The Philadelphia Flyers kept their season alive last night thanks to Scott Laughton’s first career overtime goal in the regular season or postseason. On a night where we were asking for the team’s top players to show up they did in victorious fashion and guaranteed us at least one more Flyers’ playoff game if not more. It took a few goal droughts being snapped, Carter Hart bailing out the team a few times in overtime, and a dirty-but-good tally at the end but the Flyers got the job done. Let’s dig a little deeper into the numbers to see how they did it.
87.45 - Expected goals-for percentage for the top line
There’s no denying the line of Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek put their Big Boy Pants on to help redefine their legacy in last night’s victory. To go along with their xGF%, this trio also put together an 82.35 Corsi-For percentage (14 shot attempts for with three against) while scoring a goal on five shots and limiting the Islanders to just one puck on net. They accomplished all this in 7:43 of 5-on-5 work and potted a goal against the New York Islanders’ second line of Anthony Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Josh Bailey, which has been causing problems for Philly all series long.
Speaking of the goal, let’s take a second to talk about Giroux. Everybody (I think literally everybody) has been calling him out the last few days and it was deserved. He showed up and could have had a goal in Game 4, but it’s really hard to make excuses for only one goal in 26 playoff games when you are still one of the go-to guys. Last night he made it known that he wasn’t going down without throwing the kitchen sink at the Islanders as he tossed five pucks Semyon Varlamov’s way in all situations providing three scoring chances in the process. With his goal last night he now has two goals over the Flyers’ last three elimination games in the playoffs, as he scored in the first period of the Orange and Black’s Game 6 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the 2018 postseason while Philly trailed 3-1 in the series.
18 - games the Flyers went without a goal from James van Riemsdyk.
Moving onto another player who needed to step up, let’s take a second to talk about van Riemsdyk’s night at the office. JVR snapped his 12-game goal drought last night, but more importantly it ended an 18-game stretch where the Flyers went without a tally from the second overall pick in 2007. I’m positioning it this way because he wasn’t hurt in those games he was scratched. The former Toronto Maple Leaf can go for stretches of time without making an impact in the offensive zone, but it seems like right now he might be heating up. On top of giving the Flyers a lead late in the second period he produced six individual shot attempts at 5-on-5 in a single game for a second time in the bubble and posted two 5-on-5 scoring chances to make it three straight games with two individual scoring chances or more. JVR seemingly was left out of the conversation when it came to the Flyers needing their big guns to produce if they want to have a chance in this series, but keep an eye on the power forward who should be camping out in front as the team was trying to generate scoring chances manufacturing the puck low-to-high and looking for greasy goals.
3 - The number that defined Kevin Hayes’ evening.
A Flyers’ forward who wasn’t as lucky last night was Hayes, who failed to find the back of the net despite the fact he had a team-high three individual high-danger shot attempts and game-high six shots on goal. He had two of them come on a pretty strong wraparound attempt halfway through the first period...
and his third came off a nice centering pass from Konecny in overtime.
To make matters worse he was out there for each one of the Islanders’ tallies. He was high in the slot when Bailey pounded home the awkward opening goal with bodies in the crease, he couldn’t get in the passing lane on Nelson’s one-timer, and was high in the zone waiting for Nate Thompson and Phil Myers to win a puck battle down low on Derick Brassard’s game-tying goal. There’s not much he could have done about the Isles’ first pair, but he probably could have been more involved in regaining possession of the puck while Thompson struggled in the corner on Brassard’s tally.
10 - high-danger saves for Carter Hart
Last night Hart stopped 10 of the Islanders’ 12 high-danger shots on goal in all situations to record his fourth game in the bubble where he denied 10 or more high-danger shots in a single night. He made several during regulation, but his most notable stops came on a Devon Toews’ chance off a cross-ice pass 1:36 into overtime...
...and his stop on a Nelson breakaway less than three minutes later to give Philly the opportunity to win.
In his 12 games in the bubble, Hart has seen 10 or more high-danger shots in five different outings. For comparison’s sake Varlamov hasn’t been asked to stop more than eight so far in the bubble. The only other goalie still around in the second round that’s been asked to do more is Jacob Markstrom who has seen 10 or more high-danger shots in six games. Hart is the only one with four contests featuring 10 or more saves though, as the Vancouver Canuck has only reached double digit high-danger saves in three of those six games. That’s a long fancy way of saying Hart has been killing it and he came through once again last night.
2 - goals the top pair were on the ice for at 5-on-5.
Another unit of the team that’s been receiving some heat lately is the top pair of Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen, who answered the call last night. Not only were they on the ice for a pair of Flyers’ 5-on-5 markers they were the cause of them, as Niskanen ended a 16-game goal drought in the third period and Provorov set up Laughton’s winner. The tandem avoided being on the ice for an Islanders’ 5-on-5 goal for the first time all series, as they had allowed six 5-on-5 goals against over the previous five games they had been paired together dating back to Game 5 against the Montreal Canadiens with at least one goal against in each tilt. It wasn’t exactly the prettiest performance, as New York had 10 of the 17 5-on-5 shots that happened while the pair were out there and they finished the contest with a 36 xGF%, but they did what they had to do last night to keep the season alive.
2 (cont.) - assists for Travis Konecny
Along with Giroux and Niskanen another player receiving a lot of criticism lately is Konecny. It makes sense as he entered last night with zero goals and four assists in the Flyers’ first 13 games in the bubble with two of those helpers coming in the round robin against the Washington Capitals. He didn’t snap the dry spell last night, but Konecny did post a pair of helpers and was one of the team’s better players. His cross-ice pass to Niskanen to set up the d-man’s goal was a thing of beauty and even though he only had the secondary assist on JVR’s goal his ability to work the puck away from Adam Pelech was critical in starting the odd-man rush. Konecny also hit the net at 5-on-5 four different times last night for a personal high in a game since the season resumed and he tied his high for individual 5-on-5 shot attempts since bubble play with six.
A lot was made about how the big guns needed to start producing if the Flyers wanted any shot of forcing a Game 6 and nearly all of them stood out. Konecny may not have lit the lamp last night, but if he’s going to be one of, if not the most noticeable skaters out there on a nightly basis while setting up teammates to produce that’ll do.
2.15 - The fourth line’s xGF%
One group that didn’t do that well last night was the fourth line. In 6:46 of 5-on-5 work last night the Derek Grant - Nate Thompson - Nicolas Aube-Kubel unit posted a 20 CF% (two shot attempts for with eight against) and a 2.15 xGF% while managing to be outshot 6-0. To make matters worse Thompson was out there with Konecny and Hayes for Brassard’s equalizer. Thompson’s drawn the ire of a lot of Flyers’ fans because of the fact he brings next to nothing in terms of offensive upside and Alain Vigneault’s willingness to throw him out there against top talent. The reason why fans don’t want to see that is this approach is a version of death by 1,000 cuts. If the fourth line is literally not doing anything offensively and just living in the defensive zone watching shots reach the net all night eventually that inexplicable total of zero goals against is going to be erased. The approach of ‘well they aren’t letting up goals’ to explain why some of the players on the bottom units of this team are still in the lineup nearly cost them the season last night as both Thompson and Robert Hagg were front and center on Brassard’s goal. The fourth line wasn’t out there for a goal against last night, but it feels like AV is playing with fire and it might blow up in his face at the worst time.