The Philadelphia Flyers have won a hockey game! A 5-2 win in Calgary on Monday night against a team that already beat them once recently ended the streak that lasted for way too long. There were a few tweaks to the lineup and to the systems implemented by Dave Hakstol, and the Flyers worked hard to create some good fortune of their own.
A late first period goal from Valtteri Filppula evened the game at 1 after a bad rebound from Brian Elliott, then Elliott came up huge in the second period as he kept the game tied before the Flyers broke it open with three goals in 71 seconds. Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton each emerged from under the radar to have great games, while Jake Voracek keeps producing no matter where you put him.
It was a huge relief to finally get a win, but there were still a few questions that needed answered after the game.
Here are five storylines and a few final thoughts from the Flyers’ streak-ending win in Calgary.
Raffl rewarded for hard work
Raffl has had a tough season so far on the scoresheet. He had no points in his first 21 games despite playing well, but finally broke out with three points (two goals, one assist) in a three-game span. After two games of fruitless efforts, Raffl was rewarded for his hard work in Monday night’s win against the Flames.
Raffl was promoted to the second line for the game, after being on the fourth line to start the season and the “third” line the past few games. He was still alongside centerman Valtteri Filppula, but was joined on the right side by Jake Voracek. It was a combination that instantly clicked for the Flyers.
The new second line set the tone for the Flyers in this one, and that was led partially by Raffl. He did the dirty work to set up the Flyers’ first goal late in the 1st period.
Andrew MacDonald blocked a shot off a faceoff in the defensive zone and passed it to Raffl, who was making his way through the center of the zone. He picked up the puck a few strides in front of the blue line, carried it through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, before making a move to get wide on Mark Giordano. He carried the puck in deep and passed it to the opposite corner below the line to Voracek, who came out in front for a backhand try.
Then it was Filppula’s turn to collect the rebound and get it behind the net to Voracek, who was knocked down from behind. Raffl was standing on the other side of the net, hoping for a puck to squirt loose, as he alertly made his way behind and although he didn’t beat Giordano to the puck, he tied him up just enough and the puck bounced towards the corner where Filppula corralled it. The centerman skated up the wall towards the blue line and dropped the puck to MacDonald, who fired it on net. His shot bounced off Voracek in front and into the crease, where Raffl and Filppula each got their sticks on it to jam it home.
Raffl tragically did not get a point on the play, as Filppula boxed him out for the goal and Voracek and MacDonald go tthe assists, but it was his hard work that got it all started and kept the play alive.
He was rewarded with a point on the next Flyers’ goal, however. After a big penalty kill and pressure from the Flames, Andrew MacDonald carried the puck out of the zone, to the red line, and dumped it in. Mike Smith couldn’t knock the puck down, and Raffl came flying off the bench to pressure Giordano into a pass back across the ice behind the net. Credit to Claude Giroux here as well, who skated hard to the bench, allowing Raffl to get on the ice quickly and in on the forecheck.
Giordano’s pass went off the skate of Dougie Hamilton as he couldn’t settle it, and bounced right out to Raffl who kept the hustle going on the forecheck. He fed Gostisbehere for a one-timer at the point, whose shot was deflected in front by Scott Laughton for a 2-1 lead. It was the first of two in 25 seconds, and three in 71 seconds. The penalty kill was huge, and it kept the Flyers alive to start their outburst.
The little things added up in a positive way for the Flyers on that goal. Elliott made a few key stops, MacDonald got the line and sent it in deep rather than potentially icing it, Giroux changed quickly, Raffl forechecked hard, and Laughton got to the front of the net. Getting a few bounces, like the one off of Hamilton’s skate and off the post and back off Smith and in, helps as well. Maybe the Flyers were creating their own luck.
25 seconds after that goal, Raffl rocketed home one of his own.
Like the Flyers’ first goal, it was a great effort from the whole line. Ivan Provorov stick-lifted Sean Monahan, allowing Filppula to pick the puck up and exit the zone. He hit Raffl streaking up the middle, who went in on a two-on-one with Voracek. Raffl drew a penalty as he passed it across to Voracek, who gave it back to Raffl for a beautiful one-time goal.
There wasn’t necessarily any gritty work by Raffl on that goal, but rather it was a nice play set up by a subtle tie up in the defensive zone by Provorov. Filppula collected the puck, fed his wingers for a give-and-go, and they put it in the back of the net.
Raffl ended with just those two points on the night, but should’ve had at least three given his work on the first goal and his play throughout the night.
The whole second line really benefitted from playing with each other, and Hakstol recognized that and gave them the ice time they deserved. Filppula led the Flyers forwards with 20:58, while Voracek (18:50) and Raffl (17:47) weren’t too far behind him.
