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Flyers 5, Blues 2: A depleted lineup gets the job done in St. Louis

There were no regrets for watching this instead of Giroux’s Panthers debut after all!

Travis Sanheim and Kevin Hayes join Hayden Hodgson to celebrate after scoring his first NHL goal in his debut game Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

If the post-Giroux era wasn’t already officially upon us, it truly became real as the former Flyers captain took his first shift with the Panthers only about an hour before the Flyers’ puck drop.

Not gonna lie, folks, it was weird to see Claude Giroux in that Panthers jersey. It wasn’t right.

Thankfully, I had a Flyers versus St. Louis Blues game to turn to so I wouldn’t have to keep forcing myself into trying to accept it. For all of you who decided to not make the shift over like I did or just need it for other reasons, here’s your recap.

Period 1

The Flyers went onto the power play early, but the man advantage didn’t last for the full two minutes as Owen Tippett was called for hooking. The 1:05 of power play time really wasn’t very eventful, though. I did have one bittersweet thought while watching it, however. I will never have to yell at the Flyers again for putting Giroux on the right side during the power play.

However, the Flyers really didn’t need the man advantage, because back at five-on-five, Travis Konecny scored 6:37 into the period. Konecny went on a breakaway down the ice, and no one on the Blues was in position to stop him from sniping the puck into the corner. Even the one skater that had the best chance of getting in his way couldn’t stop Konecny from evading him.

The secondary assist was Hayden Hodgson’s, which was honestly really nice to see. Just earlier this season, he was on an AHL tryout with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms while signed to the ECHL’s Reading Royals. Hodgson managed to take the opportunity and run with it to earn himself the fourth most points on the Phantoms. He was signed to an NHL contract recently and now look at him. I think we could all use a feel good story like this right about now.

With 5:09 left in the period, Patrick Brown scored a rebound off of what was initially Tippett’s shot. Leading up to this goal, I could almost tell that something would happen. The Flyers seemed to be buzzing a little bit, and the shot count was in their favor as well. I was honestly expecting a Tippett goal because he in particular was getting lots of good looks, but hey, I’ll take the assist here.

Overall, this was a surprisingly dominant period for the Flyers. Shot advantage ended 9-4, and where it truly counts, the score was 2-0. Not bad for a team that that is once again icing only 11 forwards and is shaking things up by putting players like Joel Farabee at center. (I know part of it is that with an entire month of hockey still to go and playoffs out of the picture, it doesn’t hurt to experiment a little and see what players can do. However, just because Giroux’s comments about how Farabee will break all his records felt like a passing of the torch, it doesn’t mean we have to also make him a dual left winger / center.)

Period 2

Cam York was called for slashing to start the period, and it was only at 1:47 that Vladimir Tarasenko scored on the Blues’ resulting power play. Remember when that guy was supposedly rumored to come to the Flyers but it turns out all of that information was wrong? Anyways, let’s move on.

That power play goal was what the Blues needed to get themselves into this game, because the pace in the aftermath was much more back and forth. Martin Jones was finally being tested with some more dangerous shots.

The Flyers ended up with a power play of their own, and as ever, they didn’t convert. At one moment, Konecny shot the puck so wide, it was almost comical. There’s just something about having the man advantage that the Flyers just don’t do well with.

To almost add to the point that the Flyers are much better if play is just kept at 5-on-5 forever, Konecny got his second goal of the night. Wow, it’s almost like Konecny is good at this hockey thing!

Jones went to play the puck behind the net to pass it to Keith Yandle, but as it turned out, it wasn’t a safe play after all. The puck was intercepted by Logan Brown, and as Jones had to rush back to the net to cover his butt, the resulting pass to Alexei Torpochenko resulted in a goal anyways. What else can you do but laugh, folks?

There was nearly a fight between Farabee and Nikko Mikkola — who is much larger than Farabee, it should be noted — but the referees are cowards and wouldn’t let it progress past dropping the gloves. Then they both got slapped with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Then again, it’s not like Farabee has ever really won a fight he’s been in, and as Twitter user grittystan69 puts it, maybe it was for the best:

There was a little bit of 4-on-4 hockey which then became 4-on-3 as one of Kevin Hayes’ patented “I’ve got control of the puck and I’m never letting it go ever again” moments helped to draw a penalty against Brayden Schenn. Nothing really came out of those moments, though.

The period ended with the Flyers still leading 3-2. The Blues finally showed life during this period, and as Hilary Knight so rudely pointed out during ESPN’s intermission coverage, third periods do tend to be the Flyers’ kryptonite. The major question going into the third became whether the Flyers could suppress the Blues from regaining their groove enough to pull off the comeback or if the Flyers could actually buck the trend and play a good final frame.

Period 3

Throughout much of this period, the Blues were continuing to push the play, trying to generate that comeback.

And then, in a move that surely everyone had on their bingo cards going into this game, Hodgson notched his first NHL goal. Again, what a narrative for this guy.

With Jordan Binnington pulled a little under four minutes to go in the game, the Blues tried to generate a goal for themselves, but it didn’t work. In fact, James van Riemsdyk was able to takeaway the puck, pass it down to Farabee, and after maneuvering around the Blues’ defense, Farabee sent a nifty little shot up into the empty net.

That was the final nail in the coffin, and the Flyers actually managed to not just win a game, but to never blow their lead in the process.

Final thoughts

It could honestly be so easy for this team to just fully check out right now. There’s not much to really play for, the loss of Giroux probably still weighs heavily in that locker room, and I have to reiterate again just how depleted this lineup is to where not everyone is playing the position they’re accustomed to. Combine that with just how many other obstacles have been thrown the Flyers’ way this season, and I personally wouldn’t fault the Flyers at all if they just didn’t show up mentally prepared for games anymore. It’s just been that kind of a season that could break anyone’s spirit.

Yet, they came out roaring for the start of this game. They didn’t dominate the full 60 minutes, but also, most games are going to have some level of ebb and flow to them. Even the best teams in the league have moments where the opponent outplays them. Yet, the Flyers did a good enough job this game at not letting those moments where they were outplayed crush them.

The Blues are a team that’s still looking poised for the playoffs as they sit pretty solidly in the top teams in the Central Division. It isn’t like when the Flyers notched victories against, say, the Kraken — a team that’s also probably better off tanking for the rest of the season. They won against a pretty good team.

The fact I even have to talk at all about a post-Giroux era right now blows. It’s been written enough times across multiple platforms now that this is a situation that could have been fully avoided.

It’s just nice to see that the Flyers do have it in them to keep competing hard even with Giroux gone.

We’ll do this again tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. ET as the Flyers continue their road trip in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.