The big bad Devils, coming into this game with all the hype and the NHL-lead in standings points, didn’t look all that big or bad. Maybe playing the Flyers in Philadelphia is their kryptonite; maybe they were just due for an off-night; or maybe they are good but not as good as their season-to-date has been.
Even though the Flyers didn’t pull out the win, this was a close one all things considered. The Flyers played one of the NHL’s top teams so far this season to a draw through two periods and held them to one of their lowest shot totals of the year. They wracked up more shots, more shot attempts, and more scoring chances than the young Devils. The Devils made the best of their chances, though, and finished on one more of their chances than the Flyers did on theirs.
Is this the start of a brand new losing streak? Or does the Flyers’ strong play in this one portend something a little brighter for the coming holiday season? We’ll have a better idea on Monday, when the Flyers will host the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche.
Carter Hart’s first save of the game came not on a shot puck, but on a sliding Dougie Hamilton, who lost an edge cutting in front of Rasmus Ristolainen and skittered into Hart, bringing him all the way to the back boards and onto the ice. Surprisingly, for a team that is leading the league in fights this year, there was no extracurricular activity from the Flyers and play continued.
A very smooth breakout play gave Scott Laughton a path to the net and drew a hook on Erik Haula, giving the Flyers the first power play of the game. The Flyers best chance came just over 30 seconds in when Kevin Hayes rang one off the pipe behind Akira Schmid with the first unit set up in the zone.
Things were still tight at the period’s mid-way point, with the Flyers leading in shots 5-4 and attempts 6-5.
The first Flyers penalty would go to top pair defender Rasmus Ristolainen, who tripped Nico Hischier below the goal line and put the Devils 18th-ranked power play onto the ice with under 4 minutes left in the period.
The Flyers killed the penalty, and would take that momentum into some solid scoring chances, controlling much of the play for the final minutes of the period despite the lack of scoring. In fact, the Devils didn’t record a single shot during those last 10+ minutes, with the period finishing 12-4 in favor of the Flyers and 20-7 in shot attempts in their favor as well.
Despite carrying a long shotless stretch across periods, the Devils would get the first goal of the game–on their first shot of the second period a full six minutes in. Miles Wood came flying in with the puck, working on Ivan Provorov, then took a spill behind Hart’s net. He was left there on his own when the puck came wrapping back around the boards and he scooped it up and crossed it to Fabian Zetterlund in front of the net.
NHL Video Highlight - Fabian Zetterlund scores against the Philadelphia Flyers to make it 1-0. pic.twitter.com/DcwE8YWHTD— NJDevils Game Bot (@NJDevilsGameBot) December 4, 2022
The Flyers got another power play chance, which, after 19 in a row without a goal, had barely felt like an advantage at all, when Nic Deslauriers drew a (kind of soft) hooking call on Brendan Smith. The top unit seemed to run a few similar set plays with Konecny as a trigger guy in the slot, with the second or third actually succeeding. It was a quick series of passes from Kevin Hayes to Noah Cates in the net-adjacent position to Konecny out in front, who finished over Schmid’s blocker side and gave TK his second in as many games since returning from injury.
The now-hot Flyers power play would go right back to work after Alexander Holtz slashed Tony DeAngelo, but to no avail. Things swung back in New Jersey’s favor, when Justin Braun was caught high-sticking Nico Hischier in front of the Flyers net.
The Flyers control of the puck continued for most of the second period and they went into the second intermission after outshooting the Devils 12-8, including 8-7 at even strength.
The Devils started the final period on the hop, chasing a dump hard and cutting off Carter Hart’s outlets, stealing the puck, and finishing on an empty net, with the goal going to Dawson Mercer with an assist from Miles Wood.
NHL Video Highlight - Dawson Mercer scores against the Philadelphia Flyers to make it 2-1. pic.twitter.com/ipyLGfxJE7— NJDevils Game Bot (@NJDevilsGameBot) December 4, 2022
The Flyers generated a great chance, as first-pair defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen chased a puck below the Devils’ goal line and it somehow came bouncing out to a wide-open Owen Tippett, but he could not beat Schmid from just above the hashmarks.
They’d follow that up with a more conventional goal, as a spinning and twirling Jack Hughes followed up his own rebound off a backhand shot and shoved the puck past Hart with around 13 minutes left in the game, doubling the Devils’ lead.
NHL Video Highlight - Jack Hughes scores against the Philadelphia Flyers to make it 3-1. pic.twitter.com/m3HNLNbIil— NJDevils Game Bot (@NJDevilsGameBot) December 4, 2022
By the time Morgan Frost slashed Fetterlund and gave the Devils two minutes with an extra guy on top of their newfound two-goal lead, things felt pretty far out of reach for these Flyers. The Flyers would kill the power play off and cut the deficit in half thanks to a slap shot goal by Lukáš Sedlák, but things ultimately held.
A Joel Farabee goal that could’ve tied the game was waived off immediately thanks to incidental goaltender contact and the Flyers remained down. John Tortorella pulled Hart with over 2 minutes left and the Flyers made a push with the extra man, but could not tie the game.
- The Flyers are now 123-108-18-13 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against this Devils franchise, dating back to their time in Kansas City and Colorado.
- The Flyers power play scored tonight for the first time in its last 21 tries, a stretch that dates back to an Owen Tippett 5-on-4 goal against the Bruins in a 4-1 loss on November 17.
- Even when the Flyers are racking up more shots and attempts than their opponents, they don’t seem to be recording strong scoring chances from any high-danger areas. For instance, they outshot the Devils 12-4 in the first period, but both teams tallied two high danger chances according to Natural Stattrick. They actually bucked that in the second period tonight, with a number of breakaways, some help from some Devils penalties, and finished with 4 to the Devils’ 2.
- Is it good or bad that the New Jersey Devils are good? It’s certainly not enjoyable for Flyers fans. I mean, as a franchise, they’re like an annoying little brother who succeeds at things he doesn’t even care about. But, these Devils did a pretty wholesale rebuild–they missed the playoffs in 9 of the last 10 seasons and finished in the division’s bottom two spots in 7 of the last 8 seasons. They drafted in the top 10 in each of the last five seasons, which includes two separate first overall selections.
- Our best wishes to the Inquirer’s Giana Han, who apparently took a puck up high at practice and was still able to make an excellent “upper body injury” joke on Twitter.
- Dougie Hamilton looks pretty smart right now. He signed with New Jersey without any kind of tangible proof that they could or would pull out of their rebuild spiral, and it’s early yet, but they may have just done it and now he’s a core part of a young, hot team with a promising future.
- A very happy 77th birthday to Flyers public address announcer Lou Nolan.
- Whether Kevin Hayes sticks there or not, this whole winger experiment and the lack of complaining–as far as we know, at least–feels like great media fodder for if he eventually gets named the Flyers’ next captain.
- I wonder if CarShield has recorded low budget commercials with Ric Flair and players from every NHL team to play in every market in the league. If I was ranking acting performances and the only options were Travis Sanheim and Scott Laughton, I would give the nod to the former.