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What we learned from the Flyers 6-3 win over the Bruins

Some observations for your morning…

NHL: OCT 20 Bruins at Flyers Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Flyers are rolling! After picking up a pretty decisive win over the Kraken on Monday, the Bruins came to town last night, and the Flyers had themselves their toughest matchup of the season on deck. It wasn’t their tidiest win across the board, there certainly were some hiccups, but the Flyers kept their heads down and made the most of their chances, and they were able to cruise to a 6-3 win on the night. Let’s break this one down, shall we?

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

Flyers got buried by chances

For as much as we love a win, and in the short term will take one however we can, it is worth pointing out that the process for this one left something to be desired. The Flyers certainly made the most of the ones they did get, but overall they didn’t generate a ton in the way of chances, and that very easily could have hurt them. All told, they put up adjusted 39.88 CF%, 32.33 SCF%, and 33.8 xGF%, as the Bruins won their matchups pretty handily in the shots and chances department.

Now, in a single game sample we can avoid being too fussed about the fact that they were pretty handily out-chanced, considering that they got the win, and also noting that they ride drive play well in their last game against Seattle. But it’s something we’re keeping an eye out for as we move forward, because we also know that if this becomes something of a pattern, it isn’t exactly a recipe for success. Here, the end wins out, but it will be important for them to get back on track for the next one.

More positive returns from the penalty kill

The first bit of good news here, perhaps, is that the Flyers were able to keep to a relatively disciplined game (and also benefit from a few non-calls from the officials) so we didn’t see a whole lot of the penalty kill in the first place. That’s a win in and of itself. But the further good news is that the penalty kill continues to look sharp and find ways to be effective, which is a pretty massive step forward.

The Flyers had just the one minor penalty to kill off (when Rasmus Ristolainen was called for interference), and they did it successfully! They took a dangerous Bruins power play and all but neutralized it, allowing them just one perimeter shot that didn’t even make it on goal. In fact, the best chance of the two minutes was from Joel Farabee shorthanded, when he tried a nice little toe drag move to get around a defender on a breakout, and nearly beat the goalie. The Flyers have been playing a much cleaner, more aggressive game on the penalty kill, and it’s been a real step forward.

Martin Jones brings a strong debut

We already saw a good bit of Jones in the preseason, but he finally made his official debut with the Flyers last night. And while there was certainly some anxiety floating around about just how that would play out, the good news is that he held up quite well in that first start.

As we mentioned earlier, the Bruins were able to generate quite a bit in the way of offense, and that was a real test for Jones. They put up 72 shot attempts across all situations, and 40 of them made their way on goal, and that’s a heavy workload for any goaltender, much less one making his season debut. But Jones was pretty steady on the night, he wasn’t getting too scrambley and seemed to be tracking the puck well. And while he did still give up three goals, there’s more blame that can be placed on the defense in front of him for breaking down (more on that later) than on his own play. All in all, it was just about as solid of a debut as we could have asked for.

We cannot say the same for Risolainen

Now, of course, that is not a sentiment we can extend to Ristolainen, who also made his debut last night after missing the first two games to injury. He was one of those big offseason acquisitions, and there was certainly an eagerness to see how he would look now that he’s with a better team than the Sabres, and the first real look was not a stellar one.

By the numbers, Ristolainen had something of a middling night—a 38.42 CF% and 23.52 xGF%—and if those percentages would have us thinking that perhaps they bely something of a messy game, well, we’d be right. He made some big hits and that’s a fun thing, but some of those hits did pull him out of position and led to chances against. He was pretty responsible for the Taylor Hall breakaway goal, when he made a bad dump-in and then opted to go off and change, and that opened up the breakaway chance. He was also pretty responsible for the third goal, when he (6’4”, 215 pounds) lost his man and failed to clear Brad Marchand (like... my size) out of the crease. Certainly not exactly a roaring start.

Now, we don’t want to pile on to one player too much just yet. He did miss time and had to get back to speed again, maybe he’s better on Saturday. We hope he is. But it’s fair to also be looking at this with some pause, because the reality is that Ristolainen was brought in to help steady the defense, and so far he’s done anything but that.

The second line keeps rolling

But let’s close this one out on a high note. The working title for this section during the outlining phase was “the Brassard line whips,” and that should tell you just about all you need to know, right?

Okay, fine, we can say a bit more.

The second line of Cam Atkinson, Derick Brassard, and Joel Farabee has been rolling since the start of the season, and somehow they just seem to keep looking even better as time goes on. They chipped in two more goals on the evening, both from Atkinson, and were far and away the Flyers’ most productive offensively. Indeed, they were the only line to grade out well by the numbers, as they were able to put up an adjusted 55.70 CF% and 71.17 xGF%. There’s a lot of chemistry that we’re already seeing come together here, and the way that they've been able to find each other on the ice to make plays has been pretty neat to watch. It’s almost certain that they aren’t going to be able to keep scoring at quite this clip (...right...?) but they’re continuing to improve their process and playing cohesively, and that's enough to make them a threat whenever they’re on the ice. It’s been a lot of good here.