The Flyers made that round-robin look a little easy, huh? Not only did the Orange and the Black beat the other top seeds in the Eastern Conference over the last week they did so without trailing at any point in time. On Saturday it was the team’s ability to pressure the Tampa Bay Lightning in the defensive zone to force them into consequential turnovers. Let’s see how they did it.
NAK’s first of the night
The play starts with Derek Grant winning a neutral zone draw before the puck is eventually moved to Justin Braun, who is able to get the puck deep into Tampa Bay’s zone with the help of a James van Riemsdyk tip. Kevin Shattenkirk is the first Bolt to get to the puck in the right corner and quickly dishes it to the right circle as Grant comes barreling down at him.
Nikita Kucherov catches Shattenkirk’s pass on the outside of the right circle and looks to make a seamless pass to the slot, but Shayne Gostisbehere is deep on the forecheck and pressures him into a questionable pass. Kucherov was looking Ondrej Palat’s way but thanks to Gostisbehere’s pressure he gets way too much air on the pass and ends up hitting Sean Couturier’s old junior linemate in the shoulder before the disc pops up over Brayden Point’s head and landing in front of Shattenkirk in the slot. The former St. Louis Blue was a bit too casual in picking up the loose hunk of rubber and lost possession thanks to Grant’s stick lift from behind and Gostisbehere picking it up while racing back to the point after he had disrupted Shattenkirk’s original pass.
Gostisbehere collects the puck and quickly stops at the point before drifting a shot through Kucherov, Point, Shattenkirk, Mikhail Sergachev, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. As the puck is rising and close to the net NAK is able to reach around Sergachev to get his stick on it and redirect a shot through Andrei Vasilevskiy’s five-hole.
- Yup, I’m starting with Gostisbehere. His forecheck disrupted Tampa Bay’s breakout and he was rewarded for his play with possession of the puck. We haven’t seen a lot of Gostisbehere since the season resumed, but in the limited time we’ve seen him he has shown a lot more confidence with the puck and hasn’t been involved in defensive breakdowns. Not only was he able to help create the chance with two overlooked plays during the sequence, but Gostisbehere was able to drift the shot through five different skaters in front. I’ve mentioned how my biggest concern with the Robert Hagg-Justin Braun pair is their lack of mobility. The easy solution is to plug Gostisbehere in for Hagg, but it’s understandable if Alain Vigneault isn’t comfortable making that decision at the moment. However if Gostisbehere has another showing where he is defensively sound and he is able to play a vital role in a couple goals it’ll be harder to keep him out of the lineup.
- Gostisbehere wasn’t the only Flyer who made a few key plays to keep this sequence alive. Grant’s pressure on Shattenkirk on the original forecheck helped create Kucherov’s turnover. Not only did he help the Lightning bobble the puck free he was able to subtly stick lift Shattenkirk to allow Gostisbehere to regain possession before he let go of NAK’s first goal. He earned the secondary assist on this goal and it was his only point during the three-game round-robin as well as remained mainly invisible during the last week. Nobody is expecting him to be a point-per-game player but Flyers’ fans are hoping he can keep doing the little things like this to help facilitate tallies for the more skilled players and maybe chip in a few goals this postseason.
Aube-Kubel doubles down
The play starts with Couturier grabbing a rebound in the defensive zone and then passing it to Claude Giroux before the two start working their way up ice for a zone entry. Giroux gave the puck to Couturier right at the Lightning’s blue line as the center drove through the right circle before spinning and throwing a puck on net. Sanheim was in the area for a redirection, but Alex Killorn covered him pretty well.
Killorn picks up the rebound behind the net with ease as Sanheim races back to the point but then runs into a little trouble as he leaves the puck for Anthony Cirelli. Luckily for Killorn, Cirelli was able to pick up the puck before Giroux could contain it and moved it to Tyler Johnson above the right circle, who quickly dealt it to Sergachev in the left circle as skaters on both teams exit Tampa Bay’s defensive zone.
With some pressure from Joel Farabee, Sergachev’s attempt to hit Killorn with a pass in the neutral zone fails and the pass goes right to Phil Myers.
Myers’ pass can’t be corralled by Farabee at Tampa Bay’s blue line, which results in the puck bouncing off of Shattenkirk’s skate and bouncing to NAK in the neutral zone while Shattenkirk invests his energy in finishing a check on Farabee. The teams are changing lines as the puck is passed to Farabee and when NAK picks up the loose change and starts a Flyers’ two-on-one with NAK and Couturier against Sergachev. NAK drives at Sergachev before backhanding the disc over to Couturier, who waits for Sergachev to drop and take himself out of the play before sliding it back over to NAK for the tally.
- This goal is an illustration of what the Flyers’ ability to pressure teams in their own zone can lead to. Killorn’s possession with the puck looked rather innocent and it didn’t hurt that he fumbled the puck, but the Bolts were heavily pressured on three different defensive zone passes that led to Sergachev’s turnover to Myers in the neutral zone. More times than not if teams are about to change Killorn’s pass to Cirelli would have been a more innocent pass behind the net with a lot less pressure from the opposition.
