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Flyers 3, Capitals 2: Home sweet home

Some observations for your morning…

NHL: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

At long last, the Flyers made their way home from this long road trip, and after a tough game the night before in Carolina, they had to come home and face off against the Capitals. And they won! Because of course they did! So the narrative of the road being cursed can continue. Fantastic.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

How’d they look out there?

5-on-5: 42 CF, 25 SF, 52.55 CF%, 51.09 xGF%

On the whole, the Flyers played a pretty solid game at 5-on-5 last night. As we’ll discuss later, there were a handful of pretty ugly breakdowns that led to chances and goals against, but despite the trouble with those details from time to time, the Flyers held the edge in much of this game. They came out and had the better first period, looking dominant despite the fact that they ended the period tied. They lost a bit of the momentum in the second period, but were able to come back with it in a big way in the third, still skating well and generating some chances while the Capitals were starting to look a little tired. We might have liked to see a few more of their shot attempts actually make it on net to really test Braden Holtby a bit more, but given the result of the game, it’s hard to be too fussed about that. The edge that they were able to create was enough, in this case.

Power play: 4 CF, 0 SF, 0 HDCF

We had a somewhat limited look at the power play last night, and there’s a bit of complaining to be done about the officiating in that game, what was called and what was let slide and how that was a bit, shall we say, disproportionate. But I’m going to just leave that one there. In any event, we saw the Flyers’ power play for four minutes last night and they really didn’t have a whole lot going on. Maybe their second of the night—which came with about two and a half minutes left in regulation—shouldn’t be measured in the same way because the game was just about over anyway. All the same, they had very little zone time in that one, indeed at times it looked like the Capitals were the ones on the power play. The Flyers’ first attempt was a little better, but still not great. Here too they struggled to maintain possession and generate much pressure. But hey, they did end the power play with possession, which set them up for Hagg’s goal a few seconds after the penalty expired. Which is something maybe.

Penalty kill: 12 CA, 5 SA, 2 HDCA

By contrast, we saw much more of the Flyers’ penalty kill last night, but the good news is at least that they were successful in shutting down the Capitals’ power play, and did so pretty handily. They’ve been making teams look silly for years now, and it’s hard to overstate how big it was that the Flyers avoided letting this happen. We’ve seen them running an aggressive penalty kill throughout the season, but this benefited them particularly against the Capitals. They were really able to limit the amount of time they had to make plays, and were disruptive with their sticks, getting in lanes to break up passes. They were also willing to go for the clean breakout, when the opportunity presented itself, which opened them up for a couple of nice short handed bids, including Kevin Hayes’s goal. Which, really, was just the icing on the cake.

Three standouts

1. Travis Konecny

Konecny’s been on a bit of a hot streak recently, and this certainly continued last night, as he struck early in the first period to give the Flyers their first lead of the game, and the goal to do it was pretty nifty, if you ask us.

But it wasn’t as though Konecny scored his goal and then called it a night, he kept up the energy and kept looking to create, whether that was more scoring chances or just drama with the Capitals (he always seems to be engaged in some way, we’ll give him that). But anyway, his 64.49 CF% and 74.79 xGF%, which were good for second and third on the team respectively, leave us a with a positive picture of his game. His line won their matchup pretty handily, and Konecny was a key piece of that. He showed up in a big way when they needed him to.

2. Kevin Hayes

We mentioned it when we talked about the penalty kill, but Hayes brought quite a bit of flash to last night’s game with this storthanded goal, and it was pretty stellar, so we might as well take another look at it here.

Anyway, on the whole, it was a pretty solid night for Hayes. His line with James van Riemsdyk and Nicolas Aube-Kubel handled their matchup well, pulling a slight edge with a 50.72 CF%, while Hayes individually registered a 63.74 CF% and 67.61 xGF%. We particularly liked his overall efforts on the penalty kill—where he was perhaps needed the most, considering Washington’s firepower on the power play—but his game across the board was solid. He’s been one of the team’s most consistent players, and they needed him to show up last night to break them out of the funk they’d slipped into.

3. Mark Friedman

In a bit of an unexpected turn of events, with both Justin Braun and apparently Shayne Gostisbehere injured, Friedman got the call up from Lehigh Valley for the game last night, for what would be his second NHL game (remember, we saw him in the last game of last season? Doesn’t it feel like forever ago?). Last night’s showing was something of a mixed bag, as the numbers don’t love his performance—he ended the game with a team-low 29.02 CF%, and a somewhat middling 37.14 xGF%--suggesting that he didn’t exactly win his matchup. But he did have a couple of nice plays, including one where he almost set up a scoring chance early on, and didn’t look to be out of his depth, from a pure skill level perspective. So we’ll give him a bit of the benefit of the doubt and hope that the numbers improve over a larger sample. It’s an okay first step.

Two loose observations

1. A note on energy

A lot’s been mad of energy recently, after the Flyers put up a couple of games where they just looked pretty flat and listless a bit ago, it’s been something that we’ve kept in the back of our minds. And, with that narrative considered, this was bound to be a tough one for them—they’re coming off this long road trip and had just played in Carolina the night before, and while we really needed them to come out with some jump and find a way to win, we’d also understand if they were a little tired and if that showed. The good news, perhaps, is that they were able to bring a good bit of energy to this game. It seemed a bit difficult at times to find a rhythm, with all of the penalties called, but on the whole the energy was there, and it really jumped out in the third. Call it a testament to their conditioning, or whatever you want, but the Flyers has the edge in this department through the final frame of the game, and this seemed like no small feat, indeed.

2. Use your brains, pals

As we’ve already sort of alluded to throughout this piece, the Flyers didn’t really play all that poor of a game. Yes the score was close and we were nervous for a little bit, but on the whole, we feel good about it. But the thing is, this game didn’t really have to be as close as it was. The Flyers played a mostly very solid game, but what killed them were couple of errors and breakdowns that led to pucks in the back of their own net. Whether it was a rebound kicked right out into the slot, or defenders not communicating and overcommitting to the initial puck haver, it’s leaving holes to be exploited.

Something’s happened recently that has turn the Flyers from a sharp, cohesive looking team to one which at times lapses into looking like little kids playing soccer and swarming the ball. It’s occasional mental errors that are doing them in on a number of goals against, and I don’t have a fix to offer there, but it’s just not been very pretty to watch.

The only damn thing I know

I feel like I don’t shout Heather out enough on here for the amazing work that she consistently does, but she really is amazing and we’re going to appreciate some of her work for a second. Because these shots are stunning.