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What we learned from the Flyers’ hard fought shootout win over the Sabres

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Some observations for your morning...

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that sure was a weird one. The Flyers came out against a last-in-the-conference Sabres team, playing without Jack Eichel, and promptly fell into a 3-1 hole. Now, they were able to claw their way out, force their way past regulation, then pick up a win in overtime, and that result feels like one we should be pleased with. And yet, we also can’t shake the feeling that it next should have gotten to the point of needing a shootout in the first place. There’s a lot to reconcile here, folks.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

1. Yep, the top line is still good

After the pair of losses they put up over the weekend, the Flyers really needed to come out with a statement to start this one, and boy did they ever, and who else was the one to make it but the line of James van Riemsdyk, Sean Couturier, and Joel Farabee. With a bit of crisp passing, they were able to get the puck to van Riemsdyk in front, who picked up the goal and got the Flyers the early lead.

This line was a really good one for the Flyers across the board, though, as they combined for some solid shot impact numbers, putting up an adjusted 71.35 CF% and 54.49 xGF%, bringing a sound underlying process to match their bit of flash, and pretty well dominating their matchups.

This, though, also puts the Flyers in something of a tough situation. This line is working extremely well right now, but the component parts are also working quite well on their own. So, if secondary scoring proves to be an issue going forward, do you bite the bullet and break up this line? Or just keep sending them out there and hoping they can beat up on their opponents and carry the team until the rest of the lines figure it out? There isn’t an easy answer to this question, but the Flyers are nearing a point when they’ll have to consider it.

2. A power play goal? In this economy?

It happened folks! The Flyers’ power play has been a pretty distinct weak spot for them for the whole of the season, but they got themselves on the board last night, and really, it couldn’t have been more perfect, with a vintage Gostisbehere bomb of a shot from the point beating Jonas Johansson and tying the game for the Flyers. What a treat.

But, to swing back in with some bad news (sorry), we do have to note that outside of that goal scored, the power play really wasn’t that dangerous last night. They had 7:08 of time to work with in total, and in that time only put up eight shot attempts, three shots on goal, and one scoring chance. They’re still looking for that right mix, and they just aren’t at a point where they’re looking dangerous on a more or less consistent basis. So we’ll take the goal, we’ll absolutely take it, but the power play does still remain a work in progress.

3. 5-on-5 play can only be good against the Sabres, apparently

As we continue to monitor the Flyers’ underlying process at 5-on-5, the big mood coming out of this game is “wow, this is the best these numbers have looked since, well, the last time the Flyers played the Sabres.” Jokes aside (and while it sure didn’t feel like they were getting the better of play while they were losing), the Flyers did put up a strong territorial showing in this one. All told, they did get the better of the share of both raw shot attempts and more dangerous chances, putting up an adjusted 66.67 CF% and 61.02 xGF%, edges that they carried with them throughout the game (that is, not skewed by say one really dominant period).

We know, though, that this wasn’t a perfect game, and the Flyers are going to need to start putting up better numbers against teams that aren’t last in the conference, but we can at least hope this is a step in the right direction. We’ll see how that goes.

4. On making your own luck

As was the case on Saturday against the Penguins, we’re coming away from this one feeling like it was, all in all, kind of a messy game for all parties involved. There were some pretty ugly breakdowns for both sides, and neither team looked particularly sharp for the whole of the game. And as we noted above, the Flyers did get the better of the chances in this one, and that was the case even when they were stuck in that 3-1 hole. They were facing the same breakdowns in front of them as they were making themselves, but they just weren’t able to cash in on them to the same degree.

And what do we make of this? Maybe nothing. Sometimes the bounces just don’t go your way and it is what it is. Hockey can be a weird and flukey game, after all. But there may well also be something to be said for making one’s own luck, and maybe the Flyers just haven’t been playing well enough of late to deserve those bounces to be going their way in the first place.

5. Fatigue check

One of the big pieces to note from last weekend’s games was the fact that the Flyers looked pretty tired and flat for good stretches of time, and that was a real concern, and we were anxious to see just how they looked on the energy front after that. And it turns out that all the Flyers needed was a full day off, and somewhat inexplicably, even though they were playing playing with 11 forwards in this game (well, 10 for a period of time), they showed some nice jump, good intensity, and were able to use that to battle back from a deficit. How about that.

Does this mean all of our future worries are quelled? No. Fatigue is almost certainly going to remain an issue as we keep going here, so we’ll keep an eye on how they look and how personnel is managed to combat that fatigue.