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Flyers 4, Lightning 1: Sweep city

Some observations for your morning...

Philadelphia Flyers v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

*airhorn* They did it folks! With their win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, the Flyers successfully swept the round robin and picked up the top seed in the East. It was, just like their first two, a decisive win and one that leaves us with a lot of optimism to bring with us into the first round. The Flyers pretty well dominated this one, and they got goals from Nicolas Aube-Kubel (twice!), Joel Farabee, and Tyler Pitlick to carry them to their win and the top of the standings.

First seed means they’ll face the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, and we’ll be talking a whole lot about that in the next few days, but for now, let’s luxuriate in this win for just a little bit longer.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

65.70—the Flyers’ 5v5 xGF%

We made quick note of this in the introduction, but it really does bear repeating, that the Flyers pretty well dominated this game at 5-on-5. They came out just about even in the adjusted shot attempt differential, with a 50.78 CF%, but really took the edge in shots (64.14 SF%), scoring chances (56.88 SCF%). high danger chances (86.04 HDCF%). and Expected Goals (65.70 xGF%). Which is all just to say that while they weren’t able to completely prevent the Lightning from producing anything offensively, they were able to really well keep them to the outside and prevent them from getting many chances that would be really difficult on Carter Hart. (Though, that said, they were able to do the former for a while, limiting the Lightning to just 11 and 12 5-on-5 shot attempts in the first and second periods).

And this is all really impressive in its own right, but to be able to do it against the Lightning, one of the best teams in the league, who the Flyers lost both of their regular season games against, well that’s really big. It’s a whole new world out here, folks.

1—scoring chance on the power play

Ah yes, the struggles on the power play continue. It’s no secret that this has been an issue for them over their last couple of games, and the Flyers still haven’t found a way to flip the magic switch and get their power play rolling again. In just over four minutes on the man-advantage, they managed just four shot attempts, one scoring chance, and no high danger chances, and that isn’t going to cut it.

For what it’s worth, it did appear to the eye that they were getting a bit more dangerous looking puck movement going than they did in their last game, and Gostisbehere did look threatening on the second unit, but we didn’t see that show up tangibly as chances. It may have been a small step forward, but we’ll need to still see more.

2—goals for Nicolas Aube-Kubel

One of the bigger stories, in terms of individual performances, to come out of last night’s game was that Aube-Kubel picked up two goals on the evening, which marked his first goal(s) of the post-season, and also his first multi-goal game of his NHL career. How fun!

It was a strong night overall, as the underlying numbers (79.24 CF% and 90.58 xGF%) give us a pretty positive picture of his showing, to say the least. It was a solid complete effort, and there’s not a whole lot to complain about here.

And with this, Aube-Kubel has also added himself to the list of depth players who have really turned it on in the post-season, and that’s been the real difference maker for the Flyers. The matchups are getting tougher for the top players, and they aren’t getting the space that they normally might, so we know how important it is that their depth players step up and bring some extra contributions. Aube-Kubel was the one to do it last night, and the results were pretty stellar.

2—assists for Shayne Gostisbehere

But while we’re talking about strong individual efforts, we should also note that Gostisbehere had himself a really solid return to the lineup. Though limited to a third pair role with second power play time, Gostisbehere made the most of that opportunity and gave us a lot to like about this showing. As the lede tells us, he picked up two primary assists on the evening, the first from a bomb on net in the first which Aube-Kubel got a stick on to deflect in front, and the second from a stellar feed through a bit of traffic to Joel Farabee in the second.

The numbers also tell us that Gostisbehere had a strong night territorially, as he came out of this one with a 58.20 CF% and 83.46 xGF%, both of which are good for second among defensemen behind Justin Braun, so the Flyers were getting the better of the shots while he was on the ice. But the offensive game is really what’s standing out, how dynamic he looked in this one. Because, as our pal Kurt said last night:

23—saves for Carter Hart

Also making his return to the lineup for this game was Hart, after backing up Brian Elliott against Washington, and he also had himself a really solid game, and this shouldn’t get lost in all of the talk about how the skaters dominated this game. Hart didn’t have a terribly heavy workload through the first two periods (though he did have a Nikita Kucherov breakaway to deal with, and he made that stop look easy), but he held steady then and came up big in the third period when the Lightning finally started to surge. He had a strong game, and we appreciate that for how it contributed to the win, but also because Hart just looked a lot more settled in this game. In his first against Boston, he looked a little rough to start, like he was fighting his rebounds, but that’s all over. Hart looks confident and dialed in, and that’s exaxrly what we needed to see as we head into the playoffs.

80.90—CF% for the third line

We talked already about Aube-Kubel’s individual performance, but we would be remiss if we didn’t also take a step back and talk about just how good his whole line was last night. In their 8:58 of time together at 5-on-5, the Flyers’ third line of Aube-Kubel, Derek Grant, and James van Riemsdyk combined for an adjusted 80.90 CF%, 96.39 xGF%. and 100 SCF% (no, that is not a typo), positively dominating their matchup on the night.

And we don’t really have to tell you that this is a big deal, but gang, it’s a big deal. Not only did this line do outstanding in their matchups, but it’s important to add that sometimes that was against the very dangerous Brayden Point line, a matchup the Lightning were looking for, and they completely shut them down, which goes without saying, but is not an easy task. We’ve been looking for a third line that really clicks, and after their first showing didn’t go perfectly, with van Riemsdyk back in the lineup and back on this line, it looks like they may well be tapping into something special.

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