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Flyers 5, Leafs 4: Still technically in it, I guess

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Some observations for your morning…

Toronto Maple Leafs v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Well, that certainly was exciting! Sean Couturier is the shootout hero! And the Flyers did a big thing and staved off mathematical elimination, coming back from a two goal deficit and taking the Leafs to their first shootout of the season (really, it took them that long to get there!). It was active, it was dramatic, because of course it was. Apparently the Flyers and Leafs can never just play a normal hockey game. At least we won’t be seeing any more of them until next season. So long, pals!

All stats via Corsica.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com

How’d they look out there?

5-on-5: 38 shots, 43.17 adjusted CF%, 43.65% xGF%

To get right to the point, this was a weird one. The Leafs came out of this with an edge in shot attempts, but the raw shots (leaning 38 to 36 in the Flyers’ favor) paint the picture of a pretty even game. And the inclination might be to assume that this was true of the whole game, that it was even across the board, but rather it came from a whole period of the Leafs dominating, and then a whole period of the Flyers dominating, and then striking something of a balance. Because, like we said, we can’t just have a normal hockey game. They shored up some issues from previous games, most notably improving their exit attempts and giving themselves a bit of help there, but they still fell flat in allowing dangerous changes, giving the Leafs 13 to work with at 5-on-5 alone. It was enough to get them past regulation and on their way to the win, but it still wasn’t perfect. Still a bit more work to be done.

Power play: 1 shot, 3 CF, 0 HDCF

Not a whole lot to talk about with the power play, as they only got the one look, and it wasn’t a particularly stellar look. They did get a bit of puck movement going, and a couple of looks, but nothing particularly dangerous, nothing that was going to test Frederick Andersen too much. Toronto’s penalty kill, with a bit of speed, were able to keep the Flyers’ efforts pretty well disrupted, so credit to them, there. It was enough to hold the Flyers off the board, there.

Penalty kill: 3 SA, 5 CA, 0 SF

We didn’t see too much of the Flyers’ penalty kill, as they only got out there for four minutes on the night, but they had a serious task in front of them (especially with a penalty to kill in the last two minutes of regulation, and they came up big. The Leafs are, understandably, pretty dangerous on the power play, and the Flyers did well to keep up the pressure and prevent much danger from forming. They were able to limit their passing options, and chase them out of the offensive zone. It wasn’t their flashiest effort, but it got the job done, and when they most needed to.

And, really this shouldn’t come as a surprise, at this point. They’ve been playing at a pretty insane level, coming in at 90.6 percent in their last 22 games (thanks to Kurt for dropping that one in our slack chat). They’ve been very effective, of late, and they were very effective once again.

Three standouts of the night

1. Travis Konecny

Looking at the team the Leafs have, we came into this one with a feeling that, if the Flyers wanted to hang with them, they were probably going to have to outscore them. Generating offense was going to be especially key in this one (as if it isn’t in every game), and Konecny was one of the Flyers’ more dynamic offensive forces.

He picked up that pretty nice goal on the rush in the second period, but was generating chances well across the whole of the night. He put up a team-high nine shots attempts, eight shots, and five high danger chances. And this was all in a third line role, mind you. Things have seemed to be clicking for him, of late, but he hit another gear last night.

2. Travis Sanheim

We might as well keep this pattern rolling, as we’re talking about the Flyers’ other Travis too! Sanheim had also had himself one of those games where he was all over the place, offensively (but in the good way!). He talked about this after the game, how he goes on feel with these things and sometimes there are game where he sees a lot of space for chances and it opens up the opportunity to for him activate on the rush much more often, to create more scoring chances, and last night was certainly one of those. He registers three shots and five attempts, and also picked up the two assists on the night, and very nearly picked up a goal to win the game in overtime, but it was disallowed as the puck went in after the whistle sound. But the fact remains that he was something of an offensive force, while still sacrificing little in the way of defense. And, all in all, it’s nice to see him have these games, where we get a glimpse of just how threatening he can look when he’s firing on all cylinders.

3. Samuel Morin

We should close this section out by taking a moment to recognize and check in with Samuel Morin. It finally happened, you guys. He finally got in for a game, after missing just about this whole season (outside of two games on a conditioning stint with the Phantoms) recovering from knee surgery he underwent last offseason. He was eased back into the lineup, serving as more or less the seventh defenseman and receiving a lighter workload, but he did well enough in that role. To borrow some words from Scott Gordon, “there wasn’t anything that stood out that was negative [in his game], and [it was] probably more positive.” And while, in a vacuum, that doesn’t sound like the most exuberant of praises, considering the context, there’s not a whole lot more we could ask for from him. Morin hasn’t played in just about ten months, and was bound to come in with a bit of rust. He’s also a defensive defenseman who, if he’s doing his job right, you don’t want to have whole lot to say about at the end of the night. And that’s just about where we are—Morin showed a little bit of rust, but on the whole was just fine in his return to the Flyers. And maybe this is us grading him on a curve, but we don’t have any real complaints about him from this first game back.

Two loose observations

1. Same old song and dance

The Flyers hitting the first intermission in a two goal hole isn’t an unfamiliar happening, but it’s worth checking in on just how we got to that point. The easy answer, it seems, was that the Flyers were giving the Leafs a lot of space to work with in close.

We made note earlier that the Leafs held the edge in high danger chances, and seven of those 13 came in the first period alone. There was some difficulty, as the plays leading up to both of those goals both originated from a bit of nice work from below the goal line (by the way, Flyers, are you watching that? Can we do some of that?), but the fact remains that you just can’t be leaving a guy all alone right in front of the crease. It’s a recipe for disaster. We can feel good about how the Flyers shored things up, from there—they only allowed the Leafs three HDCF in the next two periods—but the start was still a little rough.

2. A first!

And we’ve got a milestone to hit on! Carter Hart picked up his first career shootout win last night, gang! And that feels like kind of a big deal. He had another solid night during regulation (making 38 saves on 42 shots, doing more or less what we’ve come to expect from him, but the shootout was a big test. It’s something he struggled with in the lower levels, and we’ve seen his weakness on breakaways at the NHL level, but he was able to keep steady in the shootout, and he looked sharp. Granted, he got a bit of help from the fact that he’s trained a bit with Tyler Ennis in the summer and expected that move, and also the fact that John Tavares just lost control of the puck, but all the same, he was solid on the other attempts. It was a deserved win for him. And it was progress.

The only damn thing I know

I know we’re supposed to do the homer thing and never say too many nice things about the opposition or whatever, however, I do have to say that I got a good laugh out of Tyler Ennis putting Radko Gudas on his ass at one point last night. Mostly because that’s the same energy as me, standing at not even 5’1”, being fully convinced that I could best any and all of my enemies in a fist fight. I just appreciate it.