Big news! Flyers After Dark is back and the losing streak is finally over. After dropping Wednesday’s game against the Devils in pretty brutal fashion, the Flyers did well to collect themselves for this one, and put together quite a solid road game against the Golden Knights. Their offense sparked again and while a late power play goal against kept to put Vegas back within one kept things really interesting, the Flyers were able to hold on and make it to the win by the skin of their teeth. At long last.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
One of the bigger questions heading into last night’s game was just on how they were going to come out looking. They looked decent in Monday’s game and then followed that up by getting, frankly, embarrassed on Wednesday against the Devils, in a game where they were shut out for the fourth time this season and looked like they couldn’t really do much of anything. Their response to a good game was pretty rough, but the good news is that they didn’t let things continue to spiral from there. Rather, they came out for last night’s game with a nice bit of jump, looking to control play, and it really paid off for them. They picked up the first goal of the game from Kevin Hayes and assured everyone pretty quickly that they had gotten their offense rolling again. It wasn’t perfect, but the team looked faster and more engaged, and that’s exactly the type of game they needed if they wanted to put the losing streak to an end.
The power play... has some life?
In perhaps the most shocking turn of last night’s game, the Flyers actually got some production out of their power play last night. And we all know how brutal things have been on the man-advantage for them, we aren't going to beat that point into the ground, but the Flyers did take a nice little step forward there last night. Their chances were somewhat limited, as they only drew three minor penalties (and the first barely counted, as they took a penalty just five seconds into that power play). But they made the most of their chances on the next two goes at it, that’s for sure, scoring on each attempt from Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk.
They didn't create chances in bulk in this one, with just one scoring chance and one high danger chance generated in 1:24 of power play time, but they did still get some nice puck movement going, and were able to strike when their opportunities opened up. They really needed these goals (particularly van Riemsdyk) so here’s hoping this can be the start of a hot streak for them. Let’s keep the ball rolling, yeah?
The third line puts in some work
But back at 5-on-5, the Flyers also got some good work from their offense, and probably the line that stood out the most was, somewhat unexpectedly, the newly constructed third line of Max Willman, Kevin Hayes, and James van Riemsdyk. On paper, it looks like a bit of an interesting choice, but it did pay off last night. The line had really good jump, and was pretty consistently buzzing, looking for chances. They came out of this grading out well by the numbers as well, with an adjusted 50.60 CF% and 56.75 xGF%, getting the better of their matchup from a territorial standpoint. And one of the bigger drivers of that success was Kevin Hayes’s work (he also picked up a goal last night), who we’re pleased to announce is looking to be getting back to old form after all of the time off with injuries. Of course, it goes without saying how much of a boost it will be for the team if he is really Back.
And, while this line actually didn’t combine for this goal, but rather we saw it come on a shift for him on the fourth line, we should give a nod to Willman for picking up his first NHL goal last night. It was a much needed goal for the team, to be sure, but it was just a really nice moment to see. It’s been a long road for Willman, and he’s put in really great work keeping his head down and moving up in the organizational depth chart, and this felt like an excellent reward. So congratulations to him, that was a really cool moment.
Carter Hart does it again
And, of course, we shouldn't let Hart’s performance be overshadowed by the work put in by the Flyers on offense, because it really was a stellar showing. He may have gotten a bit more run support in this one, but he still had a substantial workload in this one, as he faced 44 shots on the night, and he was able to stop 41 of them. And while the skaters did a decent job keeping the majority of those chances to the outside (only nine of those shots were high danger), it was still a busy night for Hart, and he had to be pretty locked in to keep the team in this game, and that’s exactly what he did.
The Flyers lost a bit of steam late in the third period (relatable), and at times it felt like they were holding on to their lead for dear life, but Hart did well to steady things a bit and help them out. Giving up a goal inside the final two minutes was tough, but we’d be hard pressed to say that Hart played the situation poorly, and that’s the sentiment with each of the goals against, in all honesty. Hart was really sharp last night, right on in his angles and tracking the puck very well, and while the Golden Knights got a bit to work with from the defense breaking down, Hart himself wasn’t giving them much. He’s been great overall this season, but this was still one of his better showings.
Now do it again…
Okay, now that the losing streak is officially behind them, the big weight is lifted off everyone’s shoulders, the next big test is on deck for the Flyers. Now we have to see what they can do with the momentum they’re working on building up. Because even as recently as this week, we saw them look like they were taking a step forward by putting in some good work against the Avalanche, only to take two steps back again and put up a pretty anemic showing against the Devils. Now the challenge is finding a way to build on the success they’ve finally found.
The good news, if we want to go so far as to call it that, is that the Flyers are right back at it tonight against a struggling Coyotes team. If there was ever an opportunity to really find some momentum and run with it, this would be it.