Call it what you want, or call it poetic justice because on Friday night at the Prudential Center it was the Flyers going up and Devils going down.
Both James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny scored twice, and Cam Talbot made 30 saves in his debut as the Flyers put down the rudely feisty Devils 6-3. After a sluggish start the Flyers rallied and pounced on their scoring chances to gain another huge win in the standings.
But there’s more to go over in the five things we learned in the Flyers’ latest trip to the win column.
Just get in the dance, baby
Once again, the Flyers did not get much help in the standings on a night in which they grabbed a regulation win. Buffalo took the Penguins to overtime and skated off with a 4-3 win, but that allowed the Flyers to gain just one point on their in-state rivals while Montreal, Carolina, and Washington all won in regulation as well; not ideal.
Columbus was idle, but now has two games in hand on the Flyers and a five point cushion as owners of the second and final wild card berth with 75 points. Montreal’s 4-2 win over the Rangers has them at 77 points and in position in the first wild card slot.
The Flyers have just 17 games remaining and still an uphill climb to complete an unlikely march to a playoff berth with just three games remaining against teams currently outside of playoff positioning. They do have plenty of games left against teams ahead of them in the standings, though, so the ball is in their court if they wanna be dancing.
You’re not sick Cameron, you just can’t thing of anything good to do
There was plenty good an bad in Cam Talbot’s debut with the Flyers, but overall it was a solid if unspectacular effort to the tune of 30 saves on 33 shots for a .909 save percentage.
First, the good. Talbot was strong early and boy did the Flyers need him to be. Right out of the gate Kurtis Gabriel’s dangerous boarding major on Nolan Patrick gave the Flyers a five-minute score-at-will power play. Issue was that the Flyers never got settled and actually allowed more shots on the major than they fired at Corey Schneider. But Talbot made four saves to avoid a massive momentum shift and the Flyers responded shortly after.
Now, the bad. Two Devils goals on the night featured some juicy, juicy rebounds off the veteran goaltender with the first being Damon Severson’s tally and the second being Jesper Bratt’s. Both were distance shots that Talbot coughed right into dangerous areas, and though the Flyers’ defense didn’t do a great job to locate the rebounds (More on that in a minute), the goaltender did put them in harms way in the first place.
No shutout in Cam's debut. pic.twitter.com/H9cGprVnxh— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 2, 2019
It was Talbot’s first game in nearly a month —he last played on Feb. 9 against San Jose— so you can’t be too hard on the guy. In a back-to-back situation against an albeit rather AHL-style Devils lineup, Talbot kept the Flyers in the game early and gave them time to wake up and take home two huge regulation points.
Phil, the Thrill 2.0
While Robert Hagg seemingly went out of his way to try and lose his spot in the lineup once again, Phil Myers went the opposite direction and has likely secured a place in the top six for the rest of the season.
Why you ask? It’s because Myers brings something that no other Flyers defender brings on the regular: active aggression on the puck. Myers is relentless in chasing the puck and his man once they try and enter his zone. The scary part is that he has the skating ability and reach to make up for some of his misses and shows a supreme confidence to separate the puck from whoever tries to carry it into his end.
On one instance Travis Zajac (who had a great game for New Jersey) entered down the left wing with speed, was met by Myers and then turned back towards the blue line. Myers followed him the whole way while using his reach and stride to keep Zajac on his hip. The end result was a Devils turnover after Zajac’s pass was tipped and intercepted.
This guy is good.
Not only is he more than holding it down in his own zone, he’s started to get his feet wet at the other end, too. Myers jumped up into a shorthanded rush late in the second by activating that extra gear and flying right down the middle of the Devils’ defense. Claude Giroux’s pass just missed him, but it shows how much confidence you have to have to make that decision to go and then the physical ability to get there.
This guy is good.
Jersey on Jersey crime
That’s now goals in three of his past five for James van Riemsdyk and 19 on the season in 49 games. Averaged out to a full 82-game season, that’d be another 30+ goal season for JVR, or exactly what the Flyers brought him in to do last summer. You can nitpick that JVR is going to post a negative Corsi Relative (-2.3%) for the first time in more than three years, but he’s doing what he was signed to do and questions would be far less had he not gotten hurt in literally game two.
Both goals in this one were massive, especially given how the Flyers bungled a great chance to get going with that five-minute major to Gabriel right from puck drop essentially. Both goals, though, were setup beautifully, first by Giroux, then Hartman’s wraparound pass from behind the net. All that was left for JVR to do was provide the finish, and he put both past Schneider with ease.
You mean Giroux is a good distributor from the left boards? Wild concept. pic.twitter.com/iJrebpk4kS— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 2, 2019
Hartman finds JVR for his second of the game! pic.twitter.com/rYdh6CePvN— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 2, 2019
With Wayne Simmonds gone, JVR will need to step up his game on the power play and help out a unit that should still be operating at a far better rate than it is. Some of that is coaching, and the Flyers need to get Giroux back on the right side of the ice first, then let JVR park in front and gobble up rebounds and deflections from his office in and besides the crease.
The not so curious case of Robert Hagg
It’s been a really rough stretch for Hagg recently, and this one was no different.
The second-year defender was fighting the puck on his stick early and couldn’t locate the puck or Damon Severson on the first goal. Sure it was a bad rebound for Talbot to allow, but if Hagg had located the puck he could have tipped it away or at the least got a body on Severson so he couldn’t jam it in the open net. He could do neither, a massive fail in the reaction and awareness department —something Hagg has really struggled with this season in particular.
He had similar issues on the third Devils goal, this one from Kevin Rooney, with his marking mistake costing Talbot a goal he had no chance as you can see below.
That d-zone coverage is: not ideal. pic.twitter.com/HakCadFRCQ— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 2, 2019
The most frustrating part of these mistakes lately with Hagg has been that they’re correctible ones that just shouldn’t happen. You could put up with these in his rookie year and even earlier this season, but it’s clear that he’s actually going backwards and continues to put himself and his teammates in bad situations on a nightly basis.
Perhaps a couple nights watching from the press box would help Hagg clear his mind, because at this rate he is proving to be a liability that the Flyers can’t afford to have on the ice during the most important stretch of their season. I wouldn’t be against seeing Andrew MacDonald see a return to the ice on Sunday in Long Island, that’s how bad Hagg has been recently.