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Flyers 6, Bruins 5: Yeah, we don’t know either

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Some observations for your morning...

NHL: Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Gang. I don’t know. I just don’t know. The Flyers were down 2-0 at the first intermission and looked dead in the water and then somehow it got a little worse. But then! They came back to tie things up 5-5 and force overtime, and then a shootout, and then they hung on long enough to get to Travis Konecny (who scored) and then Brad Marchand (who missed the puck). Do I understand? Absolutely not. Do I still love it? You bet.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

How’d they look out there?

5-on-5: 47 CF, 23 SF, 50.16 CF%, 36.98 xGF%

This was kind of a weird game, at the end of the day. The Flyers looked pretty rough through the first period and into the second, with puck management remaining an issue and leading them to be stuck in their own end for long stretches of time while the Bruins got to work. But then the Bruins started to sit back a bit in the second, got away from their own details, and the Flyers were able to steadily pick up momentum through the second half of the game and get themselves some extended stretches of offensive zone time of their own. The Flyers were able to crawl back into this one from a shot attempts generated (and also goals, of course) standpoint, but the still kept bleeding a good number of high danger chances, many of which came on the rush and which also meant that Carter Hart was pretty busy in this one. So, not a perfect effort, but one that got the job done, one way or another.

Power play: 9 CF, 5 SF, 2 HDCF

The Flyers were set to try out a new power play setup last night and stop the presses you guys, because thanks to Kevin Hayes, they actually scored a power play goal. Can you believe it?

The irony is that it came just off the rush and they weren’t actually in their proper setup, so this isn’t exactly indicative of any success due to their structural changes. So how did the new setup look? The Flyers has just two more chances on the power play (one that was split between the first and second periods) and they looked fine. They did generate a couple of chances, but they didn’t look flat out threatening, which is what we really keep hoping for. So it goes.

Penalty kill: 7 CA, 2 SA, 3 HDCA

Considering how sharp they’ve looked recently, it wasn’t a great night for the Flyers’ penalty killers last night. The good news is that their aggressive play did let them shut down the Bruins’ top unit, which seems like no small feat, considering how lethal they can be. But the bad news is that a defensive breakdown let the second unit burn them, when they entered the zone on the rush and Danton Heinen was able to feed David Krejci across the slot for the goal in close. Their second attempt in the third period went a little smoother, in that they didn’t give up a goal that time, but they still allowed five shot attempts and two high danger chances in those two minutes alone. So, to be sure, while it’s clear why Boston came into that game with the third ranked power play in the league, it wasn’t the Flyers’ best showing either.

Three standouts

1. Travis Sanheim

Well, Sanheim certainly had himself a night, and with two goals (including the Flyers’ last to tie the game), he made himself a pretty easy choice to be our first standout (or first star if we were still doing that. We know that he’s a gifted offensive player, or can be, as it sometimes seems like we only see that offense really coming out in bursts. But last night was one of those where he just seems to be on, and the results were undeniable. His game seems to be at its best when he feels confident enough to activate in the offensive zone and look for those chances, and that’s just what we got last night. It made for some pretty stellar results, and it also does well to remind us that as good as he is now, there’s still so much more potential there.

It wasn’t a perfect showing for Sanheim—he wasn’t exempt from the turnover-fest that was the early part of this game—but when his offensive side is jumping out like it did last night, it’s hard to be too fussed about much else.

2. Sean Couturier

Couturier also got in on the scoring action once things started to break open for the Flyers, picking up this pretty nifty goal in the second period.

We definitely appreciate those offensive contributions, but where Couturier really shone last night was on the defensive side. His line was matched up almost exclusively against Patrice Bergeron’s line, tasked with shutting down perhaps the best line in hockey, and he was able to do it. That line wasn’t completely without their chances (eight shot attempts and four high danger chances at 5-on-5), but they were limited in how much they were able to generate, and ultimately kept pretty well contained, and this seems a testament to Couturier’s defensive skill. The underlying numbers are a bit of a mixed bag for him—a 56.21 CF% but a 31.97 xGF%—but here we’ll go a little big picture and forgive him for not being able to dominate in both ends, and just appreciate that he was able to keep the Bergeron line just frustrated enough to not torch the Flyers and let this game get really out of hand.

3. Connor Bunnaman

You know, I’d penciled Bunnaman in as the third standout here anyway, because it was his first game back with the team since that short stint to start the season and I wanted to talk about how he did, regardless of whether he was one of the flashiest players on the ice. But then, he still gave us a bit of flash! How about that!

His first shift saw him generate a nice chance on the rush—the best for the Flyers of the game at that point—and then was able to manage another later in the game. Then, we got a glimpse of what’s sort of prototypical of his game—getting himself to the front of the net to look for deflections—and he was rewarded with his first NHL goal.

Now, this isn’t exactly what he means when he tells you he’s looking for greasy goals, with the puck double deflecting in off his leg, but he still had the right idea. He had a pretty limited showing last night, just about seven minutes in total, but it was overall a pretty positive showing. The numbers are a bit of a mixed bag—a 44.90 CF% and 79.76 xGF%—but the big takeaway from this one is that he just looks a little sharper already than he did when we saw him in the fall, which is a big part of what we’re looking for.

Two loose observations

1. Turnover City

We alluded to it already in our talks about the Flyers’ 5-on-5 play, but they didn’t play a particularly clean early game, details-wise. This was a big issue for them against Tampa Bay on Saturday as well, and we were hoping that they could come into this one and shore up some of those issues, but that didn’t end up being the case. Puck management and coverages were still a major issue through the first period and into the early part of the second period, and it had the Flyers giving up a lot more and better chances than they should have. They did well to shut down the Bruins’ big guns, by and large, and this should have given them a pretty distinct edge, if they were able to keep from shooting themselves in the foot, but still they couldn’t resist. They were able to pull it together some as the game went on, and this meant they could rally back for the eventual win, but one does wonder a bit what this game would have looked like if they hadn’t been giving up chances for free to start this one.

2. The big picture

If we’re looking at the big picture with this one, there really isn’t an easy to answer to what we’re supposed to take from this one. The Flyers started out looking pretty terrible against a very good team. And then that very good team fell apart a bit and the Flyers were able to pull themselves together and we got that rally back. And they showed some flash in overtime, and then pulled off the win in the shootout, thanks to a bit of skill from Konecny, and then also a bit of luck.

So how do we feel about this one? The Flyers didn’t play a very complete game, and their early efforts had them looking like they had every right to lose that game. It was messy and they didn’t seem to have it. There’s still a good bit to work on. But, that said, they did show some resilience to rally back and pick up two points against one of the best teams in the league. So, mixed feelings, maybe? We like the win, but it doesn’t feel as complete as we’d maybe like, all things considered.

The only damn thing I know

*deep breath* hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

You may have thought we were done laughing about Marchand missing the puck on his shootout attempt, but you’d be wrong. We’ll never stop laughing. Let’s watch it again.