Flyers 3, Blackhawks 1: Carter Hart once again plays the role of Superman

A sloppy win, but a win nonetheless.

The flu is quite contagious, who knew!? The Flyers lost another man-game to illness, this time it being Michael Raffl who was forced to sit out. But, the good news is that Philippe Myers was able to make his return, thus pushing Andrew MacDonald back out of the lineup. Phil!

The good news is that the Flyers won! The bad news is that we still have to hear “they’re not mathematically eliminated yet” for a little bit longer. It’s getting to be overbearing if you ask me but hey, it’s still true, and who am I to crush your dreams. You do you. Anywho, Carter Hart stood on his head yet again as he led the Flyers to a 3-1 victory over Chicago.

All stats and visualizations courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

1st Period

It took just thirty seconds for the Flyers’ to make their first sloppy play in the defensive zone of the night, as Robert Hagg attempted to use the boards to clear the puck. Instead, it led to a Duncan Keith slapshot, which was promptly blocked by Oskar Lindblom. Certainly a look at what was to come.

The Blackhawks’ most dangerous chance of the period would come just moments later as Brandon Saad capitalized on a Radko Gudas turnover, and had an uncontested look at the net from the high slot — he missed. That was quite funny to me, for about two minutes because then it was our own Travis Konecny’s turn to just miss on a quality chance.

The Flyers would, however, get the first power play opportunity of the night as Gustav Forsling got called for holding Jakub Voracek. But, if true Flyers-fashion, it was the Blackhawks who managed to generate the most dangerous chances. The sequence began with Shayne Gostisbehere attempting a drop-pass in the neutral zone that was picked off by David Kampf.

Truly an angel, and an angel who’s work on this power play was not yet done. Not even 20 seconds later it was Voracek’s turn to have a pass picked off, this time by Brandon Saad, who made a brilliant pass to Marcus Kruger for yet another dangerous shorthanded chance. The Flyers, getting out-played on their own power play in the year 2019. Yeah, that just feels right.

Continuing with our “so-Flyers” theme, they conceded the first goal of the game to Erik Gustafsson. In case you’re like me and wondering how *our* Erik Gustafsson is doing, he currently has 27 points in 49 games and wears the “C” for the Lulea HF of the Swedish Hockey League. I miss him. Anyway, yes, the other Gustafsson scored after being given way too much space to work with.

And maybe we shouldn’t call him the “other” Gustafsson because he apparently has 52 points in 70 games now. He should be receiving a lot more attention from around the league than he has, and probably would be if the Blackhawks were having a better season. I mean tonight’s win has them two points out of a playoff spot. If you take anything from this recap with you, make it be that Erik Gustafsson has 15 goals and 52 points this season.

But hang on, there’s more! Just five minutes later the fourth line, yes the fourth line, would strike and it was none other than Corban Knight who picked up his first goal as a Flyers.

It came mere seconds of Justin Bailey failed to convert on a breakaway chance, and led to Bailey’s first point as a Flyer — the primary assist on the goal. Radko Gudas also recorded an assist on the play, his 15th of the season.

After 20 minutes: Flyers 1, Blackhawks 1. Shots on goal 16-14 in favor of the Flyers, 5-on-5 shot attempts 20-17 in favor of the Blackhawks.

It took only one minute of play in the second period for the Flyers to be headed to their first penalty kill of the night as Gostisbehere was called for hooking. And it was... a good kill? Yeah, a good kill. By the Flyers.

The beginning of the second period was much more low-event than the first, to my delight if we’re being honest, as it allowed me to more coherently lay my thoughts out without having to stop mid-sentence to make a gif. That boring hockey wouldn’t last for long though.

Dylan Sikura made a great play at the blue line to get around Scott Laughton — who was acting as a defenseman in place of Gostisbehere who was further up the ice at the moment — and set up Jonathan Toews for the first A-plus chance of the period. Hart made the stop, and Sikura sent the rebound over the top of the net.

Twice in this period Forsling made a diving swat at the puck, and successful stripped it from both Konecny and Voracek. You can look at that in the sense that Forsling was caught out of position twice, which is objectively bad, but the recoveries were impressive nonetheless.

Then the line tinkering would begin midway through the period as Sean Couturier and Nolan Patrick would swap lines, with Patrick joining Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, while Couturier joined Lindblom and Voracek. A change that was necessary, given how poorly the period had been going for the Flyers.

As you can see, it really didn’t fix much — at least initially — as Chicago continued to dominate the period. Carter Hart continued to do Carter Hart things, and truly was the only reason why this game remained tied.

After 40 minutes: Flyers 1, Blackhawks 1. Shots on goal 30-23 in favor of the Blackhawks, 5-on-5 shot attempts 47-26 in favor of the Blackhawks.

Just two minutes into the period third Dylan Strome hit the post following a cross-ice pass by Dylan Strome, yet another near-miss tonight. Not to be out-done, Phil Myers also rang a shot off of the post in the period.

A bit later the Flyers have a broken play turn into a 2-on-1 rush with Couturier and van Riemsdyk, which led to, you guessed it, zero shots. Corey Crawford bit on a shot coming from Couturier which never came, but once he made the pass to van Riemsdyk, JVR was no longer in a shooting position.

Although it’s not like he was in a prime shooting position when he scored the go-ahead goal moments later either. Who needs proper angles, am I right?

At first we thought that shot just had to be tipped, because what NHL goaltender allows that to beat him, but no, it was not tipped. JVR’s backhand-floater from far out managed to sneak in and give the Flyers their first lead of the night with close to ten minutes remaining in regulation.

Shortly after, it was Ryan Hartman’s turn to head to the penalty box, after he “held” Brent Seabrook as the two were in a race for the puck. It was a debatable call, considering both players were pretty much interfering with each other, but hey, they killed the penalty and maintained the lead. No harm done.

Remember how we said there were a lot of almost-goals? Yeah, that happened again when Konecny entered the zone with speed, took a low shot that Crawford was able to get a pad on and deflect the puck to the side of the net. Then, Konecny tried to hit Hartman with as pass as he was charging towards the net, but Hartman whiffed. Thankfully the moment would not come back to haunt them, as Couturier would ice the game with just over one minute remaining with an empty net goal.

This win brings the Flyers to within 5 points of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern conference. And with 40 saves tonight, they have Hart to thank for that.

Final numbers: Flyers 3, Blackhawks 1. Shots on goal 41-28 in favor of the Blackhawks, shot attempts 64-34 Blackhawks.