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Flyers returned to early season form in win over Devils

With last night’s 2-1 win over the Devils, the Flyers closed out their road trip with collecting a respectable enough four out of a possible eight points, and in a way, that feels like a bit of a jarring factoid. The way they got to those four points was not, shall we say, particularly pretty. The Flyers picked up points in overtime losses in Vegas and Arizona, and were cruising into last night’s game on a four game winless streak. Last night’s win was their 10th of the season, and they were the last in the Eastern Conference to hit that mark (in the whole of the league, only the Coyotes, Blackhawks, and Ducks have still failed to do the same). They showed strong play in flashes, but struggled with consistency, and equally found themselves badly outplayed at times.

And last night’s win, though it was a win, felt a bit vintage (to the beginning of the season, at least). The Flyers again showed some flashes of looking dangerous offensively, and they did get two nice goals on the night, but they were largely outplayed in this one. They struggled to move the puck through the neutral zone with control, and that was a big momentum killer for them. They did well to limit the number of very dangerous chance that the Devils were able to generate (13 at 5-on-5), but they were still bleeding a ton of chances on the whole (60 shot attempts and 30 scoring chances at 5-on-5, 80 and 40 respectively in all situations).

In short, if we look at the overall process at work in this game, it wasn’t one that the Flyers particularly “deserved” to win, but it was one that they were able to hang on for all the same. It almost was feeling like they had exhausted their quota for those types of wins early in the season, with how things have been going over the last month, but it looks like they were good for at least one more. So it goes.

Bits and bobs

Carter Hart was the star again

The Flyers being back in early season form, winning games that they had no business winning, of course means that Carter Hart was really on his game. He’s been excellent for really the whole of the season, but last night was one of his absolute best single showings.

He made a handful of quite flashy, very timely saves like this one, which was *drumroll* his 34th save of the night, with 16:54 left in the third period. It was, of course a very busy night for Hart. He faced 49 shots on the whole, and made 48 saves, which tied him for his season-high in saves in a single game. The Flyers spent a lot of time defending in this one, and things could have gotten away from them quite easily, and Hart was the one thing preventing this.

As we said, Hart has been great this season, and really the only drop-off we’ve seen from him has tended to be when he’s riding a streak of something like seven or eight consecutive starts, which is, frankly, insane. Last night he was on a whole other planet, and surprise, it was his first game back after having a night off on Tuesday. A bit of rest can work wonders, that’s our lesson here.

A mixed bag from the power play

This game was also a pretty undisciplined one on both side (36 penalty minutes dealt out in total), so we saw a whole lot of special teams in this one. And it was, as our section title tells us, a mixed bag for the Flyers on the power play side.

The good: they did get a bit of scoring out of their power play, and it was a nice goal, at that.

The bad: outside of that goal, they really had a whole lot of nothing going on while on the power play. While up a man, they were actually outshot four to five, and and managed just one high danger chance for, in 6:21 of ice time. They even had a bit over a minute of 5-on-3 time to work with, and they got absolutely nothing out of that—no shots, they could barely get the puck into the offensive zone.

And really, that was their biggest issue on the night. They struggled in the neutral zone at even strength, and we saw the same thing on the power play as well. Their entries were often broken up quite easily, or they wasted time on drop passes in the neutral zone, trying to set up those attempted entries. There was a bit of a lack of urgency at times. Now, we know that the constantly shifting personnel situation is certainly not helping the power play’s search for a bit of momentum, but the struggle in the more or less basics is a bit concerning. There’s a bit of work to be done here, still.

Welcome (back) Olle Lycksell!

If we thought that the Flyers were finally escaping the clutches of whatever injury curse they’ve got going on, well, we would have been wrong. After leaving Tuesday’s game with an injury, Zack MacEwen was good to go for last night’s game, but apparently both Patrick Brown and Max Willman picked up upper body injuries in that game, so they were not good to go. The silver lining, perhaps, of this was that it meant Olle Lycksell—who’s been on a run of pretty stellar play down in the AHL—got the call up for this game, and we got to see another exciting prospect get a look at the NHL level.

And all in all, it was a fine game for Lycksell. He was slated into a spot in the top-9, which was a nice opportunity, but with all of the special teams time we had in this one, we didn’t get to see as much of him as we might have in a more normal game. He ended up with 10:07 of ice time in this one, and a pretty quiet stat line, failing to record even a shot attempt. But it wasn’t all lackluster—by the eye, Lycksell looked more comfortable in this game than in his debut, and he flashed some positive impacts in transition (a real strength of his at the AHL level, and even more remarkable considering how much the team as a whole struggled in this area last night). It’s a small sample, and it’s still up in the air how much longer he’ll be sticking around with the team, but if nothing else, it’s encouraging to see that he looked even just a little bit better in his next NHL showing.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.