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Flyers 3, Capitals 1: Gone streaking

Some observations for your morning...

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

The Flyers are just rolling on through the round robin, folks! After a commanding win over the Bruins in their first game, the Flyers met their divisional rivals in the Capitals for their second of three games, and they came up with another pretty tidy win. Despite a bit of a shaky start, the Flyers managed to pull it together and get some momentum rolling. Goals for Scott Laughton (twice!) and Travis Sanheim assured the win, and they skated away feeling pretty good about their game, that’s for sure.

And, in case you missed it, they also guaranteed themselves, at the very worst, the second seed in the East, with this win. Not too shabby.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

How’d they look out there?

5-on-5: 25 CF, 15 SF, 52.79 CF%, 57.94 xGF%

It really feels like we didn’t get all that much 5-on-5 time (only 38:07 in total), but in that time, the Flyers did come out on top of the territorial battle. They had a bit of trouble in the first and second periods, as they fell behind in shot attempts, but gained ground and wound up even by the end of the third. But the Flyers did well throughout the game to get the better of the shot quality differential, crashing the net and looking for high danger chances. And they were rewarded for those efforts—each of their three goals came from the low slot, making for some really tough shots for Braden Holtby to handle. It’s a good model, we see why it worked, and we’d like to see even more of it in their next game against the Lightning.

Power play: 10 CF, 4 SF, 0 HDCF

Just a quick note that the stats above are from just the Flyers’ 5-on-4 power play. Which they still had nine minutes on. So it’s enough to talk about. Anyway.

In short, it was not a strong showing for the Flyers’ power play. The Capitals simply could not stop themselves from taking dumb penalties, so the Flyers had a whole lot of chances to cash in on something on the man-advantage, and they just couldn’t manage it. In those nine minutes at 5-on-4, they had just four shots and no high danger chances, and simply, that’s not going to cut it. Washington does have a very good penalty kill, and it doesn’t really help that they were missing James van Riemsdyk for this one, so it does make some sense why this showing wouldn’t have been a terribly strong one. But, all the same, we’re going to need to see some more from them soon.

Penalty kill: 8 CA, 5 SA, 0 HDCA

But, it’s not all bad news on the special teams front, as the Flyers’ penalty kill did had a strong showing on the afternoon. They had three proper attempts to kill, and they were able to keep what can be a very dangerous power play off the board. They weren’t able to completely shut them down, they did still manage a couple of shots, but they did do well to keep them out of the high danger areas and make the stops a bit easier on Brian Elliott. It wasn’t a very flashy showing, though we did still get a brief Kevin Hayes takeaway and hold possession show, but it was enough to get the job done. It doesn’t always need to flashy, it just has to work, and we don’t have any complaints here.

Three standouts

1. Scott Laughton

Laughton’s hot, folks! When I wrote the preview for this game, I said we didn’t expect Laughton to score again in this game, all we really needed to see was him continuing to find success with his line. And what does he do? He scores two goals. How about that.

But beyond the scoring, overall it was just another really strong showing for Laughton. The numbers are a bit of a mixed bag, as he came out of this one with an adjusted 46.90 CF%, but a 65.16 xGF%, so while the Capitals did have the edge in shot attempts while Laughton was on the ice, his line was getting far better chances, so we’re not too fussed, in the end. All in all, it was a strong showing and his line is just continuing to find ways to be successful. There’s a lot to like here.

2. Kevin Hayes

And since we’ve mentioned his name a few times already, it’s worth circling back and making a particular point that Hayes had a pretty stellar individual showing as well yesterday. He put up a team-high four shots, and made just a stellar play to hep set up Travis Sanheim’s goal, and saw his offense clicking well. But perhaps most notably, Hayes was just putting on puck possession clinics in this game, and it was a real delight to see.

He’s had to deal with some tough matchups already in the round robin, and he’s handled it with stride, and this has been a really encouraging sign. This line has been so effective already, and it still feels like there’s even more that they can give, still. It’s exciting stuff.

3. Brian Elliott

Elliott made his first start of the post-season yesterday, and while he didn’t have a tremendously heavy workload, but it was still a strong performance that he delivered. Elliott only faced 17 shots, and he stopped all but one of them. We can’t even begrudge him the one goal he allowed, it took a strange bounce in off of Robert Hagg, not much Elliott could do there. He came up big particularly in the third period, as the Capitals were surging and trying to mount a comeback, shutting them down pretty effectively.

And this was an important game for him—it’s pretty clear that the Flyers plan to head into the playoffs with Carter Hart as their starter, but it was important for them to get Elliott a game, because he’s got to get back to game speed, because they never know if and when he’ll have to step in. It may not have been his most strenuous start, but he played well and did just about all we could have asked of him.

Two loose observations

1. Have we found our third line?

If we had more space to talk about standout performances, we would have dedicated it to talking about Joel Farabee. He made his playoff debut yesterday, and while he wasn’t able to get himself on the board right off the bat, he had some really nice chances for himself, set up a few more, and just overall had a really strong game.

And this will likely put the Flyers in an interesting position. We don’t know yet how long Michael Raffl’s going to be out for, but Farabee may well be making a case to stay in the lineup even after he’s ready to return. Through these early goings, the third line has been really the one piece that hadn’t yet come together, and Farabee today looked stellar with Nicolas Aube-Kubel, as the two combined for a handful of really great chances. There seems to be some serious chemistry building there, and it may serve the Flyers well to stick with this arrangement for a bit longer.

2. A closing note on lineup absences

But we do have a few more notes on the lineup that the Flyers iced yesterday, and this one we aren’t feeling as stellar about as the Farabee addition. We’ve alluded to this already, but, despite the outcome, the Flyers did really look to be missing van Riemsdyk and Shayne Gostisbehere yesterday. They would have been useful at 5-on-5, to be sure, but really their impacts on the power play are what was sorely missed. The Flyers had an abundance of chances on the man advantage, and they didn’t do anything with them, and they simply cannot afford to head into the first round with a power play continuing to trend downwards as theirs has. We know the plan in the round robin was to cycle different players in and out of the lineup to get some different looks, and maybe this will be the wake up call to get these two back in the lineup to fix the power play. At this point, it feels little short of a necessity.

The only damn thing I know

We talked about Scott Laughton’s scoring streak earlier, but not to be overlooked is the fact that Robert Hagg also has a scoring streak going. He’s got two own goals in this round robin so far and, well, I’m just going to leave that one there.

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