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What we learned from the Flyers’ series split with the Penguins

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Some observations for your morning...

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

That’s another series in the books, folks, and the Flyers’ final meetings with the Penguins for the season are behind us. It certainly was a weird series, with the Flyers coming out and absolutely dominating in quite a strange and chaotic game on Monday, picking up a 7-2 win. and then following it up with what looked like a fine enough showing last night, where they kept things close through much of it, until they didn’t, and we looked up and suddenly the final score was 7-3. So it goes.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

Three numbers of note

58.31 xGF%

We’ll dip first into some of the underlying numbers for this series, and hey, would you look at that! They’re good!

The Flyers pretty well dominated possession through these two games, averaging an adjusted 55.13 CF% and 58.31 xGF%. The Penguins still had their legs under them (mores in last night’s game) and gave the Flyers trouble through some stretches, but overall they were able to regroup well, and with some well-timed flurries of offense, keep themselves in the mix. Things really seemed to be clicking for them, and the results were coming, in turn (even if that was more the case on Monday).

Even last night, the Flyers got the better of both of these shares (51.17 CF% and 55.75 xGF%), but they didn’t have quite the same luck or ability to cash in on their chances this time around. They were close, but not quite there. An optimist might look at that and say “well, it’s refreshing not to see them getting buried by shots, so there’s that, anyway,” but a pessimist might point to the fact that you do have to find a way to turn that possession dominance into something tangible like points on the board if you want to have a more productive season. Both are true. That’s a cop out. But we’ll leave that there.

1 goal on the power play

As as been the story for the season so far, the Flyers got a little bit of production out of their power play in this series. Not a lot. But some. And as has been the case for much of the season, it was pretty feast or famine for the Flyers on the man-advantage.

They did pick up the one goal on Monday, care of Shayne Gostisbehere, and that made for their bit of production, and they had a few flashes with strong passing plays that had them looking threatening, even if they weren’t able to make anything of them.

Now, granted, they didn’t have a whole lot of power play time to work with (just 7:23 across those two games), but outside of the goal, they didn’t really have a whole lot else going on for them. They totaled just four shots and three scoring chances, which, as we’ve seen, isn’t really a recipe for continued success. We appreciate the one goal, we really do, but it’s just a reminder that there’s still work that needs to be done, a scheme in need of addressing during the offseason.

35 saves for Alex Lyon

Lyon hasn’t gotten a whole lot of playing time this season, but he was given the scheduled start for Monday’s game, and man did he ever have himself a game. While the Penguins didn’t have the same type of offensive outpouring as the Flyers, they still did get more than their fair share of chances, and Lyon’s workload wasn't insignificant. All told, he faced 37 shots and nine high danger shots, and saved all but two of them. He was pretty steady across the whole of the game, and came up with a handful of pretty remarkable saves, just like this one.

In some ways, this feels a little bittersweet, if we want to get into the big picture a little early here. It’s been a tough run for Lyon, as he’s found himself the odd man out in many ways since Ron Hextall was fired, and while consistency has been an issue in his limited showings, he obviously has some talent, and we can’t help but wonder what might have happened if the Flyers had prioritized giving him some more time and developing him into a regular NHL goalie. But maybe that’s a conversation for another day.

Two loose observations

A bit of luck comes eventually

Something we’ve mentioned quite a bit this season is just how cursed it seems, for a number of reasons, but particularly for the fact that it feels like anything that could go wrong is going wrong, and it’s going wrong in just absolutely the most spectacular fashion. But because things have to make at least a gesture towards equalizing, we did see the Flyers get a few bounces go their way over the last couple of games, whether that was in the fact that two of their goals from last night went in off of Penguins (Jeff Carter, hello), and there were some saves on Monday that the goalie had no business making, pucks that snuck through and were saved at the last second, posts hit on wide open nets, all that jazz.

It’s too little too late, at this point, we’d like to tell the universe, but a bit of luck is still a welcome thing. It would have been nice for the Flyers to get some of these bounces earlier in the season, but hey, what can you do?

We’ve got some life

Probably the biggest standout from these two games was probably the fact that the Flyers just looked energetic and engaged in them, at long last. Now, they certainly weren’t perfect, there were moments when they looked a little flat and struggled some, but on the whole, they had a lot of jump, they were creating good chances, and they were even bringing a healthy (and sometimes more than a healthy) dose of physicality. The team, in short, looked like they had their care back, and it was a sharp departure from what we’ve gotten in the last week or so, and it’s a change that couldn’t be more welcome.

And we’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again—with the season over and the playoffs officially out of reach, it’s not a stretch to say that many of these players are still playing to keep their jobs, to not be traded away in what should be an active offseason for the Flyers. And if you’re looking to send a message that “hey, we’re not checked out, we’re still here and we still care,” this is the type of showing they needed to have. It wasn’t perfect, but we don’t really need it to be, at this point. The Flyers have been beating the drum hard here that they’re not quitters, and this time around, they put their money where their mouth is.

The big picture

We had a bit of fun this week, huh? Now, the way last night’s game ended certainly wasn’t fun, we can't pretend that it was, but there were some moments when it looked like “well, the Flyers just made thing interesting, now I’m invested again,” and then them putting up a dominant effort on Monday absolutely was fun. And maybe that seems like a trivial thing to point to, but we don’t really think it is. Because a lot of this season has sucked, there’s really no other way to put it. The schedule has been unrelenting and things have gone badly for a lot of this season, and it’s been a bit of a slog to get through at times. And yes, the season’s effectively over at this point. But seeing the Flyers beating up on the Penguins a little bit really never gets old. It was fun, and we all more than deserved it.