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Kevin Hayes’ magnetism to the puck and production off the rush highlight Sunday’s goals

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Film breakdown of the goals from the Flyers’ win over Boston on Sunday.

Philadelphia Flyers v Boston Bruins Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers nearly went five whole months without playing meaningful hockey, but that all changed with an emphatic 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins in the teams’ first game of the round-robin. Thanks to the team’s ability to pick corners, limit the Bruins’ top line, and not hang Carter Hart out to dry the Orange and Black provided a pretty solid performance in their return to action. With four goals for Philly and one goal for Boston let’s take a look at how the Flyers posted four on Jaroslav Halak and what happened on Hart’s lone tally against.

Michael Raffl opens scoring

The play starts with Kevin Hayes entering the zone and dropping it off to Travis Konecny, who hits Scott Laughton streaking to the net on the other side of the ice. Laughton attempts to pass it back to Hayes across the slot but is denied by Jeremy Lauzon.

Hayes wins his first puck race of the shift for a sequence of passing between Laughton, Konecny, and the former New York Ranger before Hayes lets go of a shot on the goal line to the left of Halak’s net. It looked as though the cycle was about to end, but Travis Sanheim was able to pinch from the right point to beat Brad Marchand to the puck and kept possession by poking a pass to Konecny in the corner around Lauzon.

Konecny then manages to set up Phil Myers at the blue line for a one-timer that misses the net, but for the second time during the cycle Hayes pounces on a loose puck to maintain possession. His attempt to pass it down low to Konecny is denied by Patrice Bergeron, but Myers is able to race across the blue line for a keep and passed back to Hayes. Bergeron does a good job to not let Hayes corral the puck in for possession leading to the piece of rubber being available just inside the blue line.

Sanheim is able to step up to grab the loose puck to the surprise of both Marchand and David Pastrnak, who were caught flat footed on the wrong side of the puck while Sanheim walked into the high slot.

With Sanheim in the high slot with Konecny in the right circle and Raffl in the left circle, Torey Krug moved over to take away Konecny’s potential shooting lane while Lauzon moved towards Sanheim to create a path for the blue liner to lob the disc to Raffl streaking to the net. Halak recognized Lauzon high in the slot and knew Krug was to his left so he dropped to the ice in anticipation of a quick shot or redirection from in close, which allowed Raffl to go forehand-backhand-shelf to open the scoring.

Takeaways

  • This whole sequence highlights a lot of the reasons why most of us love this year’s Flyers’ team compared to the last few seasons. The past few Flyers’ squads often failed to dictate the game with puck possession and strong cycling, while the 2019-20 club feels as though they do that on a nightly basis against the better teams in the league. This goal concluded a 1:00 shift for Laughton-Hayes-Konecny against the Bruins’ top line of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak with the final 31 seconds of that being an offensive zone cycle that resulted in a goal.
  • Watching Hayes on a nightly basis you see the ways he is able to control and possess the puck in all three zones of the ice. On top of that he’s pretty damn good at regaining possession and retrieving loose pucks, which he did twice on this shift to continue offensive pressure.
  • One of the strengths of the Sanheim-Myers tandem is their speed and mobility. Sanheim’s decision to pinch deep into the zone halfway through the cycle and his ability to jump on the loose puck high in the zone for the assist show how good his offensive instincts are, which when you combine that with his speed it can lead to a lot of plays in the offensive zone where opponents are caught standing still and lost in coverage.
  • Raffl’s hockey IQ cemented the goal. Everything leading up to Raffl possessing the puck may have all been for nothing if the Austrian forward had not worked against the grain of the play and used Halak’s momentum against him.

Nate Thompson extends the lead

Following a d zone draw the play eventually leads to Ivan Provorov with possession of the puck in the corner to the right of Hart. He launches a three-line pass to Raffl, who enters the offensive zone but has the puck knocked away from him by Lauzon.

With Tyler Pitlick barreling towards him Lauzon is able to move the puck to Charlie Coyle, but his sloppy pass paired with Thompson’s check on Coyle quickly leads to Philly possession again as Provorov grabs the disc in the neutral zone and roars into the offensive zone.

Provorov cuts between Lauzon and Coyle before passing it back to Raffl in the high slot. The d-man then drives to the net to draw Lauzon with him to create space for Raffl, who finesses a pass by Coyle to an open Thompson.

Recognizing Pastrnak wasn’t going to be able to cover Thompson in time, Lauzon attempted to move from the front of the net to get close enough to Thompson to deny his shot. He instead found himself in no-man’s land managing to give the Flyers’ forward enough time to line up a shot and screened Halak to help cause the goal. Regardless of the play development Thompson placed this shot perfectly.

Takeaways

  • This play is all Provorov. He moves the puck from below the Flyers’ goal line to on Thompson’s stick in a prime scoring position almost all by himself. He converts on a multi-line pass, he regathers the loose puck after Raffl loses possession, and he forces Lauzon deep into the Bruins’ zone to open up space at the top of the circles
  • Thompson wasn’t added for his goal scoring, but it shows the potential of this year’s team. The Bruins kept Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Konecny off the scoreboard on Sunday but that didn’t stop them from piling up four goals against a Bruins’ team that allowed a league-low 2.39 goals against-per-game during the 2019-20 regular season. The four players that scored on Sunday aren’t exactly goal-scoring machines, but each one took advantage of some time and space before perfecting a shot. Every team has their top performers have a bad night, but teams that still find a way to win those games have further playoff runs.

Chris Wagner makes it a one-goal game

The play starts with Joakim Nordstrom dumping the puck into the left corner of Philadelphia’s zone before racing around Justin Braun to engage in a board battle with Robert Hagg. The puck stayed in the corner momentarily while Hagg battled Nordstrom and Braun engaged with Wagner.

Hayes (surprise!) jumps in to grab the puck while everyone is board battling and moves it to Konecny on the left boards. With Laughton in support near the left point, Konecny lost the puck while being pressured by Sean Kuraly. It eventually worked its way to Nordstrom, who fired a shot from the sidewall near the top of the circles that missed the net. Since Laughton was at the left point anticipating Konecny’s pass nobody was able to retrieve Nordstrom’s missed shot which led to Charlie McAvoy grabbing it.

The Flyers’ forwards race to regain defensive positioning for McAvoy’s shot with Laughton going to the right point to disrupt the attempt, Hayes going to the high slot, and Konecny moving to the left point. McAvoy’s shot missed the net, but the disc goes around the boards to Nordstrom

As Nordstrom collects the puck he works his way towards the bottom of the circle. With Konecny giving him some room Braun decides to rush Nordstrom in an attempt to take away time and space, but fails to either knock the puck away from the former Chicago Blackhawk or prevent his pass from going to Wagner below the goal line. This put Hagg into a similar position of deciding whether to force Wagner’s hand below the goal line or to stay in Wagner’s passing lane to Kuraly. Unfortunately for Hagg he did a good job of getting in the passing lane, but he had the pass go in off his skate for the Bruins’ lone goal.

Takeaways

  • Much like the blue line’s mobility helped to create the first two goals, the slow speed of the Hagg-Braun pair hurt Philly’s ability to move the puck out of the zone. Nordstrom figured he could sustain pressure below the goal line by dumping it over Braun and at least meeting Hagg at the puck, and he was correct. Braun was then too slow to grab McAvoy’s rebound or disrupt Nordstrom’s pass to Wagner right before the goal. There’s no question Braun and Hagg’s strong suit is limiting opponents’ offensive pressure through physicality and shot blocking once they have gotten the puck in the zone. They struggle to move the puck out of the defensive zone at times and usually have a lengthy cycle or two against nightly based on the fact neither can really carry the puck out by themselves. There’s no reason to break up the top four right now, but having the team’s two slowest d-men on the same pair might lead to a few more of these goals in the postseason.
  • This wasn’t Konecny’s best shift. His turnover in the corner kept the puck in the defensive zone and his coverage on Nordstrom before his pass to Wagner wasn’t good enough. Considering the fact he still played a part in two other Flyers’ goals on the day and will always be one of the opponent’s main concerns while Philly is on offense it’s hard to go on at length about why Konecny needs to shape up or some shit. He’ll probably score two on Thursday to make up for it.

Phil Myers answers quickly

On the ensuing faceoff at center ice after Wagner’s tally Coyle wins it back to Zdeno Chara, who is set on sliding it over to Anders Bjork in the neutral zone. Jakub Voracek is able to get a stick on Chara’s pass to break it up, which forced Bjork to lose track of the disc to let Myers start a rush the other way.

As soon as Myers grabs it the Flyers are gifted a 3-on-2 from the red line. With Chara down on the ice with Voracek caught behind him Myers blows into the offensive zone for a 2-on-1 with Couturier against McAvoy. From the right circle Myers lasers one far top corner to make it a two-goal game just eight seconds after Wagner scored for Boston.

Myers’ ability to lead the rush and pick a corner are what created the goal, but Halak’s initial reaction anticipating a shot over his right shoulder didn’t hurt the cause.

Takeaways

  • Perhaps the biggest concern with Myers right now is his decision making. We’ve seen what he’s capable of when he’s on top of his game, much like this play, and we’ve seen what happens when he has a brain fart in the defensive zone. There weren’t many brain farts on Sunday and there should be less over time as he gets more experience in the league. His offensive instincts and shot were on display for this tally.
  • Voracek had a relatively quiet day on Sunday, but it is worth pointing out that he started this whole play by breaking up Chara’s initial pass.

Laughton puts it away

The play starts with a draw in the Bruins’ zone before the puck travels down ice and Boston attempts to start a cycle. Hayes (right?) takes the puck from Marchand in Philly’s left corner and moves the puck to Laughton.

Pastrnak steals it from Laughton and sends it back to Brandon Carlo at the right point, who fumbles the biscuit.

Hayes is able to beat Carlo to the puck and chip it into the neutral zone to let Laughton start an odd-man rush with Konecny against Krug.

As Laughton carries it into the Bruins’ zone Konecny starts to slow down and halt just inside the blue line to help Krug slow down while pulling him a little further away from Laughton, who let go of a wrister that beat Halak far top corner.

Halak was off his angle, but Laughton’s shot may have even beaten the netminder if he was positioned correctly. Would Laughton have placed the shot there if Halak was in position? We’ll never know.

Takeaways

  • Another goal that was helped along because of Hayes’ ability to get to loose pucks. Not only did his ability to win puck races play a part in two goals in the win, it should have also helped to prevent Boston’s lone goal. Hayes’ knack for slowing down the game while controlling the disc all over the ice and his ability to change/maintain possession by vacuuming up loose pucks are two ways he’s helped the Flyers this season that may not show up on the scoresheet or in the #FancyStats.
  • It doesn’t matter if Halak had the right angle or not, Laughton can shoot. Although he hasn’t really lit the lamp much in the NHL, the dude had 40 goals in 54 games with the Oshawa Generals back in 2013-14. Yeah, a long time ago, but considering he has transitioned from possible bust to bottom-six penalty killer to a guy who has deservedly gotten time in the top six this season while finishing on pace for 21 goals maybe we just had a few years there of the organization trying to figure out how to best utilize him? No matter the case if Laughton feels like becoming a reliable middle-six forward that pots 20 goals a season I’m not going to complain.