How ’bout that ride in?
The Philadelphia Flyers rode into Vegas off a win in Arizona, and came away with two more points to sweep their two-game desert trip.
Sean Couturier and the top line were the offensive force for the Flyers, as they generated all three goals off quick chances, and Michal Neuvirth weathered the storm to help steal two points against the Golden Knights. It wasn’t pretty, but they got the win again.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ clutch win in Vegas.
Couturier, top line capitalizes on chances
The Flyers weren’t able to create a ton of scoring chances to keep up with the Golden Knights, but Sean Couturier and the top line made sure to capitalize on a few of the ones that they created. Couturier led the way for the Flyers with three points, but each member of the top line had multiple points on the night as they each played a key part in the three non-empty-net goals
Couturier’s power was on full display all night long in Vegas. He scored a big goal to tie the game in the first period, then made his way into the crease to help create the two goals that gave the Flyers a cushion heading into the third period.
Couturier actually had the least to do with his goal, but he positioned himself well to be the beneficiary of a pair of great passes. First Claude Giroux kept the puck in at the line not once, but twice, the second time getting it down to Travis Konecny in the right circle. He fed a great pass into the slot for Couturier, who read the play well and was able to get into the low slot all alone to jam the puck through Fleury, tying the game at 1.
On the Flyers’ second goal it was Couturier who once again found a seam in the defense to get alone in the low slot, but this time his one-time pass bounced off of Andrew MacDonald’s skate and into the back of the net. Couturier started out facing the play at the left dot, and skated backwards all the way down into the low slot with no one behind him, allowing him to one-time the puck off of MacDonald and in.
Working his way into the slot was a theme for Couturier on the night, and he continued doing that on the third goal. But this time he carried the puck there.
Couturier picked up a pass as he exited the zone and worked his way down the right wing. He entered the zone, put a nice move on Brayden McNabb, got down near the crease, and poked the puck back towards the center of the net where Giroux one-handed the puck home.
He isn’t the fastest skater, but he knows how to use his body and stick to get the job done.
Couturier was on the ice for six of the 12 scoring chances the Flyers created, including four of the five high-danger chances. He was on the ice for 0.66 of the 1.06 expected goals that the Flyers created as well. The top line created most of the Flyers’ limited offense, and they cashed in on their opportunities.
Sean Couturier has been a key cog in the Flyers’ lineup all season long, and last night he reminded us of the fantastic season that he is having. Couturier is now riding a three-game point streak (six points) and has 57 points (28 goals, 29 assists) in 56 games this season.
Konecny’s speed, vision create scoring chances
Couturier led the way with three points, but it was Travis Konecny who played a pivotal role in most of the Flyers’ goals. He was just behind Couturier with two assists, and they were well-deserved points for the sophomore.
Konecny’s speed and vision were on full display on the Flyers’ first goal. He sped down the wing, kicking it into another gear to get to Couturier’s chip pass down the right side. He won the race and chipped it around the boards to Giroux to start the offensive zone time. He got it back on the right side near the corner, sent a pass that was tipped out to the point to Giroux, whose second attempt was right back down to Konecny in the right circle, as described above.
Konecny collected the pass, waited for Couturier to get to the top of the crease, and made a perfect pass onto his tape for the one-touch finish. The pass by Konecny was undoubtedly the highlight of the play after a good job by Giroux to keep the puck in the zone, allowing Couturier to tie the game at 1 late in the 1st.
Konecny played a huge role in that goal, but he wasn’t done.
He once again used his speed and vision to enter the zone and create the Flyers’ second goal. He picked up a pass at his own blue line, wheeled around, and made a move to entere the zone with speed and get a shot off. He got the puck back in the corner to start the cycle, then went out to the point where he eventually got the puck back.
Giroux left the puck off for him at the left point, he saw Couturier in the slot, and sent a pass between two Golden Knights onto his stick again, this time resulting in a goal for MacDonald who was in front of the net.
Konecny was on the ice for Giroux’s goal at the end of the period as well, but he was merely a decoy option across the ice for Couturier, who powered his way to the net instead.
Konecny now has 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in his last 20 games. He has 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in his last 12 games as well.
