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The second line’s cycling and patience led to production against Caps

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Film breakdown of the goals from the Flyers’ win over Washington on Thursday.

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

When the NHL returned to action at the start of August one of the main concerns for the returning teams and players would be how quickly they got into the flow of hockey season. There aren’t any worries about whether the Philadelphia Flyers’ current second line of Scott Laughton, Kevin Hayes, and Travis Konecny are in midseason form. After they played a role in two goals in Sunday’s win over the Boston Bruins, Laughton-Hayes-Konecny were involved in all three goals in Thursday’s win over the Washington Capitals. Let’s take a look at how the second line picked apart the Caps.

Laughton’s opening goal

The play starts with Hayes getting the puck deep in the Caps’ zone with Konecny retrieving it. His backhand sweep to the right corner is picked off by Nicklas Backstrom, who tosses it past Hayes into the right corner for Michal Kempny.

The blue liner’s attempt to get the puck out of the zone is denied by Matt Niskanen, who had pinched on the play, which resulted in Konecny and Jakub Vrana board battling for the disc with Niskanen, Kempny, and Backstrom surrounding the two in support.

While board battling is going on Gudas knocks over Hayes and grabs control of the puck. He turns to his right to go behind the net and is followed by Konecny with Oshie on his right wing (covered by Provorov) Backstrom in the slot (open) and Kempny down low in the corner (covered by Hayes). Konecny’s decision to cut hard to stay with Gudas pressures the former Flyer into pivoting back into his right corner putting him on his backhand for either Backstrom (again, up the middle in the slot) or Kempny (guarded by Hayes) in the corner. As Gudas turns to his left that leads Oshie to believe the puck is going the other way and he can start cutting up ice. Gudas tries to backhand one past Hayes to Kempny, but instead finds Hayes’ right skate.

The center quickly fires a backhanded pass towards the slot looking for a Flyer. After Gudas’ turnover Oshie is still skating towards the neutral zone while Gudas is in the corner below the goal line and Kempny is now on the wrong side of the puck and Hayes. That leaves Backstrom alone in the slot unaware of Konecny, who had wrapped around the net after pursuing Gudas. Konecny manages to corral the pass, which forces both Braden Holtby to drop and Backstrom to engage in anticipation of a shot. With both the goalie and center focused on Konecny the 2015 draft pick backhanded a beauty to the tape of a wide-open Laughton in front.

Takeaways

  • I already talked about it a ton on Sunday, but Hayes’ ability to vacuum up loose pucks is huge. His angle on Gudas while the d-man had the biscuit made all the difference, as he started to move to his right in anticipation of Gudas’ pass and ended up right in the line of the dish.
  • Both Hayes and Konecny earned their assists on this shift. Both passes needed a little bit of faith, as Hayes centered the puck in hopes that one of his teammates would be there and Konecny showed patience knowing Laughton was in the general area, but the apples on this goal were delicious. Hayes’ helper is nothing to sneeze at, but Konecny’s pass is borderline illegal. You can tell by Backstrom’s reaction after the goal.
  • This wasn’t Gudas’ best play. Not only did he hold onto the puck for too long in the corner before turning it over he also bumped into Kempny to prevent either of them from possibly getting into Laughton’s way before he tapped home the opening goal.

Sanheim extends the lead

The Flyers earn an offensive zone draw after a penalty from Kempny for a few seconds of a 4-on-3 before action returned to 4-on-4. Hayes wins a faceoff to Laughton and then Laughton passes it right back to the center.

Hayes proceeds to carry the puck from the left point around the top of the circles and starts turning around the top edge of the right circle when Tom Wilson knocks the puck into the boards. Hayes quickly picks the puck up again and goes into the right corner where he is met by Jonas Siegenthaler.

Hayes then works his way back up along the right boards towards Washington’s blue line. While doing so Laughton had drifted below the goal line to draw Dmitry Orlov with him leaving Evgeny Kuznetsov in the slot. Travis Sanheim recognizes it’s a forward defending in the slot and makes a beeline to the net in hopes of a cross-ice pass from Hayes, who decides to hold onto the puck and spin towards the net again.

With Kuznetsov near the front of the net the Caps get a little out of sorts with their spacing. As Hayes displays patience with the puck both Siegenthaler and Kuznetsov get caught watching the disc while Tom Wilson lays off the Flyer to try and take away a potential passing lane to the right point. With Laughton drawing the attention of Orlov in the middle of the slot Sanheim is able to make a quick cut to the net and receive a nice saucer pass from Hayes before pulling off a nice backhand-forehand move against the grain to make it 2-0.

Takeaways

  • Hayes controls the game with his puck possession again. I could probably talk about that with every goal the Flyers score with Hayes on the ice.
  • Sanheim’s offensive instincts help to create a lot on this goal. His original decision to flash to the net with Kuznetsov in front led to Washington’s coverage on Hayes. He then picked the right time to catch Kuznetsov off guard for a wide-open opportunity in front. It also doesn’t hurt that Sanheim has some pretty nice hands and above-average finishing abilities for a d-man from in close.
  • With that said it’s worth noting Laughton’s positioning away from the puck during this goal. He draws Orlov below the goal line and then draws the Russian rearguard’s attention again in the middle of the ice right before Hayes’ pass to Sanheim.

Laughton’s second of the game

The play starts with an o zone draw that Laughton wins with Hayes sending it back to Sanheim. He sends the puck down low to Konecny who redirects a pass around to the right corner where Laughton wins a foot race against Kuznetsov.

He shovels it back around the net to Konecny, who manages to steal it away from Siegenthaler. Konecny swings out to his right and tries to center a pass to Hayes but is unable to get it through Siegenthaler, Kuznetsov, and Holtby. The puck stays below the goal line where Hayes is able to grab it and has his attempt to wrap it back around to Konecny broken up by Siegenthaler.

With Kuznetsov and Orlov closer to the puck than Laughton Orlov attempts to insure Laughton won’t get the puck and inadvertently hits it past Kuznetsov to Siegenthaler in the corner. Laughton pressured Siegenthaler to wrap it back around to Orlov, who intended to carry the puck to the right side of the ice to avoid more pressure but was forced by Konecny to turn back to his left.

Laughton managed to get his skates in the way of Orlov’s wrap to keep the puck between the two for a second before the blue liner ultimately nudged it around the boards past Siegenthaler. As the disc is about to reach Alex Ovechkin on the left boards, Hayes puts a stick on the puck to make sure Ovechkin doesn’t receive it cleanly and Phil Myers crashes from the point to engage in a board battle.

The Ovechkin-Myers battle leads to the puck dribbling out into the left circle where Siegenthaler tries to pass it out of the zone, but Myers is able to bat it down. Myers then dances his way to the top of the slot and lets go of a shot through traffic that lands below the goal line for Konecny to pick up.

The winger backhanded a pass to Hayes in the left corner with Orlov going below the goal line to pressure him while Siegenthaler went into the corner to chase the puck leaving Kuznetsov alone in the slot. Hayes walks the puck along the left boards for a second to lull the defense to sleep before firing a pass far post to Laughton behind an unsuspecting Kuznetsov.

Takeaways

  • This line has been on fire because of Hayes’ patience with the puck and Laughton putting himself in the right position at the right time, which is illustrated on this goal. What would scare the crap out of me as an opponent watching this is the line’s ability to suffocate the Capitals’ top line in their own zone. An o-zone draw led to a 34-second cycle where Washington not only failed to get the puck out of the zone but they failed to even get the biscuit out to the top of their own circles. When an opposing line is lighting you up you look for ways to limit how much they control the puck, but it’s hard to stop a line that can play keep away.
  • This was the second goal of the game where Hayes’ patience with the puck during a cycle led to a tally thanks to the communication of the Orlov-Siegenthaler tandem as well as Kuznetsov being the lone defender in the slot. On this goal and Sanheim’s goal both Orlov and Siegenthaler were on the ice and nowhere near the cage when the Flyers scored. I wish Kuznetsov was playing for Philly’s hockey club, but that’s not because of his defensive awareness. He forgot to watch for the backdoor pass twice this game which only part of the blame can be put on him while the defensive pair and Todd Reirden deserve some as well.

Boyd breaks the shutout
The play starts with a defensive zone draw between Derek Grant and Travis Boyd. Grant is able to win it back, but Hagelin pounces on it and sends it to Gudas at the right point. He fakes a slap shot and passes it back to Hagelin along the right boards, who quickly rifles one on net.

Justin Braun attempts to rush out to the boards to get in the way of Hagelin’s shot while Robert Hagg engages in a net-front battle with Boyd. Since Braun was slow in reaction to the play and Hagg lost inside positioning to Boyd Washington was able to get the shot and redirection off to end Brian Elliott’s shutout bid.

Takeaways

  • The Hagg-Braun tandem were on the ice for the lone goal against in the win against Boston and they were on the ice for the lone goal against the Capitals. It was the lack of mobility on Sunday and this time it looked like a miscommunication. Since Hagg is the left-handed blue liner of the pair and starts this faceoff on the left side of the circle it’s safe to say he probably should have been the player who was there to take away time and space from Hagelin before his goal-producing shot. However Hagg had skated into the slot with Ilya Kovalchuk leaving Braun to rush out to cover Hagelin on the boards. It makes sense that Hagg should have stayed with Kovalchuk as he darted through the faceoff circle to the net, but it looks like the d-men should have switched the players they were covering once they were both at the net or Braun was supposed to stick with Hagelin the whole play. Either way if a pair lacks the inability to safely get the puck out of their zone since both the players on the tandem are stay-at-home rearguards they can’t also be having split-second lapses in coverage.
  • Even though the only goals against Philly during the round-robin have gone in off of Hagg I don’t think the two plays are entirely his fault. He can’t be losing net-front battles to smaller guys since his strength is clearing the crease, but having a puck go in after you got in a passing lane and then redirecting a shot past your own goalie while battling in front are some unlucky plays. Before the season paused in March the tandem of Hagg-Braun were getting some love for their defensive play, which was basically them getting caved in from a possession standpoint but somehow never giving up goals against. It’s hard to sustain successfully keeping the puck out of your own net when you’re always in the defensive zone especially if you’re going to lose the benefit of the majority of the bounces.