Because this team never fails to make things interesting, the Flyers actually won last night and gained one point on the new second wild card holder, the Montreal Canadiens, which puts them five points out of a playoff spot. But hey, a win’s a win right?
1. Robert Hagg needs to sit.
This has been true for quite some time, but last night made it ever-so more obvious. The hope heading into this season was that Robert Hagg would develop further and truly be the solid third pairing defenseman that he showed brief flashes of being at points during the early going this year. Well, that dream may have officially sailed off into the sunset. Hagg has been just as bad as last year if not worse, and tonight there were too many turnovers to count. Possibly the most egregious was a D-to-D pass at the point that you just knew he was going to try despite the Hawks having a forward stationed right between the two.
He ended up allowing the most shot attempts at 5-on-5 with 25. While his overall Corsi-For percentage (CF) wasn’t at the very bottom of the totem pole, he was clearly one of the worst Flyers on the ice last night, which brings us to the overarching point of this observation: bench him.
Will Samuel Morin ever live up to his 11th overall draft selection? Probably not! Will he ever be a top four defenseman in the NHL? Probably not! Could he possibly do worse than Robert Hagg at this point? I sure as hell freakin’ hope not! Getting Morin minutes is not exactly at the very top of my priorities in the last eight games, but with how Hagg has been playing I truly don’t see the point in keeping him in the press box. At a certain point you need to see what you have in a guy, and you’re never going to see it if he doesn’t get a chance. Again, I don’t see how he could possibly be a downgrade in any way from Hagg, so if we’re clinging to this “hey we’re not technically eliminated yet!” mentality, starting Morin actually makes sense from that standpoint. So please Scott, just play the man.
2. Carter Hart ... I’m thinking he’s back.
So if his amazing performance vs. Pittsburgh wasn’t enough to convince the Flyers’ faithful that Carter Hart is absolutely back from injury, I think tonight does! Hart was spectacular yet again for the orange and black, having to stand on his head to keep the Flyers in it early on. There was no greater example than with the Flyers on the, wait a second hold on * checks notes * the power play?
Hart bailing the Flyers out on the "power" play; part one. pic.twitter.com/yoPbSuqbPb— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 22, 2019
Correct me if I’m wrong, the Flyers are supposed to be the ones getting those kinds of chances on the power play, no? They are? Ah, well, what the hell is this nonsense then?
Hart was tested early and often but put together another 40 save performance, this time stopping exactly 40 of Chicago’s 41 shots. Since returning from injury, Hart has allowed eight goals in four games, with four of those goals coming in his first game back vs. Washington. Stating the obvious here folks, but this guy is pretty damn good at this whole goaltending thing.
3. Corban Knight scored a goal. Yes, you did read that right.
Gotta say, did not see this one coming! Corban Knight, who has been the epitome of a “just a guy” at the NHL level, scoring the game tying goal, on the road, in the middle of a playoff race. All jokes aside, good for Corban Knight. He’s been basically a career AHL’er despite playing 20 games for Florida in 2015-16 and a handful for Calgary the two years prior. Everything we hear about him is positive from a teammate standpoint, and although he may not be the best hockey player, it’s good to see good people do well, and this was a perfect example of that.
4. So like, how were the 2013-14 Flyers better than this team?
This is entirely random, but in the BSH chat during the game Brad Keffer and I were talking about how in the world the 2013-14 Flyers were better than the current roster. Now, from a pure talent perspective, yes I would take this roster over that 2013-14 team every day of the week. However, that team had a 94 point season! A team that a defense consist of names like Hal Gill, Luke Schenn, Nick Grossmann, Andrew MacDonald, and last but not least, Erik Gustafsson. No, not the Erik Gustafsson that scored on the Flyers tonight. The O.G Gus Bus before some Eagles fans wanted Gus Bradley to replace Andy Reid.
I mean, I know Hagg is less than ideal, but outside of him, this defense blows the former defense out the water. There’s absolutely more depth in this forward core than there was in 2013-14, so what was it? Ah, the goaltending by the looks of it. Although Ray Emery had a rough year backing up Steve Mason, their struggles were nowhere near the levels of incompetency we saw at times this season with Flyers goaltending. Sure, since Carter Hart came along things have obviously been much better. But man those first three months essentially were absolutely dreadful.
5. James Van Hockey cannot be stopped.
James van Riemsdyk has been incredible over the past couple of months. He sits now just four goals away from hitting the 30 goal mark in a season where he’ll have missed at the very least 16 games due to the injury he suffered in the second game of the year. All the worries that fans felt when he struggled coming back from injury have been washed away by an astonishing wave of goal scoring. In a full 82 game season, JVR would be on pace for roughly a 37 goal campaign which would surpass his career high set last season, when he scored 36.
Trading Wayne Simmonds was a tough pill to swallow for me and many of you as well, but JVR is simply a better version of Simmonds. The former is absolutely the more physical player from a traditional standpoint, but the latter simply works so much better in today’s NHL and the overall scheme of this team. He’s dominant along the boards and is able to deflect pucks like it’s nobody's business. Getting JVR allowed the trade of Simmonds to be possible, and the Flyers are reaping the benefits in a big way down the stretch.
All data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and hockey-reference