The top line was responsible for all three goals (non-empty-net) on the night, and it was great to see them capitalize on their chances to help scratch out a win.
Neuvirth, Flyers weather the storm in the 2nd
Things weren’t looking great for the Flyers during the second period of last night’s game. They got out-attempted 28-9, out-shot 15-7, out-chanced 12-5, but none of that really mattered as they were able to weather the storm and come away with two late goals in the period to take a lead heading into the third period.
It was a pretty ugly second period for the Flyers, as the Golden Knights’ speed and creativity were causing havoc. There were 11 total icings in the second period, but surprisingly they were split pretty evenly with the Flyers taking six, and the Knights taking five.
The Golden Knights are a young, fast team that were coming in fresh after the Flyers played the night before, and that was most evident in the second period. The Flyers had long stretches without shot attempts, let alone shots on goal, but they were able to weather the storm.
Part of the reason they were able to weather the storm is simple, goaltending.
Michal Neuvirth came up clutch in a historic way on Saturday night, then he doubled down on that on Sunday night with a tremendous effort all around, but especially in the second period. He stopped all 15 shots he faced in the period en route to a 38-save win.
However, the team defense also did a good job of limiting the Knight’s high-danger chances.
According to corsica.hockey, the Knights only had two high-danger shots on goal, both of which Neuvirth saved, and just 11 medium-danger shots on goal, 10 of which Neuvirth saved. 26 of Vegas’ 39 shots were of the low-danger variety, which Neuvirth handled with ease. On the flip side the Flyers generated five high-danger shots, scoring on three of them, but generated just 12 other shots on goal (nine low-danger, three medium-danger). It was feast or famine for the Flyers while keeping Vegas to the outside.
Bearing down for a great road 3rd
Two goals late in the second period gave the Flyers a two-goal lead heading into the third period, and they made sure that they would not relinquish it. They did a good job of getting pucks in deep, not turning the puck over in dangerous areas, and playing simple hockey to come away with two points on the road.
The Flyers limited the Golden Knights to 18 shot attempts in the third period, which is still a decent amount but a lot better than the 28 they surrendered in the second period. The big number to look at in the third period is scoring chances. There were eight total scoring chances in the period (5-3 Vegas) after the Golden Knights had 12 scoring chances in each of the first two periods.
Limiting the high-danger shots is crucial in any game, but especially in the second half of a back-to-back against the best team in the NHL.
Vegas only had a few shifts with any real threatening pressure in the third period, and the period moved along rather quickly. The Flyers held the Golden Knights without a shot attempt for the first 3:22 of the period, then had a stretch of 3:29 without a Vegas shot attempt midway through the period.
The second period was horrible, but they got through it and were able to come away with a great effort in the third to close out a win. Dave Hakstol deserves credit for the team’s third period, as he coached his team to a big win in Vegas.
Moving up in the Metro
Four wins in a row have given the Flyers some time to move up in the Metropolitan Division standings. On Tuesday night they beat Carolina, a team on their tail, on Thursday night they won while the Devils and Islanders lost, and this weekend they came away with four points while the Devils lost on both Saturday and Sunday, and the Islanders lost on Sunday.
The Flyers were fighting for a Wild Card spot a few weeks ago, and now we’re talking about potentially working their way up into the first or second spot in the division. They are one point behind the Penguins with a game in hand, technically giving them a higher points percentage, and are just five points behind the first-place Capitals.
They’ve also given themselves a bit of room between them and the teams behind them, but it is still pretty tight. They are three points up on the Devils, who have a game in hand and will visit the Wells Fargo Center for a huge game on Tuesday, and are four points up on the Hurricanes, while being five points up on Columbus and the Rangers, who are both reeling.
It’s still close in the division, and it’s going to be a fight down the home stretch, but it feels good to know that the Flyers can control their destiny. They can go around .500 (13-10-3) and still end up with 94 points, which should be good enough for a playoff spot.
Four points in the desert were absolutely huge, especially the two against Vegas that no one was counting on. The Flyers need to keep this going into a big week against the Devils on Tuesday, Blue Jackets on Friday, and Rangers on Sunday.
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