Speaking of Voracek, he definitely deserves some credit tonight. He is the star on that line and therefore the driving force. He helped set up both Filppula’s and Raffl’s goals, while also getting a power-play assist on Simmonds’ goal. The critics pile on him when he makes a minor mistake, so he deserves praise for a great game. He is now tied for second in the league with 26 assists, and tied for sixth in the league with 33 points.
Laughton leads way for fourth line
After playing a few games with either Dale Weise or Jori Lehtera, Scott Laughton must’ve been relieved when he saw that he was playing with his old friend Taylor Leier and Jordan Weal on Monday night. Leier returned to the lineup after three games as a healthy scratch, and he definitely helped out, but Weal and moreso Laughton stole the headlines for the fourth line in Calgary.
His first goal of the night was described above, with him getting a stick on Gostisbehere’s point shot, and it was well-deserved for the fourth-line stalwart. From Laughton’s perspective, however, he read the pass from Raffl to Gostisbehere, set up behind the defense and in front of Smith, and got his stick out to just get a piece of it. Then he slammed it home after it crossed the line for good measure.
Laughton has been a constant as the fourth-line center after adjusting to a more defensive-centric role last season with the Phantoms. He’s embraced the role with open arms and he has thrived there.
His second goal of the night, and the Flyers’ extra insurance goal early in the third period, was your typical gritty fourth-line goal. Laughton helped tie up Sean Monahan as he entered the zone, allowing the Flyers to swarm to the puck and win the battle. Leier and Laughton exited the zone simultaneously, with Weal on the left side. Laughton got to the puck first in the neutral zone and chipped it in deep, starting a forecheck and cycle.
He also got to the puck first along the endboards, where Weal joined him in getting it along the boards to Leier. He slung it back down to Weal, who backhanded a wraparound try on net. His shot rebounded right to Laughton, who was crashing the net, and he buried it for his second of the night.
The hard work from Laughton and the fourth line helped get the Flyers that extra insurance goal, and they kept the Flames off the board in the final period as well. The line had a great night and helped keep a somewhat dangerous line of Jaromir Jagr, Sam Bennett, and Mark Jankowski off the scoreboard.
Weal (15:09; extra power-play time), Laughton (13:26) and Leier (12:26) all ended up with a lot more ice time than the third line, but for good reason. They were getting the job done on both ends of the ice. I don’t necessarily agree with the huge gap in icetime disparity, which I will touch on shortly, but the fourth line definitely deserved their minutes in Calgary.
Elliott, PK come up huge
Brian Elliott was burnt by his old team in Philadelphia, but he got the last laugh last night in Calgary. The former Flame made 43 saves in a tremendous effort for a 5-2 win.
Elliott admittedly misplayed the Flames’ first goal as he gave up a huge rebound late in the first period, but he was rock solid after that. While all of Elliott’s saves weren’t of the ten-bell variety, as the Flyers did a good job of keeping the Flames to the outside, 43 saves is still a large number of saves. Several of them came with the game tied as well, which could’ve swung momentum and changed the game.
His biggest saves came on the Flyers’ first penalty kill and the moments afterwards. The penalty killers did a good job, but Elliott was by far the best penalty killer of the bunch as he came up with a few huge saves early in the second period. Those saves after MacDonald’s hooking penalty kept the game tied, and allowed the Flyers to push back.
Less than a minute after MacDonald’s penalty was killed, Laughton scored his first goal of the night. It was also the first of two goals in 25 seconds and three in 71 seconds as mentioned above. The forwards did well in scoring those goals to turn the tide, but we can’t forget about the saves Elliott made to keep the game tied.
The Flyers then killed Provorov’s penalty later in the second period, keeping the ball in the Flyers’ court with a 4-1 lead. Monahan’s late goal cut it to 4-2, but that second period, especially the kill and ensuing barrage of goals, decided the game.
In total Elliott faced 80 shot attempts, 61 unblocked attempted, 45 shots on goal, 37 scoring chances, and 11 high-danger scoring chances.
1-2-2 forecheck, quantity over quality
Not only did Dave Hakstol mix up the lines for Monday night’s game, but he instituted a bit of a system change as well. It was noted early in the broadcast that the Flyers shifted to more of a 1-2-2 forecheck against Calgary. That brings one forward in deep pressuring the puck, with the two other forwards hanging back a bit, and the two defensemen behind them obviously. It can be implemented in different stages depending on the situation, with an aggressive 1-2-2 going in a bit deeper, while a passive 1-2-2, or a neutral zone 1-2-2, puts the “deep” forward high in the offensive zone, with the other two in the neutral zone and the defensemen back near the blue line.
Whatever the case may be, it was evident that the Flyers tweaked that early in the game, and then Brian Elliott commented on it after the game. It seemed to work well for the Flyers, who not only created chances (and Laughton’s goal) off turnovers, but also kept the Flames to the outside.
