That game had the ol’ juices pumping am I right? A masterful performance from Carter Hart, keeping them in the game all night long, and then Sean Couturier absolutely ended Sidney Crosby to win the game. Let’s talk about it, shall we?
1. Aggressive PK? More of this please
Sure, the Flyers have generally been much more aggressive on the penalty kill since the hiring of Rick Wilson, and the firing of Dave Hakstol and Gord Murphy. However, they still do tend to fall into that passive shell we’ve been accustomed to over the past couple of seasons, but not this time. Last night from the jump, the Flyers were going to make the Penguins work on the power play. No standing around waiting for the likes of Crosby, Phil Kessel, Jake Guentzel to skate into the slot for a shot. The Flyers were attacking the puck carrier and they looked fantastic.
This kind of performance reminded me of the great penalty kill the Flyers used to put out with Mike Richards and Claude Giroux, who were arguably the most lethal shorthanded threats in all of hockey. A lot of that did have to do with the amount of skill those players had, but it was also very much so the system they were playing. Those PK’s attacked and went after the puck carrier non-stop. This aggressiveness lead to the Flyers going perfect on the night on the PK, stopping all four Penguins power plays. This is something that needs to carry over into next season for this team to get back to the postseason.
2. It’s as if the first two periods didn’t even happen
Look I love hockey, but I can think of many other things I would have rather done with my life through the first 40 minutes of this hockey game. The first period had really good pace which was nice for everyone except Doc Emrick, who felt the need to continually remind us how annoying this was for commercial coordinators. Because you know, that’s what hockey fans really care about, how the speed of the game affects the amount of commercials they see. Excellent analysis there, Doc!
Where was I? Oh right, the first period had great pace but nothing really happened if we’re being honest. Shots were 8-6 in favor of Pittsburgh after the first, and shot attempts were just 16-13. The second period didn’t really get that much better unless you were a fan of the Penguins, which in that case, why are you even here? The Pens dominated the Flyers in the second outshooting them 18-7 and out Corsi’d them 31-12. The entire second period was just waiting for the inevitable Penguins goal that, somehow, never came as the game went into the third scoreless.
3. We have a goal! Now we don’t for goalie interference, now we do for no goalie interference, now we don’t because it was offsides. Gotta love challenges, babby!
That whole ordeal with the Flyers would have been first goal of the game was just ludicrous. At first it appeared that Jakub Voracek did interfere with Matt Murray, but upon further inspection Voracek didn’t really seem to interfere as much as Jack Johnson, Murray’s own defenseman. So after Scott Gordon challenged, the refs saw this and awarded the Flyers a 1-0 lead after all, but wait, there’s more! Penguins coach Mike Sullivan would then challenge that the play was offsides, and sure enough, it was.
I understand wanting the calls to be right at the end of the day, and to do whatever it takes to make sure that happens, but for crying out loud this was such a joke and frustrating to watch.
4. Carter Hart is pretty damn good, folks
After a bumpy ride in his first game back vs. Washington on Thursday, Carter Hart came to play in a big way last night. Hart stopped 41 out of 42 Penguins shots en route to his first win in exactly one month, when he only allowed one goal vs. Detroit in February. It’s been said over and over but it still holds true, that Hart has this unbelievably calming presence about him in net. His rebound control is so impressive for a kid his age, especially in his first NHL season.
Words honestly do not describe how good he was last night, so I’ll let the gifs do the talking:
Carter Hart was absolutely incredible in tonight, especially in the overtime period. pic.twitter.com/YLNwlxoS9u— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 18, 2019
5. Ivan Provorov saves the day
Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk scored the goals to win the game for the Flyers, but those goals do not happen if Ivan Provorov doesn’t give his all to make it happen. With Patric Hornqvist and Provorov in a foot race to the loose puck with an empty net waiting for Pittsburgh, Provorov dived to keep the puck away from Hornqvist, and send the Flyers back the other way. If Provorov doesn’t give it his all there to make that play, JVR’s goal means nothing or doesn’t even happen, and Couturier definitely doesn’t get the winner in OT.