- After picking on Jeremy Lauzon in the win against Boston and Evgeny Kuznetsov in the win against Washington the Flyers picked apart the tandem of Shattenkirk and Sergachev. Shattenkirk rushed a pass and had the puck taken from him on NAK’s first goal before he decided to needlessly finish a check on Farabee at the blue line to set up a Philly 2-on-1. Sergachev was on the right side of NAK but failed to effectively box him out on the first goal and took himself out of this play by dropping in the slot to take away the pass before Couturier waited for him to slide out of the passing lane. That’s three straight games the club has found a player/unit that their system has flustered them into allowing two goals against. Every team has a weak point that will eventually cave in.
Johnson makes it a one-goal game
The play starts with a defensive zone draw on the penalty kill while NAK sat for cross checking. Point wins the faceoff and the puck eventually works its way to Kucherov at the right point. Kucherov starts a passing play between him, Killorn, and Sergachev that leads to a Kucherov one-timer off a Sergachev feed that Carter Hart stopped.
Ivan Provorov was able to grab the rebound, but his wrap around the boards past Kucherov was just out of Couturier’s reach and stays with Tampa Bay thanks to Sergachev. The d-man then tries to move it back down along the boards but the puck is taken away by Couturier, who then gives it right back to Point at the blue line.
Point then holds on to the puck for a few seconds at the blue line with Couturier covering him. Couturier doesn’t force the issue which allows Point to eventually fire a pass past Couturier around the boards, where Provorov falls over after he fails to pick off the puck.
As Killorn gathers the disc in the corner Niskanen darts around the net in anticipation of cutting off Killorn, which allows Johnson to slide into the slot forcing Grant to come down from high in the box formation. With Provorov and Niskanen nowhere near the front of the net and Grant unable to bail them out, Killorn finds Johnson in front for the one-timer.
- A rare bad play from three Flyers who don’t make many mistakes. The glaring error is Provorov’s play here, as he failed to stop Point’s wrap around the boards and then failed to get to Killorn for a turnover or pass breakup thanks to falling over, but Couturier and Niskanen also made mistakes on this goal against. Couturier not only failed to clear the puck to alleviate pressure, but he could have been more aggressive with Point while he had the puck on the blue line and was struggling to figure out where to go with the rubber. Niskanen made a hard cut to go behind the net despite the fact Killorn had been camped down below the goal line for a second, which allowed him to have a comfy passing lane to Johnson in front. Both Provorov and Niskanen had their moments on Saturday night. It’s rare both players have an off night in the same game (especially one featuring a few mental blunders), but at least it didn’t cost the Flyers the one seed. They should (will) look better once the series against the Montreal Canadiens starts.
Farabee’s insurance marker
Gostisbehere carries the puck into the zone and dumps it off to Farabee on the boards at the top of the left circle. Farabee tries to send a pass cross ice but it hits Cirelli and is recovered by Couturier in the slot.
Couturier gives it back to Farabee who sends it around the boards to Braun, who is met there by Killorn.
Braun is able to come away with the puck and bat it back around the boards where it is one-touched by Farabee into the left corner.
As Cirelli approaches the loose puck in the left corner, Couturier is able to reach around Cirelli to poke the puck away from the Lightning forward as he expects to pick it up. While this is happening, Farabee circles to the front of the net, while Cernak is focused on the puck and stays behind the net, which allows Gostisbehere to rifle a cross-ice pass from the top of the left circle to Farabee for the one-timer.
- Since the last goal was a poor play from Couturier, let’s focus on the things he did to create this goal. On top of swooping in to maintain possession after Farabee’s pass landed in the middle of four Bolts Couturier also turned a rather innocent protect-and-clear play from Cirelli near the boards into the start of a goal-producing pass sequence. We don’t need to point out every time Couturier makes an incredible two-way play because who has the time, but we should point out when Couturier makes another Selke-hyped forward look terrible in the defensive zone.
- Another strong sequence from Gostisbehere. Although he was caught deep in the zone a little longer than you’d like to see he managed to get back to the point before Braun pinched so if Killorn had managed to get the puck past Braun it wouldn’t have been an odd-man rush with forwards defending. On top of that he fires an assist through four Lightning players to Farabee camped in the far circle.
- Farabee made his chance on the top line count. After his failed pass to Couturier, Farabee won two pucks races against Cernak and received a heavy hit from the Slovakian defender each time to help set up his own goal. Farabee may not be the expected name to fill in on the top line, but he’s shown in the past he can fill a role playing with two high-end forwards and it came through on this goal.
Pitlick’s empty-net goal
Scott Laughton launches the puck from the defensive zone and the shot hits the post.
Tyler Pitlick puts in the rebound.
- Pitlick can score into an empty net.
Video courtesy of NHL.com