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What we learned from the Flyers’ 2-1 shootout win over the Penguins

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Some observations for your morning...

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

How about a little history? After a pretty positively brutal loss to the Capitals on Tuesday, the Flyers were in Pittsburgh last night looking to get themselves back on track, even if only marginally. It wasn’t going to be a smooth go of it, though, as they gave up the first goal of the game in the second period and found themselves a hole once again. But they were able to hang on, and with Jake Voracek tying the game early in the third, they forced overtime, and ultimately this one went to a shootout, and two nifty goals and some stellar goaltending propelled them to the win.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

Playing the hits

This was certainly a nice win for the Flyers, that’s absolutely for certain, but as has been the case for a lot of this season, that also comes with the fact that the underlying numbers were somehow less stellar. To recycle a phrase we've had to use a lot this season, the numbers were a bit of a mixed bag. The Flyers lost in the overall shot attempt differential, putting up an adjusted 46.39 CF%, which was a little rough, but they were able to still help themselves out a bit by limiting the number of really dangerous chances the Penguins got, and came out of this one with an adjusted 55.59 xGF%. And that second piece is really the key to how they were able to effective in this one and keep the game from getting out of hand. Carter Hart played a very good game (more on that later), but the defense being largely able to lock things down in front of him was a big help. It wasn't a perfect effort, but it was enough.

Carter Hart comes up big

After Brian Elliott got the start in Tuesday’s loss to the Capitals, this meant that Hart was to get the nod for this one, and the good news is that, while he’s been trending in the right direction for the last few games, this one was a really solid one. All told, he only allowed one goal on 32 total shots faced across the course of the game. The goal against was decidedly a tough one—in fairness, we can acknowledge that Nolan Patrick seemed pretty casual about getting back and trying to do any sort of defensive play to break up Crosby’s chance, and that’s tough, but that was one that Hart really needed to stop.

But the good news, of course, is how he was able to rebound after allowing that goal. There were a couple more, shall we say, interesting moments after that, but by and large Hart was solid, and came up with a good handful of really good saves to keep the team in the game. As we mentioned, his workload wasn’t massive in terms of dangerous shots against (he faced nine in total), but he shut down each one he faced after that first goal. In truth, this was probably his best game since he returned from his bit of time off to reset, and he’s really getting back to looking like this normal steady, confident self, and it’s a real treat to see.

Welcome, Wade Allison!

And the really big news of the night: Wade Allison finally made his NHL debut. He’s been positively tearing it up with the Phantoms to start his season (four goals and nine points in his first eight games), and the promotion was certainly well deserved. The Flyers were able to ease him into the mix last night, starting him on the fourth line, and he took that opportunity and really ran with it.

Allison brought a whole lot of energy right from the jump, and helped set up a scoring chance early in the game, and that really set the tone for the rest of the game to come. He was active around the net, and ended up tied with Joel Farabee for the team lead in individual high danger chances with three at 5-on-5, despite playing two fewer minutes. He very nearly closed on those chances as well, but the bounces weren’t going for him, unfortunately. but with the volume of chances he’s creating, it doesn’t feel like it will be long before he breaks through.

But overall it was a pretty well-rounded game for Allison, as he also put up pretty solid underlying numbers, with an adjusted 47.38 CF% (+.12 Rel) and 66.32 xGF% (+13.9 Rel). His impact was pretty immediately felt, and he didn’t really seem to have any trouble keeping up with the pace of play at this level. If nothing else, that first game should be enough to keep him in the lineup going forward, so we’re excited to see what he’s able to do with this chance down the stretch.

Not really Justin Braun’s night

We kind of hate to pick on just one player after a game that we’re generally coming away from feeling pretty good about, but this one does deserve a quick note. It was a pretty tough night for Justin Braun, on the whole. He put up an adjusted 28.92 CF% and 37.69 xGF% (which were -35 and -26.45 percent relative, respectively), and really seemed to be struggling there. This matches what the eye told us—he got exposed a couple of times and looked a bit slow in this one, and that really hindered his effectiveness.

And really, we should have seen this coming. At his age, you can’t really expect Braun to be playing top pair minutes just about night in and night out, he’s bound to start breaking down eventually. And maybe this was just a poor game and he rebounds on Saturday and we look like fools, but it really stands to reason that we’re just seeing the effects of being overworked for much of this season finally catching up. And if that’s the case, we’re likely in for an interesting final run of games to close out the season from him (unfortunately through really no fault of his own).

This was... better?

Now, all of that said, it seems like the feeling we can come away from this game with is generally good? The first post-deadline game was a disaster, but this was certainly a step back in the right direction. The Flyers weren’t perfect in this one, but they were able to stick to a relatively simple game, get their chances, and eliminate some of the bigger, uglier breakdowns that have been plaguing them. We’re not sure that we would call this high event hockey necessarily, but it was enough to get the job done, and as we’ve talked about, there were a lot of positives to come away from this one with.

Are we expecting that the Flyers are suddenly going to turn things on and make some kind of miracle push to make things interesting down the stretch here? Not really, no. But this game was just the sort of thing we were looking for when we said that the Flyers can salvage something of this season, and prove that they’re better than the ugly games they’ve been putting together.

And hey, maybe we can have a little fun along the way. *furiously knocking on wood*