A win! We’ve been harping on the fact that it’s just preseason and it doesn’t really matter, but it was really nice to see the Flyers finally pick up a win after struggling in their first three games.
Again coming in with the superior roster, the Flyers really ran with it. After a bit of a slow start, they were able to regroup and come back with a veritable offensive onslaught. Four goals and 40 shots over the course of the game, and the Rangers just didn’t really have an answer for it. There was a lot more to like in this one, that’s for sure.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com.
How’d they look out there?
5-on-5: 48 CF, 71.42 CF%, 72.81 xGF%
It was ugly on Thursday but the Flyers came back in a big way last night and really took a step forward in their 5-on-5 play. They were able to transition up-ice well (something Alain Vigneault praised them for after the game), and did well to get some cycling going once they were able to set up. The Rangers didn’t have much time to work with before the Flyers were working to get things moving back in their favor, and here, the numbers match what the eye says—they dominated.
One of the more exciting things to come out of this one was the chemistry we’re already seeing forming between Oskar Lindblom, Kevin Hayes, and Jake Voracek. The Flyers were able to get themselves a lot of offensive zone time, but this line really seemed to be leading the way. They didn’t have many shifts in their own end, and they seemed to be clicking already and doing well to generate chances. It’s too early to say, of course, if this is a line that they’ll be running into the regular season, but it early signs suggest it’s one they should give a real shot.
Power play: 11 CF, 5 SF, 3 HDCF
The Flyers had a lot of power play time again, and whether we want to attribute that to them doing well to draw penalties or the Rangers just being undisciplined, we still got a long look at a power play that’s starting to click. They picked up two goals on their five attempts, and they were certainly pretty.
Giroux hits JVR with the pass, and with a little bit of help from a defender's skate, we have the lead! pic.twitter.com/l2UPgY3PJn— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 21, 2019
What a rocket from Voracek! pic.twitter.com/FOz8ZKKZ76— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 22, 2019
What these had in common is some nice passing leading up to them—they were crisp and able to allow the Flyers to collapse the Rangers lower in the slot and get the goalie moving laterally to open up space. In a way, it was a clinic on exactly what we want to see them doing on the power play. We’re hedging a little on this one, because we know that this power play is notoriously streaky, so it may well dry up at some point, but we’re liking the process we saw last night.
Penalty kill: 6 CA, 4 SA, 3 HDCA, 1 CF
With just under 5:30 of penalty time to kill, it was a much more limited showing for the Flyers’ penalty kill than their power play. Which feels a lot like Thursday, and again, we aren’t really complaining. It was another quietly effective effort from the Flyers—they did allow a handful of chances, but the Rangers couldn’t do anything with them, and the Flyers were able to be pretty disruptive, on the whole.
But one piece that really stood out was how good Kevin Hayes looked on the penalty kill. The defensive play was still sound, but last night he was able to create a couple of shorthanded rushes, and that was nice to see. Because it adds another level of threat to a team’s penalty kill, not to mention that it just makes the product a bit more fun to watch than when they’re just chipping the puck the length of the ice when they clear. So, anyway, more of this please.
1. Ivan Provorov
We noted above that the start in this one felt a little slow, like the teams were still taking a few moments to feel each other out, but one of the immediate standouts was Ivan Provorov. It’s his second game back, and he looked much sharper in this one than his first. It wasn’t a terribly flashy game, but he just seemed to be making just about all of the right reads—he was breaking up chances on the rush well, had a good stick and gap—and it made him quietly very effective.
It’s still an open question whether he’ll be able to carry this into the regular season, but it was nice to see Provorov sort of getting back to the basics, if you will, and not looking like he’s fighting the puck every time he touches it. He looked like he’s getting back to his game.
2. Carter Hart
He’s good, folk! Hart played the first two periods of this one, and while he didn’t have a whole lot of work to do (he faced just 11 shots in total) but just as was the case in his last showing, he seemed to be on. Whereas some of the skaters are still looking like they have a bit of rust to shake off before the regular season starts, this hasn’t been the case with Hart. He’s already settled back in, and as he said after the game, he feels ready to go, to start the regular season. That’s right, folks, no rust, just good goaltending.
We’re trying not to get too ahead of ourselves here, but it’s exciting, because what if he is really good again this season? Just imagine.
3. Carsen Twarynski
As the battles for roster spots heat up, a player who hasn’t been getting as much hype took a step forward and had himself a very solid game last night. Twarynski’s been engaged physically throughout the preseason, but last night was when we also saw the offense jumping out, and it just gave his game a more well-rounded look.
Oh hello, Twarynski pic.twitter.com/AasK4XCJxT— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 22, 2019
He picked up the one goal, while also registering a team-high seven shots, as well as an adjusted 84.63 CF% and 92.02 xGF%. He was just as physically engaged as he has been I his last couple of games, but seeing the offense coming along was a nice reaffirmation. Because, you know, apparently you can have both grit and skill in a player.
Two loose observations
1. A note on grit
That brings us to our next point! I know that I’m not the one making these decisions, but I’m kind of over Chris Stewart’s antics. With two fights this week, he’s certainly made his presence known, but this is just about the only way he’s stood out. He hasn’t provided really anything in the way of offense—indeed, after this game Vigneault went out of his way to say that their line really stood out, and then he only praised Twarynski and Scott Laughton. And if we’re leaning towards more of a skill game, a team that can play fast in transition, I don’t know why we have to keep watching the exclusively gritty players. Because, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent, you can have both.
Because when there are other and more skilled prospects who can also bring a physical edge, I don’t really care how many dudes you fight. Prove that you can still play hockey if you want me to be down with you getting a contract. But we’re not really there.
2. A note on entries
This is just a short note, but it was nice to see the Flyers getting a better handle on controlling their entries and maintaining possession as the game went on. Because early in the game, while they were able to get the puck over the blue line, more often they were just turning it over a couple of feet past it. And that doesn’t lend itself terribly well to generating a ton of offense. And this likely contributed to what felt like something of a slow start, and helped them get stronger in their possession play as the game went on and they stopped turning the puck over so often. It’s a relatively small detail, but it’s one that does matter, so it was nice to see them able to make that adjustment in-game.
The only damn thing I know
So the first episode of Behind The Glass airs on Wednesday (this is not an ad), and I’ve been thinking a lot about theatrics, leading up to this premier. Steph pointed to some of this on Twitter last week, and serious or not, it’s a worthwhile question to ask—how much of the weirdness from this camp has been for the show?
I mean, come on. Two important young players maybe holding out and then getting signed right in the nick of time. The coach calling one of them out for it. And then the coach being all upset about a lackluster performance and deciding “screw it, I’m cutting EVERYBODY*!”
*not actually everybody
There’s been a lot of extra stuff going on this year, and while it feels a little conspiratorial to suggest that it’s all been manufactured drama, it’s hard not to wonder.