The Philadelphia Flyers needed to bounce back this week, and they’ve done so in a big way. They scratched out an overtime win in Carolina on Tuesday night and took care of business on home ice against the Canadiens for a 5-2 win on Thursday night.
Claude Giroux (goal, two assists) led the way with a three-point night, Shayne Gostisbehere had three assists for his fourth-career (third this season) three-point game, Jake Voracek extended his point streak to seven games with a goal, Travis Konecny scored two goals, and Ivan Provorov capped it off with a long (182 feet to be exact) empty-net goal, assisted by Brian Elliott.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ 5-3 win against the Canadiens.
Giroux, best players bounce back in big way
Claude Giroux wanted to make it known that he wasn’t happy with his own play as of late after Tuesday night’s overtime win. He said that he knew that he needed to be better alongside his linemates, and felt the need to get that out into the ether.
Giroux and the Flyers’ best players bounced back in a big way in a 5-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens. Giroux led the way with a goal and two assists, Shayne Gostisbehere picked up three assists and could’ve had a fourth tertiary assist awarded, Travis Konecny scored two goals, and Sean Couturier had an assist, while providing a screen for Giroux’s goal and possibly getting a piece of Gostisbehere’s shot on Konecny’s goal.
“A little bit better,” Giroux said when asked if he was happier with Thursday night’s performance compared to Tuesday night’s game. He seemed to shrug off his three points a bit, and was more focused on the win.
“When you help the team win, that’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to do something to help the team. I think everybody did a good job tonight.”
Dave Hakstol backed his captain up. “It’s not always about points, but G played well tonight,” he said.
“He made plays tonight, and I think that’s probably what he was most hard on himself on in regards to after the game in Carolina. No question, tonight he went out and made plays and was a difference maker for our team. That’s what you want to see.”
“Everybody knows in that room that he wears his heart on his sleeve. He expects a lot out of the people around him and then he puts himself at the head of the line and after a good win for our team he had a lot of praise from his teammates and he felt like he needed to be a little bit better and that’s something that’s pretty respected in the locker room.”
Giroux brought the attention upon himself, and he answered the bell.
“He’s pretty hard on himself, maybe overly so, but he felt he could play better, and he went out and did that tonight.”
Hell, even Carey Price thought that Giroux was the difference maker in the game. “Claude Giroux. He played a pretty good game tonight. I think he was the difference maker today,” the Canadiens netminder said.
Giroux definitely had a huge impact on the game, as he was on the ice for all four of the Flyers’ non-empty-net goals, picking up points on three of them.
The Flyers are in the thick of the Metropolitan Division and a handful of their players are having career years so far. They’ve been carried by their youth and depth at times recently, but Giroux and the top guns answered the bell on Thursday night.
Top line & pair execute a perfect rush; Konecny thriving
One of the ways Giroux and the top line stepped up came early in the second period on a perfectly executed rush. All three members of the top line had a point on the goal, and both of the top-pair defensemen set the rush up with a few of their signature plays.
The Flyers had a good first period, but nothing to show for it. The top line put and end to that quickly in the second period. They started their first shift in the defensive zone, but turned it around for a goal just 42 seconds into the period.
Couturier won the faceoff back to Gostisbehere, and he flipped the puck up ice towards a racing Konecny who sped up the wing off the win. Jeff Petry took control of the puck, but Konecny forechecked towards him and forced a quick pass. Alex Galchenyuk’s tip-pass was poked away by Provorov, who stepped up in the neutral zone to stop the rush and the puck bounced over to Gostisbehere.
Gostisbehere had the option of dumping the puck in, but saw his three forwards skating towards the blue line and hit Couturier with a great pass.
Couturier entered the zone with Konecny streaking down the right side, but dropped the puck to Giroux who barely trailed him. Giroux received the pass, waited a moment, and threaded the needle to Konecny in front for the easy tip-in goal.
Here’s a look at the rush from start to finish.
All five players of the top five-man unit touched the puck on the play and played a role in the goal. Each player made a play that they are known for, in a sense. Giroux made a brilliant pass through two defensemen; Couturier won the faceoff and setup Giroux with the drop pass; Konecny used his speed on the forecheck and to get behind the defense for the goal; Provorov made a subtle defensive play in the neutral zone; Gostisbehere used his vision to start the rush into the zone.
That got things started for the Flyers after a back-and-forth first period. The second period wasn’t all that great overall, with Montreal getting the better of the play and scoring a late goal to tie it at two, but the top line opened the scoring and set the tone for later.
The Flyers scored two 5-on-5 goals in the game, and Konecny netted both of them. Both goals came early in periods, but while the first one was a great play by the five-man unit in transition, the second came after hard work in the offensive zone.
Konecny got to the puck off of a faceoff and went to work in the corner. He tried to spin off his man, and did for a second, but then got caught in the corner. He won the battle with some help from Giroux, and got the puck back to Gostisbehere at the point. Gostisbehere high shot was stopped and dropped down somewhere in the area of Carey Price. Without play stopped by a whistle, Konecny skated into the crease, found the puck behind Price, and tapped it home.
Hard work paid off for Konecny on the goal, from the corner to the crease.
The five-man unit of Giroux, Couturier, Konecny, Provorov, and Gostisbehere continues to be one of the best.
Power-play success powers Flyers
Another big reason for the top players having a great night is the power play. The Flyers went two-for-four on the man advantage, with the two goals helping to swing momentum.
The first power-play goal came just 28 seconds after the Canadiens capitalized on a Voracek turnover with a shorthanded goal to tie the game at one. That could’ve been deflating for the Flyers, and changed the momentum midway through the game, but they came out and scored to retake the lead.
The top unit got set up in the zone after a nice entry by Gostisbehere and back-and-forth passes around the boards from Ghost and Voracek. Gostisbehere drifted to the right and passed the puck to Giroux at the left point. Giroux took just a stride or two towards the circle and sniped a goal past the glove of Carey Price with Couturier and Simmonds in front.
The Flyers came into the game on an 0-for-8 power-play drought, and couldn’t convert on their first two chances, so it was great for them to get off the schneid with a goal like that. But they weren’t done there.
After the Canadiens tied it up again later in the second period, the Flyers were awarded a power play in the final minute of the period. They couldn’t score in those first 39 seconds of the power play, so they went into the second intermission tied at 2.
A power play that is cut in half between periods can be a blessing or a curse. On one hand it allows you to maximize the ice time of the top unit, but on the other hand the players are coming out of the locker room a bit colder. The Flyers didn’t take long to warm up in the third though.
Once again Gostisbehere got it all started with the entry into the zone, and then he dished it over to Giroux on the left side. Giroux skated backwards towards the goal line, keeping his hips open and in position for a pass. He made the cross-ice pass to Voracek, who had plenty of ice in front of him, and the winger took the pass and sniped a goal, almost all in one motion, to give the Flyers the lead once again.
The Flyers scored two power play goals, and they won by two goals. Coincidence? Probably, but the power play was a huge reason why the top guys had a bounce-back game to lead them to back-to-back wins.
Turnovers, failed clears lead to pressure, goals against
One of the worst things a defenseman can do is turn the puck over in his own zone. The Flyers defensemen, and forwards, made that mistake a few too many times last night, and it seems that “failed clears” has become a buzzword around the Flyers for the past week or two.
None of the Canadiens’ three goals were really the result of a great play by them. Each of the three goals was the result of them capitalizing on a Flyers mistake.
Their first goal, Lehknonen’s shorthanded snipe, came after a turnover in the neutral zone by Jake Voracek. He was looking offense all the way on the power play, got stripped by Lehkonen, and the puck ended up behind Brian Elliott. Luckily the Flyers bounced right back with a goal, and then Voracek made up for his miscue with a snipe of his own later in the game.
Their next goal came in the second period after tons of pressure. The Canadiens had sustained pressure in the offensive zone that led to several scoring chances, unnecessary saves for Brian Elliott to make in the crease, and a goal.
Even before the Canadiens scored with just over a minute left, they had over a minute of offensive zone time. A few shifts prior they had 67 seconds of cycling in the offensive zone before a save and stoppage. They entered the zone with 4:20 left, Robert Hagg’s clearing attempt was knocked down with 3:45 left, Sean Couturier’s outlet pass was picked off with 3:32 left, and finally Elliott froze a knuckling shot with 3:13 left. That’s way too much time to give a team in the offensive zone, especially when you are doing just that: giving it to them. Getting the puck out of the zone and getting fresh legs on the ice is crucial.
“Instead of punching them out, and working the puck up ice we didn’t do that and those things hurt us,” Hakstol said of the sequence.
The top line won the defensive zone faceoff and cleared, actually having a good rush or two, but then it was all Canadiens again.
They entered the zone with 2:04 left, and Gudas’ pass to Voracek was in a bad area and the winger coughed it up with 1:55 left. The defensemen redeemed himself, or so we thought, with 1:21 left, but 10 seconds later the puck was in the back of the net. Gudas got stripped, dove to the ice to block a shot (which he did), but he took himself out of the play and Shaw capitalized.
Look at the options Gudas has next to and in front of him. But instead he tries to carry the puck, loses it, and it costs him.
Brian Elliott was under pressure again in the third period during 4-on-4 play, but luckily he was able to come up with a few clutch saves, including a big glove save on Pacioretty.
Elliott looked at it as a good test for the Flyers, and had a positive spin on it.
“That’s a sign of a good team that we can withstand a little push at the end of a game when we’re up and still have the juice to get things done. It was good in that front.”
Fortunately the little things didn’t pile up for the Flyers too bad in this one, and the Canadiens were only able to score those two goals before getting a third with the goalie pulled. Clearing the front of the net on the penalty kill is still a bit of an issue, as Gallagher’s goal showed, but it didn’t haunt the Flyers here.
Patrick, Filppula flip flop for the 3rd
One of the only in-game changes that Dave Hakstol made in terms of personnel is one that will always be questioned, but something that worked out in the end. Nolan Patrick has been playing well since joining the second line, but after a fantastic game on Tuesday, he and his linemates struggled a bit in the first two periods against the Canadiens. Patrick took another penalty as well, but the line wasn’t generating much outside of Voracek’s entries and Hakstol decided to switch things up for the third period.
Valtteri Filppula has been on a decline this season, but his play hasn’t been horrible of late and he can be relied upon as a two-way centerman in certain situations. This was one of those situations.
Patrick played just 1:43 in the third period after playing 6:07 in the 1st and 3:54 in the 2nd. You obviously want to see more ice time for Patrick, but if there’s any time to give more minutes to a veteran that the team could be shopping at the trade deadline, it’s in the third period of a game with a two-goal lead and if the rookie has been struggling.
The change worked for the Flyers in the third period, so there isn’t much to be up in arms about unless this is more than a one-period move, which it shouldn’t be. Simmonds played 13:57 at 5v5; 7:19 with Patrick, and 5:48 with Filppula. The Flyers had the same number of shot attempts (four) while allowing five less shot attempts (8 compared to 13) with Simmonds and Filppula on the ice rather than Simmonds and Patrick. Simmonds and Filppula allowed just two shots on goal and two scoring chances, compared to Patrick’s seven shots on goal, six scoring chances, and one goal. These are in very similar zone starts and matchups as well.
Maximizing Patrick’s minutes is ideal, but if he’s struggling it’s okay to make an on the fly change for a period. But the key phrase there is “for a period.” This has to be a short-term, situational move, not a long-term move. And I think it will be.
- The Flyers had one line that played well throughout, and that was the newly formed third line of Jordan Weal, Scott Laughton, and Michael Raffl.
- Laughton and his linemates did a great job of creating shot attempts as well as supressing them. Laughton had a 81.25 CF% (13-3 shot attempts), and a 90.91 SF% (shots for, 10-1) against the Canadiens while winning 10 of 11 faceoffs that he took.
- The Flyers had a good first and third period, but were horrid in the second. They won the shot attempt battle in the bookend periods 28-26, but a 12-3 disadvantage in the second period sunk their overall numbers.
- It was a good night for the Flyers in the standings, as they gained two points while the Devils and Islanders came away empty handed in their contests.
- The Flyers are one point behind the Devils for 3rd in the Metro, two points behind the Penguins with a game in hand for 2nd, and three points ahead of both the Blue Jackets (1st WC) and Islanders (out of playoffs) for the 1st Wild Card spot.
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