The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of their first round series to even it up at one game a piece. It was a much better performance by the Orange and Black after their embarrassing loss in Game 1, and now the series shifts to Philadelphia for the next two games.
The Flyers won thanks to a balanced attack with goals from Shayne Gostisbehere, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, and Andrew MacDonald backing Brian Elliott’s 34-save effort in the 5-1 win.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ win in Game 2.
Couturier comes up with key contributions
Sean Couturier called himself out, as well as the rest of the Flyers’ top players after an embarrassing loss in Game 1. He knew that they needed to be better, and vowed to come back with a good effort.
He didn’t play well in Game 1, and he knew it. His turnover led to the Penguins’ second goal and it was downhill from there. But things were different on Friday night. He came back with a great response to the Game 1 loss as he scored a goal, picked up two assists, and played a key role in the Flyers’ Game 2 win to even the series. Not only did he have those three points, but he led all forwards in ice time with 27:15, which was nine minutes more than Claude Giroux, the Flyers’ second most-played forward.
Couturier scored a goal of his own, but that wasn’t even one of his best plays of the night. He had a great play to set up the opening goal late in the first period, then set up Nolan Patrick with a brilliant pass in the third period.
The Flyers had been going back-and-forth with the Penguins in a scoreless first period when they got a power play chance in the final 90 seconds. After Gostisbehere entered the zone and Voracek tried to get the puck in deep, Kris Letang came away with the puck behind the net and skated it around the cage to try to clear. However, his clearing attempt was negated by the hard forecheck of Couturier, as his skate directed the puck towards the boards where he engaged in a battle with Letang and got the puck free.
Couturier continued to battle, getting position on Carl Hagelin to knock the puck back to Claude Giroux at the point while falling down. Couturier got back up and headed to the net as Giroux got the puck across to Gostisbehere for a shot. Couturier was just a decoy in front, but Nolan Patrick’s screen allowed Gostisbehere’s shot to sneak through Matt Murray to open the scoring. A lot of the credit goes to Gostisbehere for the goal, obviously, and Patrick for the screen, but it would not have been possible without Couturier’s hard work in the corner to keep the puck in the zone and then get it up the wall. He got a hard-earned assist on the play.
Gostisbehere’s goal got things started for the Flyers and they had the momentum heading into the first intermission. Then Couturier scored in the first minute the second period to keep that momentum going.
Couturier hustled into the zone and drifted through the circle towards the net. He collected a pass from Ivan Provorov and threw it into the crease to Giroux, and the puck bounced off of Jake Guentzel and in. It wasn’t pretty like his assist later in the game, nor did it come after a hardworking shift, but it counts just the same.
His two points on the first two goals were crucial, and his third and final point of the night put the game away. It was also his prettiest point of the night as he got the primary assist on Patrick’s power-play goal.
The Flyers were already up 3-0 in the third period and kept pouring it on. After an uneventful first half to the power play, Patrick capitalized. Provorov, who had came on for Gostisbehere, kept the puck in the zone and got it back down low to Couturier at the side of the net. He then sent a pass between his legs to Patrick on the backdoor, where he deposited it into the back of the net. It was a great play by Provorov to keep the puck in the zone, and an even better pass by Couturier to set up Patrick.
Sean Couturier broke out this season in a big way and it is carrying over into the postseason. He played great two-way hockey with just one scoring chance against in over 15 minutes of ice time at 5v5, while also picking up three points in over 27 minutes of hockey. His injury in 2016 was one of the turning points in the series that the Flyers lost, and he is proving to be a key to the Flyers’ success so far this series.
Elliott bounces back with huge win
One of the biggest questions after Game 1 and heading into Game 2 was what the Flyers were going to do in the crease. Brian Elliott looked shaky in Game 1, and Petr Mrazek looked better overall. However, Dave Hakstol had no hesitation in saying that his first instinct was to go back to Elliott, and that instinct was right.
Elliott came up with a huge bounce-back effort for a 5-1 win. He was a bit shaky in the first period, as he got beat but saved by the post on a shot he should’ve saved, but he settled in as the game moved along. He made 11 saves in the first period, 12 saves in the second period, and then 11 saves on 12 shots in the third period en route to the 5-1 win.
There weren’t a ton of high-quality chances and shifts of sustained pressure by the Penguins, but Elliott was definitely tested throughout the sixty minutes. His biggest save of the game was undoubtedly his denial of Sidney Crosby’s breakaway. Crosby had the puck on his stick with a chance to make it a 2-1 game in the latter half of second period, but Elliott turned him away.
It wasn’t a perfect game for Elliott by any means, as he got a bit lucky with the post and Crosby missing the net in the waning seconds of the second period, but he came up with the timely saves to keep the Flyers in it.
If the Flyers get good goaltending to outplay Murray in this series they have a chance, and we saw that on Friday night.
Hakstol sticks to his guns
Dave Hakstol stuck with his same lineup in Game 2, and the Flyers came away with a win. The same forwards, the same lines, the same defense, the same pairs, and the same goalie. The 7-0 loss was a fluke, and the Flyers’ performance in Game 2 proved it.
Hakstol kept his balanced forward lines together against a deep Penguins team, stuck with the same defensive pairs, and went right back to Elliott for a successful Game 2. It wasn’t a popular decision, and it was criticized by many, so he deserves some credit for not panicking after one loss.
Yes, it was one playoff loss, and it was a bad playoff loss at that, but that is no reason to panic. The Flyers did not execute and got unlucky in Game 1, and then they bounced back on Friday night in Game 2.
The balanced lines allowed the Flyers to roll four lines at times, while still playing the more-preferred forwards when necessary. The top line bounced back with Giroux leading the Flyers in corsi for (63.64%). In fact, the top line didn’t allow a scoring chance against while all three players on the ice.
The second line didn’t do so hot again in the puck possession department, but they kept the Penguins off the scoreboard and kept them mostly out of the high-danger areas. They then did their damage on the power play, with Patrick scoring and Voracek picking up an assist.
Where the balanced forward lines paid there dividends is on the third line. Having an offensive dynamo like Travis Konecny on the third line is not ideal, but he is capable of making things happen no matter what. They generated the most scoring chances, with Wayne Simmonds on the ice for seven, Filppula on the ice for six, and Konecny on the ice for five. That line got a good matchup, won the puck possession battle overall, and Konecny won his personal battle by speeding by the defenseman for a great goal.
The most consistent line this series has been the fourth line. They haven’t gotten beat too much and have been able to get some sustained pressure despite limited ice time.
Some of the ice time numbers in the third period weren’t what many would like to see, but a lot more goes into that in the playoffs. The two most noteworthy “benchings” in the third period were the Travises: Konecny and Sanheim. Each saw decreased minutes in the third period, but it was for a decent reason. They each took iffy penalties in the game that could’ve cost the team, and they aren’t the greatest defensively in their own zone. On top of that, who knows how the players are feeling in the grind of a seven-game series. The veterans are going to play more than many think, and it’s probably a bit too much, but experience does carry some value.
Hakstol stuck to his guns with his lineup and they executed. They got beat in the shot-attempt battle, and they got out-shot, but it wasn’t terrible. Yes, the Penguins out-attempted the Flyers 37-19 at 5v5 and 59-30 overall, but it was only 32.8-20.94 when you look at the score-adjusted numbers, and the scoring chances were closer with Pittsburgh having a 16-11 advantage (14.03-12.21 score-adjusted). It seemed to be the opposite of Game 1, as the Flyers were the team getting more shots from the slot and the Penguins were limited more to the outside.
Special teams success paces Flyers
Special teams play is crucial in the playoffs, and the Flyers were successful on both sides of it in Game 2.
Both of the goals were described above, but the Flyers’ power-play success in Game 2 shouldn’t be understated. They were putrid in Game 1 with zero shots on goal on four tries, and they came back with a great performance in Game 2.
The Flyers went two-for-three on the power play in Game 2, with their lone failed chance coming in the third period already holding a 4-1 lead. That was the complete opposite of Game 1, when they went 0-for-4 on the power play including two chances with the game well within reach in the first period.
Like Couturier, Claude Giroux said that he and the power play would be better in Game 2, and boy were they ever. They were able to get into the zone, set up, and then get shots on net from high-quality areas. They had the two goals of course, but they also had a few other chances throughout the game.
Nolan Patrick’s presence on the top power-play unit should be noted as well. Dave Hakstol took a bit of a risk to remove Wayne Simmonds from that unit, but Patrick has filled in admirably. He has three power-play goals in his last five games overall.
Everything is magnified in the playoffs, and that includes the power play. A goal on the man advantage can be the difference between a win and a loss in a game, and therefore a win and a loss in a series.
The Flyers’ success on the power play was crucial in Game 2, and it will be another key coming home in games three and four.
The power play did its job in Game 2, and so did the penalty kill. Hell, the penalty kill was actually better than the power play on Friday night. The power play went two-for-three, but the penalty kill was a perfect four-for-four.
Much like the Flyers in Game 1, the Penguins’ first few chances on the power play were huge. Their first one came after a bad penalty by Travis Konecny in the second period, and their second came in the latter half of the middle stanza. Both times the Penguins were still within two goals, and both times the Flyers killed them off.
The Penguins certainly had some shots on goal and scoring chances while up a man, but either Brian Elliott came up big or the guys in front of him did their jobs to keep Pittsburgh from scoring.
Staying out of the box was one of the keys coming into the series, and although the Flyers didn’t necessarily do that in Game 2, the penalty kill made up for it. The reason that was such a big key was due to the Penguins’ lethal power play and the Flyers’ putrid penalty kill, but the roles were reversed in Game 2.
First of many for the young guns
The Flyers’ young guns gained some valuable playoff experience in Game 1, and it looked like they were seasoned veterans in Game 2. Both Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick scored their first playoff goals in Game 2, while Ivan Provorov picked up his first playoff points with a primary assist on Couturier’s goal and a secondary assist on Konecny’s goal. Konecny showed off his speed and hands for his highlight-reel goal, while Patrick took advantage of a great chance on the power play to score his first.
Konecny’s goal truly showcased what he is all about. He skated out of the zone and towards a chop-pass from Wayne Simmonds along the boards to start the rush. He got to the puck as he was even with Chad Ruhwedel, but then he turned on the jets. Konecny sped by Ruhwedel, cut into the slot, and lifted a great shot over Murray for his first playoff goal.
That’s why Konecny can be so dangerous. Yeah, he has the talent to be on the top line, but balancing out the attack allows Konecny to exploit a matchup like that for a great goal. He might still make that play against the Penguins’ top defensemen, but it’s not likely.
Patrick and Provorov also got their first points in the game. Patrick’s goal was a gift after some great plays to set him up, but he was right there with Couturier to support him and keep the play alive on Gostisbehere’s opening goal. He also nearly got the goal himself as he screened Murray in front.
Like Couturier, Provorov played a huge role in the Game 2 win. He led all players with 27:30 time on ice, and picked up two points in the process. His first point was off a pass down low to Couturier, and his second came on Konecny’s goal. He didn’t even get an assist for one of his best offensive plays of the night that led to a goal, which was the keep at the top of the point on Patrick’s tally.
Konecny and Patrick got their first playoff goals, which are sure to be the first of many, while Provorov showed off his solid game with a ho-hum 27:30 of ice time and two points. The young guns are going to be a big part of the Flyers’ success if they win this series.
(Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)
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