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Flyers 5, Capitals 2: Lucky sevens

Playoff atmosphere? Oh yeah, big time.

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Metrics

5v5 Corsi: 34 CF, 43.59 CF%, 47.58 CF% SVA

This wasn’t exactly a great game for the Flyers in regards to overall shot attempts, but they clearly played better than this indicates. However, there are some confirmations to be found. The first period was a rough one for the orange and black, as the Capitals had the jump early on. This is reflected in the Corsi numbers for the period with the Caps having a 14-11 edge, and when adjusting for score and venue, the number hardly changes.

Corsi breakdown by period

1st: 14-11 WSH

2nd: 11-10 WSH

3rd: 19-13 WSH

That is what we like to call in the sports journalism business: not ideal, folks! However, adjusting for score and venue drastically changes how the second period and third period are viewed. The Flyers go from a 47 percent Corsi in the second to breaking even at 50, and in the third where the Caps were doing everything they could to get back in the game, the Flyers go from 40 percent to 48 percent.

5v5 Shot quality: 21 SCF, 10 HDCF, 1.51 xGF, 49.52 xGF%, 53.38 xGF% SVA

Now here is where the Flyers won this game. Even in the first period where it felt like they were getting their teeth kicked in for a good majority, the chances they were generating were high in quality. Out of the 11 shot attempts that period, six were scoring chances, and two were high danger. The Caps were still by far the better team that period, but the Flyers were getting to dangerous areas on the ice.

Expected goals breakdown by period

1st: 0.46-0.33 WSH

2nd: 0.72-0.56 PHI

3rd: 0.53-0.47 WSH

As a base, these numbers don’t look too hot. The Capitals still edged them out in two out of the three periods, and had the overall edge. But when throwing in the adjustments, the script quickly flips. When adjusting for score and venue, the Flyers end up with an expected goals percentage of 53.38 compared to their 49.52 percent when not adjusting. This team was all over the Capitals in the second, and it’s honestly surprising they didn’t score more goals.

Five Observations

1. Penalty kill comes up clutch again

They held a Washington power play which possesses the greatest pure goal scorer of all-time 0-5. That’s it, that’s the tweet.

Listen, obviously there are more components to the Capitals’ power play and they actually were below the Flyers anyway coming into last night’s game, but the feat is amazing regardless. They didn’t let many passes get to the great eight, and even when they did Brian Elliott was in perfect position.

2. Elliott picks up third win in last four starts

After going through a rough patch, it appears as though Brian Elliott is finally back on track. Moose was fantastic last night keeping the team in the game in the first period, and shutting the door once they got the lead. In his last four starts, he’s allowed just 11 goals and picked up the win in three of the four. His season save percentage is creeping back up towards the .900 mark, and if the Flyers can have Carter Hart and Elliott clicking down the stretch, this team becomes all the more dangerous to play.

3. JVR down, Farabee up

Because why wouldn’t we throw in another injury to the mix? It was confirmed last night that James van Riemsdyk suffered a broken hand, and that Joel Farabee would be recalled to take his spot. JVR is a huge loss for this team, despite how streaky we know he can be. What’s surprised me the most, especially of late, is how his defensive effort has been.

JVR has always been an offense first kind of player, and when he’s scoring, that’s fine. We’ve heard so much about players buying into Alain Vigneault’s system, and I think JVR is a prime example. His backchecking seems to have improved, and he overall seems much more involved in the defensive aspect of the game. So while having Farabee to take his spot is a great measure of the depth on this team, this remains a big loss.

4. The new guy steps up big again

Derek Grant is quickly turning into a steal for Chuck Fletcher. The 29 year old center picked up his second two point game in as many games, and now has four points in four games since joining the team. He’s not only chipped in offensively, he’s been the stabilizing defensive center we knew we were getting.

He’s not the big name everyone covets at the trade deadline, but sometimes the biggest moves are guys like Grant. The depth players who can make a big play and bring a ton of leadership to the room. Because it’s almost baseball season, we’ll use the Phillies as a comparison. In 2008 when they won the World Series, everyone and their mother wanted General Manager Pat Gillick to go out and get one of the two big fish. C.C Sabathia, or Manny Ramirez. Gillick instead got guys like Joe Blanton, So Taguchi, and Matt Stairs.

Wouldn’t you know it that Blanton would hit a World Series home run just months later, and Stairs would hit one of the most famous homers in team history. I’m not saying Derek Grant is going to score the goal that sends the team to the Final, or win the damn Stanley Cup for them, but he’s going to be a big help for this team down the stretch and in the playoffs.

5. This team is so much fun, and I love it

Honest question for you all: Is this the most fun you’ve had watching the Flyers in a decade? We’ve been through hell and back the past 10 years, with the captain and leading goal scorer being traded in the same offseason, hell the same day. Ilya Bryzgalov was a thing, the rebuild on the fly that turned into four years of wasted Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, and the firings of Ron Hextall and Dave Hakstol. This team has put us through a lot, but man right now those times feel so long ago.

I can personally say I haven’t had this much fun with a team in the past decade. This isn’t just a really good hockey team — great dare I say — it’s a really good hockey team that is built for the playoffs. This is the kinda team that absolutely no one wants to face round one. And the best part? These guys love each other. We’ve seen it all year that this team fights for one another and they care about every damn man in that room. This team has a chance to be really special for not only Flyers fans, but the entire city of Philadelphia.

All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick