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Five things we learned from yet another overtime victory

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To quote Gary Thorne, “We’ve got a Game 7!”

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders - Game Six Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

On what would prove to be a fortuitous and thrilling Thursday night in the city of Toronto, writers like myself were spoiled for choice when it came to talking points. On the negative side of these points, one can question Alain Vigneualt’s player management, and his strange decision to challenge a goal that, to the eyes of viewers, was a good goal that was the result of a rather unfortunate deflection rather than any mischievous misdeeds from an Islander forward.

On the positive side, a shorthanded goal from the newly promoted center Scott Laughton tied the score at a critical time of the match when heroes rise and stand to be counted. Yet again, he proved to be a timely provider of offense, as he also won Game 5 with a deflection on a point shot. Most obviously, we can talk about the eventual winning goal, credited to Ivan Provorov after Kevin Hayes gained the zone and found the Russian defenseman with a centering pass that narrowly meandered its way through the slot and up towards his waiting stick.

These are all events that I will provide thoughts on, come the end of this article. However, as you the readers and I know, regardless of the outcome of this hockey game, something transpired last night that unequivocally mattered more. For the first time since his diagnosis in December, Oskar Lindblom participated in an NHL game, playing 13:58 minutes of ice time and even getting time on the second power-play unit.

There’s a quote that I was reminded of when the news about Lindblom’s presence broke, from the great John Lennon, who said that “there’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.” Tonight, and I can guarantee you Lindblom felt the same way, there wasn’t going to be anywhere else that Lindblom was meant to be other than in that rink, skates laced, ready to go. I can only imagine what it must have meant for Lindblom himself, and knowing the elation he must have felt when he took his first shift nearly brought tears to my eyes. It’s an arc that would leave even the greatest storytellers and playwrights struck with awe at the courage, tenacity, strength, and heroism that this young man has displayed. Tonight, Oskar Lindblom returned.

Now, as promised, are the observations from Game 6, a Groundhog Day-esque affair that saw the Philadelphia Flyers win their third overtime game in a playoff series for the first time in the team’s 50+ year history.

The Flyers offense was either very lucky or clinical, depending on how you want to look at it

The Islanders controlled possession for nearly the entirety of regulation play, and overall in the game, out-Corsi’d the Flyers 57.33% to 42.67% at 5-on-5. However, the Flyers, for large stretches of the game, were easily the more dangerous offensive team regardless. There was a point when the Flyers had scored three goals on less than 15 shots after Michael Raffl’s doorstep poaching effort.

The Flyers had far fewer shots on goal than the Islanders did, yet by the end of the third period the score was tied, and you can claim that as pure luck, or the Flyers finding a more lethal version of themselves when faced with chances. Luck is always somewhat of a factor in hockey, as we’ve come to accept phrases such as “the bounces didn’t go our way” as standard form, so I’d be inclined to provide an explanation that it was a mix of the two, luck combined with a more lethal hand.

Overtime, especially the second frame, was owned by the Flyers

This shouldn’t come as shock, since in all three overtime victories, the Flyers have looked to be the far more dangerous team. It’s almost as if a new wave of energy hits them at just the right moment, to their benefit of course. Though they didn’t manage to sway the Corsi battle in the 2nd overtime period, it was the closest to doing so they managed in the entire game, and they blew the Islanders out of the water in terms of Fenwick (Corsi, though not accounting for blocked shots). In the “5th period”, the Flyers led the Fenwick battle with a 57.14 FF% rate, which is a near 60-40 advantage.

Even from an eye test perspective, the Flyers were clearly forcing the issue, and taking the game to the Islanders. This is exactly what I want to see from them in such critical situations, and though these types of victories may be heart-stopping to say the least, a win is a win in the end and they came through again in sudden-death fashion.

Carter Hart was outstanding

Hart continues to keep the Flyers in games, making key saves at critical times. It was especially needed in this match, as the Flyers’ defensemen were looking to pinch more aggressively, and while this did lead to more offense when it worked, we saw quite a few 2-on-1 breakaways for the Islanders. Fortunately, Hart bailed the Flyers out, and he absolutely robbed Jordan Eberle in particular of five or six goals. It feels good to finally have a goaltender again.

Alain, what are you doing?

Playoff Alain Vigneault has been an experiment. He hadn’t done anything outright foolish until Game 6, when he challenged an Islanders’ goal that, from our perspectives, looked to contain no interference on Carter Hart despite Casey Cizikas sliding into the goaltender incidentally after the goal looked to be nearly in. There wasn’t a lot in that play, and it was the result of a bad deflection off of Justin Braun that beat Carter Hart, though Vigneault challenged regardless, and put the Flyers on the penalty kill when momentum was against them.

More consistently, however, Vigneault’s utilization of players in key moments has been baffling in this series. He continues to roll all four lines in late game crunch time scenarios when the score is tied, and let me tell you, Nate Thompson is not going to give you a good chance of winning in those moments Alain. We all know how poor Thompson has been for the Flyers thus far, and compounding this is the fact he played more at all situations than both Tyler Pitlick, who has looked good, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

Michael Raffl had a dominant return

Raffl scored the goal which tied the score at 3-3, and overall, gave a solid effort on the forecheck and helped the Flyers out when they needed him. He drove play very effectively as well, and can boast a 65.63 CF% at 5-on-5 for this contest. Talk about an instant impact!

In the end, on a day to be celebrated, even more celebrating was required in the end. We’ll see you for Game 7.

All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick