these slow starts to games anymore. It’s a testament to how far this team has come, knowing that if they come out a little flat or struggle early on, that this isn’t a death sentence. They’ve figured out how to right the ship, even if they don’t play perfectly cleanly for the first ten minutes. And that’s worth something.

3. The power play!

But, as we alluded to, the Flyers did start to get some momentum building in the second half of the first period, and they had a little bit of help in that from a couple of chances on the power play. Their first chance didn’t go perfectly, as it saw them get a bit of good puck movement across the two minutes, but they weren’t able to capitalize on any of those chances. Their second attempt, just over a minute after their first expired, was looking even less smooth, as they struggled to so much as get set up in the offensive zone. And no sooner than the words “regression eventually comes for us all” came out of my mouth, the Flyers were on a rush and Couturier was picking up his 21st goal of the season.

They had another chance in the second period, but it went in the way of their first go, but no matter. They picked up a tally in yet another game, which means that they’ve gone seven for 10 in their last three games, after going six for 44 in the 16 before that. Isn’t that something.

4. Jake Voracek, hello

We often talk about this, what happens when Voracek has a game when he’s just on—everything’s clicking, he’s right in the mix with everything, and he just looks flat out dominant. That’s not every game for him, but it certainly was last night. Maybe we should just make note of this goal right away, because it was pretty fantastic.

But, other than the obvious flash that comes with a goal like that, Voracek’s surrounding work was sound. He put up a tied for team high four shots on the night in all situations, and a second among his teammates 56.02 CF% at 5-on-5. We’ve talked a good amount recently about how his line has been buzzing, how they continue to create opportunities, and Voracek was the beneficiary of some of that work last night. It was all building to that, it seemed, and the reward was pretty sweet.

5. Vorobyev gets settled

And at long last! It’s been something of a strange start to Mikhail Vorobyev’s stretch of games with the Flyers (the second time around). He started off fine enough but not terribly noticeable or impactful, and then on Saturday his ice time was cut dramatically, and he barely saw the ice during the second half of the game. Gordon noted that this was partially a product of having large block of special teams time, and then trying to have the Couturier line out there against Connor McDavid’s as much as possible, but the end result still remains.

But, all that said, Vorobyev seemed to gesture towards turning a corner last night. He was still held off the board, but he put up a team-high 70.92 CF% at 5-on-5, along with two individual shots. He’s looking more active offensively, and his reads are smoothing out more. He’s still got a ways to go before he reaches the level of dominance that he showed in the AHL (understandably), but he’s doing better in his role here, and it’s nice to see things starting to look like they’re clicking.

6. Starter Hart

What else is there to say about Carter Hart other than that he was little short of fantastic again. The Canucks have faced some struggle so far this season, and didn’t figure as the most dangerous opponent, on paper, that Hart has seen so far, but he did still have his work cut out for him. He faced 42 shots on the night, including 15 HDCF, and he stopped all but one, for a .976 save percentage.

But, you say, there was that turnover situation that led to Brock Boeser’s goal. Yes, that is true, but we could just as easily say that the initial play to come out and play the puck was fine, rather than allowing a breakaway attempt (and we know how Hart is with these), and it was the execution of the clear that was flawed. In any event, with a .976 save percentage on the night, we think we can forgive him that one, especially considering how he buckled down after giving that one up. The Flyers weren’t winning a lot of one goal games earlier in the season, but he’s helping to make sure that they can now.

7. Nolan Ham and Cheese

I don’t want to have to explain my joke, but I feel compelled to do so. After the game, in a moment of levity, Nolan Patrick made a joke about having an extra ham and cheese sandwich before the game and somehow that helped him out last night. So we’re appropriating Johnny Ham and Cheese’s title. Sorry, Johnny.

Anyway, whatever the reason for it may be, we’ve noticed Patrick has been kicking it into a different gear, of late, and he just seems to keep getting better. It wasn’t a great night for him, by the numbers, as he only put up one shot, and registered an adjusted 32.19 CF% at 5-on-5, but still picked up an assist on Couturier’s goal. So why are we still talking about improvement, in the face of those numbers? It’s him being more noticeable in keeping to his details. Tonight it was better defensive play and strength along the boards. He’s looking stronger and more elusive, and it’s complimenting the pieces of his game that are already coming along well. His game is becoming more complete right before our very eyes, and it’s a delight to see.

8. Shots and all

This is a section where we might normally look at the quantity of shots that were taken and given up in a game, whether the Flyers did or did not get torched by those trusty Corsi metrics, but today we’re honing in on something else. We’re thankful for games like these, with coach press conferences that inform our article talking points, and after last night’s game, Scott Gordon talked about shot quality. So we’re going to talk about shot quality.

In short, the Flyers struggled last night to prevent the Canucks from setting up in the crease, as they registered 15 high danger chances for across all situations, and this, Gordon said, won’t do. It’s something they’ve been loosening up on, clearing the area of the house in front of the net (not just the porch, he would emphasize, the whole house), and that’s something they’re going to be looking to tighten up on, as they continue down this stretch. Hart has been little short of remarkable for them recently, but they want to make his—and Anthony Stolarz’s—job just a little bit easier.

9. Playoffs?!

The talks are happening, folks. With last night’s win, the Flyers have put themselves within five points of the final wildcard spot. And people are excited about it! But there’s also a whole lot more at work, here.

A playoff push certainly seems less insurmountable than it did just a few short weeks ago, but they still have a long way to go if they want to secure a spot. They have 29 games left, 29 games to get themselves from 54 points to somewhere around 94 (give or take, depending on the projection you look at). And, while not impossible, is still a lot of ground to cover.

So, what matters right now? it’s as Hart said after the game, the players are still looking to find ways to win hockey games, but they’re also having fun. And that’s more than we could say a few weeks ago, too.

10. The only damn thing I know

Say what you want about this game. At least it was more fun than the Super Bowl.

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