The Flyers were stuck in a rut during their losing streak. Even when they played well, a few mistakes cost them the game. Then they had a few games where they were flat out awful. Those two most recent losses resulted in the lines being shaken up, and a change to the forecheck as well.
Hakstol has been criticized for his stubbornness, and there is still plenty of that to get to, but he broke up all four lines, including one of the best lines in the league, and adjusted his systems a bit to help get the Flyers out of a funk. The Flyers were out-attempted 80-39 overall (65-30 at 5v5) and out-shot 45-21 (36-18 at 5v5), but actually had a higher expected goals for. They tied the Flames in high-danger chances with 11 (9 at 5v5), and they had a higher xGF overall (2.92-2.44) and at 5v5 play (2.12-1.74).
The Flyers bled shot attempts against, but they were able to keep the Flames to the outside and Elliott did his job. Meanwhile, the Flyers actually got the goals from the dirty areas, with most of their goals coming either in or right in front of the blue paint.
It was a refreshing change of pace. The Flyers helped create some of their own luck by getting to the dirty areas and the Flames were left frustrated by big saves and not enough threatening shots.
Konecny, rookies benched in 3rd
As great it was for the Flyers to get a win, the ice time in the third period left a bitter taste in the mouths of many in what should’ve been a joyous night. Hakstol shortened the bench to nine forwards and five defensemen in the third period with the Flyers up 5-2. The odd men out? Yep, you guessed it. Besides Dale Weise, who left the game (and later returned to the bench) after taking a hit up high, the other three players benched were the young guns: Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim, and Nolan Patrick.
Konecny received zero shifts in the third period after playing 2:47 in the second, Sanheim got one shift of 18 seconds in the 3rd after playing 3:05 in the 2nd, and Patrick got two shifts, both on the power play, for 1:33 in the 3rd after playing 2:07 in the 2nd. It was the second-straight game that the third period decisions were troublesome, with Konecny playing just 36 seconds in the 3rd on Saturday afternoon.
The line of Konecny, Patrick, and Weise was by far the worst line for the Flyers on Monday night. Their mistakes (Patrick’s pass, Weise’s failed reception of that pass and lack of effort on the backcheck) led to the Flames’ second goal, and they were rather abysmal all night besides a few plays (including Konecny’s sweet saucer pass), so limiting their ice time is understandable. But flat out benching Konecny in the 3rd, and limiting Patrick to the power play is mind blowing.
You want to rely on the players and lines that are playing the best that night to close out a win, especially during such a long losing streak, but not giving that line at least one or two shifts is baffling. It was the second-straight low-leverage third period, with the Flyers trailing by three on Saturday and leading by three last night, which is the perfect time to let the rookies gain some experience.
Konecny hasn’t been lighting the world on fire by any means, but he has offensive potential and he hasn’t been a huge liability defensively. He has a miscue here or there, as he is more of an offensive specialist, so let him free and see what he can do. If he makes a mistake, or the Flames score to make it a two-goal game, roll with what was working before.
Patrick is another case. He has had a few poor decisions with the puck recently that have led to goals against, and he is still trying to find his footing. Every so often he has a great play or a good game, like against the Islanders, but overall he has been disappointing. I didn’t expect him to be a star from the get go, and perhaps the concussion affected things, but he hasn’t been as effective as I thought he would be. But what I said about Konecny rings true with Patrick, possibly to a larger extent. Patrick is undoubtedly a big part of the future. Let him play in a three-goal game.
Then there’s Sanheim. Sure, he may have not been there to clear a surprising rebound away from Troy Brouwer, but that goal was far from his fault. He has been great offensively and while he is still growing defensively, he is better than the ice time he was given. The 6:01 he played in the first period is around what he should be playing per period, with that actually being a bit higher than I would even expect; 16 to 18 minutes would be fitting for him 3:05 in the second period and one shift of 18 seconds in the third period is not enough.
Wanting to lower Sanheim’s ice time is something I can get behind in the third period, especially holding a lead in an important game. But, like with Konecny and Patrick, limiting him to one shift, or even just a few minutes, is too little. Sanheim needs those reps against teams looking to break through down three goals. If the Flyers had five solid defensemen ahead of him, i’d be all for it as well. But Brandon Manning has been quite bad, and he continues to get at least five minutes a period.
Limiting ice time is one thing, benching players is another. Hakstol is here to help develop young talent, and the young kids need to play.
(Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
Sons of Penn Radio
Make sure you rate and subscribe to SOP Radio on iTunes or follow on SoundCloud!
Be sure to follow Ryan Gilbert and Sons of Penn on Twitter and Facebook for analysis, insight, GIFs and more regarding your Philadelphia Flyers.
Join us on our Facebook pages to connect with us and continue the discussion. We can be found at Sons of Penn and The Orange Update. Until next time, friends.