It’s good news in Flyers land as they made their proper post-season debut yesterday with their first round robin game against the Bruins, it was kind to them indeed. The Flyers got off to something of a slow start and looked to be a bit out of sorts through the first period, and had to weather the Bruins’ storm to make it to the first intermission still scoreless. But they managed it, and came out for the second period with a full head of steam, jumping out to a 2-0 lead after goals from Michael Raffl and Nate Thompson. Chris Wagner got the Bruins back within one, but Philippe Myers would get one right back, picking off a pass in the neutral zone and starting a one man rush in on Jaroslav Halak for the third goal of the game. Scott Laughton picked up their fourth and final goal of the game in the third to seal things up, and the Flyers skated away with a pretty commanding win. What a time to be alive.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
How’d they look out there?
5-on-5: 41 CF, 26 SF, 53.99 CF%, 50.97 xGF%
Despite the dodgy start, the Flyers were able to come back well and really correct their process. The underlying numbers are something of a mixed bag—the raw shot attempts are just about even, as are the Expected Goals, while the Flyers took the edge in shots and the Bruins in scoring chances—but overall, with the score and venue adjustments, the Flyers come out with the edge. The averages come out looking just fine, but it’s worth commending the Flyers for how well they got back on track in the second and third, and to work towards pulling momentum pretty solidly in their favor.
What really stands out is how the Flyers were able to keep the Patrice Bergeron line shut down, and they did it with, you guessed it Sean Couturier’s line. And they didn’t just hang on and manage to keep them off the board, they positively dominated their matchup. Indeed, the line of Couturier, Claude Giroux, and Jakub Voracek came out of this game with an adjusted 73.88 CF% and 68.10 xGF%, matched up almost exclusively against the Bergeron line, and this is, in short, a pretty remarkable feat.
Power play: 4 CF, 1 SF, 0 HDCF
Overall, not an outstanding showing for the power play. They didn’t look terrible, to be clear, but in the exhibition game they looked a bit more threatening, were able to get some more dangerous puck movement going. We saw flashes of this in the Flyers’ two attempts, but it didn’t really culminate in anything terribly meaningful—as we can see, they only managed one shot on goal and no scoring chances in their time on the man-advantage. The flashes we did get were still welcome, but this is something that the Flyers are going to need to build on, heading into their next two round robin games.
Penalty Kill: 10 CA, 4 SA, 4 HDCA
The penalty kill found a bit more success on the afternoon, though. They had three minors to kill, and were successful in each of those three attempts. It wasn’t always pretty, as the number of chances (and particularly dangerous chances) suggests, and the Bruins were allowed to get a bit of a cycle going and looked quite dangerous. But in the end, the Flyers’ penalty killers were able to keep them well enough contained, and with the help of Carter Hart to make some big saves, kept them off the board. It wasn’t as flashy of an effort as what we got on Tuesday against the Penguins, but it works just as well. The Flyers’ penalty kill had some momentum heading into this game, and they were able to keep it rolling.
1. Carter Hart
What a game for Carter Hart! He picked up his first playoff win in his first playoff start, making a tidy 34 saves on 35 shots to help seal the win for the Flyers, which is not too shabby indeed. We can’t even really be too fussed about the goal he let in, as he played it right, the puck just took a tough bounce off of Robert Hagg. So it goes.
It wasn’t a perfect showing for Hart, to be sure, as he started the game looking like he was fight it a bit and struggling with his rebound control, but he settled in well as the game went on and really came up big for the Flyers a couple of times when they needed him to. The Bruins may not have brought their absolute A game yesterday, but Hart still had a generous workload, and all in all, he handled it well. A perfectly respectable playoff debut, if you ask us.
2. Philippe Myers
As for the skaters, there were so many standout performances in this one that it’s hard to choose just a few to single out, but we’re going to stick with the theme of kids making their playoffs debuts for a bit longer. After a sort of up and down exhibition game, Myers came out much stronger in this game and really gave us a lot to like. He came out of this one with an adjusted 57.26 CF% and 64.14 xGF% (second among defensemen, behind just Travis Sanheim), which is all to say that he played a strong territorial game, and the Flyers were getting the better of the chances by a pretty comfortable margin while he was on the ice. The offensive side of his game was working well, to boot, as he pitched in a goal and had a couple more nice looks, jumping in offensively. It was, overall, a really strong showing for Myers, and a very nice preview to just how effective he can be for the team as we head deeper into the playoffs.
3. Uh, the whole bottom six
We’ve sort of alluded to this already, and we’re running out of space to highlight single players, so I’m going to cheat my own format and offer praise for just about the whole of the bottom six. The Flyers’ top two lines had their hands full playing largely shutdown roles, and in games like that, it means that there’s a good chance your offense is going to have to come from elsewhere, and the better depth will win out, and that’s just what happened yesterday. Just as we all definitely expected, the first two goals of the game came from the Flyers’ fourth line, and while it does feel, on the surface, a strange and funny turn of events, it also remains a sneaky strength for the Flyers. They got a lot out of their depth players yesterday, and that’s something that they’re going to badly need if they want to make a deep run into the playoffs. It was a strong initial showing, to be sure.
Two loose observations
1. “Starting on time”
It wouldn’t be a true Flyers game if they did come out and look a little shaky and get all of us sweating a bit, only to come out for the second period and flip the switch and positively start dominating, right? We know about the Flyers’ tendency by now—playing dump and chase for the first period, forcing the other team to skate more and trying to forecheck them to death, then getting their legs going in the second and third period and playing more of a rush style, skating in more of their entries. It’s a model that can work to wear down the other team, we’ve seen this before, but it also has the potential to get really ugly, as we saw yesterday. The Flyers really didn’t have much going on early, just six shots and three scoring chances through the whole of the first period, and the Bruins pretty well dominated play early. And this should raise something of a red flag—maybe this isn’t the best game plan against a team like the Bruins who are set up to beat you on the cycle, that’s their thing.
It ended up being okay, they weathered the storm, but also seems an example of when it might not be the best idea to try to beat a good team at their own game.
2. Will the real Bruins please stand up?
We should be clear right off the bat, here, the Flyers all in all played a solid game and did a lot of good work to prove that they’re already back to their regular form, and for that they deserve a lot of praise. But it’s also true that this wasn’t a Bruins team operating at full strength that we got today. The looked rough in their exhibition game, and they still haven’t found a way to get back into sync, and the Flyers did benefit from the fact that they just weren’t making good decisions with the puck. Should this make us feel any less good about this win? Absolutely not, a win’s a win, and either way we love dunking on the Bruins. Nothing can take this away from us. But it’s worth keeping in mind that the Flyers have two opponents ahead of them in the rest of the round robin who did look more in sync already. The truer test may well still lie ahead.
The only damn thing I know
Gang, I’ll be brief here. It feels so good to be watching games, and writing game content, and yelling on Twitter, and all of the things. It’s so good to be back.