Provorov has had an up and down year, and a disappointing one in some ways since we expected a huge leap forward for him this year. However, down the stretch, he has looked like the Provy of old and has been a key catalyst for this team in the stretch drive. This play was a prime example of his efforts over the past couple of months.
6. Penguins fans, do you ever not think about us?
So during the game last night, Penguins fans decided to start a chant and at first I couldn’t make out what it was, then I saw this tweet from Sam Carchidi.
Let me put this in perspective. The Pittsburgh Penguins have won two Stanley Cups in the past three seasons, and have won three overall in the past decade, and their fans still can’t get us out of their heads. I mean the Flyers have been the walking definition of mediocrity since 2012, and Penguins fans still seem to care way more about our feelings than their own hockey team, which is still very good mind you! Please, just focus on your own hockey team and your own problems like Matt Murray being ... well ... Matt Murray, and the fact your time is seemingly running out with Malkin and Crosby. Also, at least we didn’t trade for Erik Gudbranson at the deadline.
7. So much too much man
Just one “too many men on the ice” penalty is bad in a game, it’s something that just shouldn’t happen, but when it happens twice? To quote the great Vince Lombardi, “What the hell is going on out here?” Luckily for the Flyers it didn’t burn them as the aforementioned penalty kill was dominant last night, but this is hopefully something Scott Gordon addresses sooner rather than later. I guess too much man became contagious as well, since the Penguins took the same penalty to end their power play for a too much man penalty. It was a weird game, folks.
8. What exactly is Matt Murray?
Against every other team it looks like Matt Murray has zero idea how to play goalie at the NHL level. But for some reason, against the Flyers, he turns into the next Patrick Roy. For the first 59 minutes of this game, Murray was unbeatable and it appeared as though the Flyers were seriously about to let this guy shut them out. After last night Murray still has a .924 save percentage vs. the Flyers, meanwhile his career save percentage is a .916. He’s an entirely different goaltender vs. this team and it is annoying to say the very least.
However, the two goals the Flyers did score in this game, well it looked like Murray vs. every other team. JVR’s goal honestly shouldn’t have gone in if Murray wasn’t flailing to the opposite side for some reason. I mean, there was no one to the left hand side of JVR, so why Murray committed as far to the left as he did was puzzling. Then, on Couturier’s goal, it’s not like Coots went bar down. He shot it right under the blocker arm, and made it pretty clear he was going to take the shot. Murray was dominant through 59 minutes, and then just like that, he lost the lead and the game.
9. Shot quality was generally good, quantity was another story
The Flyers were out Corsi’d by a good margin last night, but given how few shot attempts they had, the quality was pretty good. Out of their 37 shot attempts at 5-on-5, 21 of them were of the scoring chance variety good for roughly 57 percent. This wasn’t a banner game by any means for shot quality, as they only mustered five high danger chances to the Penguins 10, but it was better than usual against this team. Against Pittsburgh specifically, the Flyers do seem to struggle with generating high quality chances, and settle for outside shots too often. Last night definitely saw some of that, but not to the extent we are used to seeing.
10. Sean Couturier is my President
In wake of Couturier’s overtime winner, I’d like to take a moment to reflect back on when people genuinely thought he was a bad hockey player. The people who disregarded the fact that throughout the first few seasons of his NHL career, he played almost exclusively with the likes of Maxime Talbot, Zac Rinaldo, and Matt Read, despite being a player who had consecutive 96 point seasons in the QMJHL. The people who disregarded the fact he was used primarily as a defensive shut down center with almost zero offensive zone time up until last season.
Last night, Sean Couturier was in prime position for a 2-on-1 if he could get around arguably the best player in the NHL, in Sidney Crosby. The toothless wonder stared him down with the clock ticking in OT, under 10 seconds remaining, and absolutely with surefire confidence uttered these exact words (he didn’t but it would be cool if he did right???):
Couturier banked the puck off the boards, blew past Crosby, whistled the puck by Murray, and sent Penguins fans home having just seen their best player get absolutely dunked on by Sean Couturier. Folks, believe me when I say, it does not get any better than that.
All data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com, and hockey-reference