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Flyers continue to show progress in sweep of Capitals

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Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Don’t look now, but the Flyers are going streaking. Let’s recap the past week real quick: the Flyers kicked things off with, frankly, being pretty handily defeated by the Leafs, ending their four game winning streak. They didn’t take this as an opportunity to get down, though, as they went into Buffalo the next night and turned around and beat the Sabres pretty handily, and then took both games in this home-and-home series with the Capitals to kick start a new winning streak.

And in some ways, those results are unexpected. The Flyers have made some progress, to be sure, but we’ve seem them be overwhelmed by better (or at least healthier) teams. Putting together a streak of wins against largely teams hanging around the bottom of the league standings is one thing, but to do it against teams pretty comfortably in the playoff mix is another thing entirely.

This pair of wins over the Capitals is perhaps most clearly an indication of exactly how much the Flyers have improved of late. Wednesday’s win in Philadelphia was, by and large, the Travis Konecny show. He led the scoring charge, of course, picking up his second career hat trick (his first with any fans in the building). But his offensive efforts weren’t limited to just the scoring—he was the team’s highest producer of individual chances to boot, with nine shot attempts, seven shots on goal, and seven scoring chances across all situations. He was buzzing in this one, and he was dragging his team well into the fight.

Konecny has been a real revelation this season, and has only seemed to be picking up steam as the season continues. And this, of course, is a far cry from how he was looking last season, when he was pretty consistently visibly frustrated as he was getting his fair share of looks, but just could not seem to find the back of the net. In part due to the absences in the lineup this season, and in part due to his own good work in earning the new coach’s trust, Konecny has been given an increased role, and he’s thriving. If there’s a poster child for a Flyers Tortorella Era success story, Konecny would be it, and that was on full display on Wednesday.

But last night was different. The Capitals were able to largely shut down Konecny, so the Flyers were going to have to get their offense from somewhere else. And, credit to them, they did exactly that. After they let their first period lead slip away (care of a goal by Alex Ovechkin with just over two minutes left in the period), they kept their heads down, didn’t get frustrated, and were rewarded with two goals in under a minute to pull back comfortably into the lead.

It was impressive to see the offense show up quickly here, but what was even more impressive was how they buckled down and didn’t give up that lead for the rest of the game. It was a bend but don’t break third period for the Flyers—the Capitals’ offense was getting going, and they put up 34 shot attempts and 19 shots on goal across all situations in that final frame alone, but they didn’t get anything out of it. Carter Hart’s efforts were excellent here, as he came up big for the team again.

And despite the volume of shots allowed, it was still a pretty tidy period—the Flyers did well to make sure they were winning their battles along the boards, didn’t make any really ugly turnovers to cost themselves the lead. They locked things down well, and that’s not something we would have banked on happening earlier in the season.

It was a win that we can be pleased with, and a win the coach could be pleased with as well. Tortorella said as much after the game, that it was just a good team win. And the even better news is that it feels as though we’re seeing more of those, of late. By and large, the players are buying into what Tortorella’s selling as far as how they should be playing, and that’s paying dividends.

The message for much of this season has been that while they are not committed to the tank, wins are not necessarily paramount, but rather the continued learning of how to play the right way, the instillment of good habits, is what really matters. It’s been a worthwhile endeavor, and now that those new learned good habits are resulting in wins as well? Well, that’s just been a fun little bonus for us to enjoy.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

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