The Philadelphia Flyers went into the desert and came away with their third straight win, this time in a shootout, to exorcise their Coyotes demons. Nolan Patrick scored the shootout winner, and Michal Neuvirth came up clutch in relief.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ shootout win in Arizona.
Patrick puts exclamation point on great game with shootout winner
Nolan Patrick has had quite the rollercoaster of a week. Last Saturday he capped off a great game with a late game-tying goal, he kept that up on Tuesday with an assist, but on Thursday he was deservedly demoted in the third period after a poor start to the game. He bounced back in a big way last night.
Patrick was one of the best Flyers on the ice in the game, and he finally got rewarded for it with the shootout goal. Much like last Saturday, he and his linemates generated sustained pressure and several scoring chances but were denied until right before the clock hit zero. Then it was the game-tying goal, this time it was the shootout winner.
If you look at Patrick’s standard statline in the game (0 points, -1, 0 shots, 1 hit, 50% faceoff (6-for-12)) it’s not that impressive. But he was one of the most impactful players in the game. Patrick led all Flyers forwards in corsi for with a 61.76% CF (21-13 shot attempts). He had zero shot attempts himself, but he played a big part in getting his linemates involved.
Wayne Simmonds led the Flyers with nine shot attempts (seven on goal), Jake Voracek was close behind with six shot attempts (five on goal) and Patrick played primarily with the top pairing, which combined for 14 shot attempts (10 on goal). All of those attempts aren’t with Patrick on the ice, as the power play certainly factored in, but the underlying stats show how well Patrick played. Patrick’s linemates, Simmonds (0.62 ixGF) and Voracek (0.26 ixGF) also had the highest expected goals for of any pair of wingers at 5v5. This contributed to Patrick’s expected goals for of 67.78%, which was among the best on the team.
Patrick has been blossoming on the second line, and it was good to see that a hiccup on Thursday night would not carry over into the next game. He was put right back on the second line and he thrived. He was noticeable defensively as well, with a handful of good plays on the backcheck and in the defensive zone.
The rookie then came up clutch in the shootout. After Jake Voracek was the lone Flyer to score in the first six rounds, and Michal Neuvirth came up huge in relief, Patrick converted his shot to win the game.
Costly defensive zone turnovers by each pair
The Arizona Coyotes scored three goals against the Flyers, and each of the three goals were directly after a defensive zone turnover. No defensive pair was able to avoid it either, as they all got in on the action from the first period to the third.
The top pair got their mistake out of the way early on. Shayne Gostisbehere got checked as he tried to backhand the puck out of the zone, then got knocked off the puck along the boards after blocking a shot. This started a chain reaction with the Flyers getting caught to the right of Brian Elliott, allowing Jason Demers to sneak down the right wing and score on a changeup of a one-time chance. It wasn’t a great goal for Elliott to give up, which seemed like a theme on the night, but Gostisbehere has to be better there with the puck.
The Flyers were able to score the next two goals, but then another miscue in the defensive zone allowed the Coyotes to tie it up.
Andrew MacDonald got checked by two Coyotes forwards in the corner, and although Patrick came over to help out and got his stick on the puck, it bounced to Arizona. Alex Goligoski collected a cross-ice pass at the left point and a defenseman scored again. Again the defenseman was able to walk down the wing and fire a shot that snuck through Elliott. That was less of an egregious error than Gostisbehere’s or the third pair’s on the next goal, and it was more on Elliott.
The Flyers got that goal back on a power play a few minutes later to once again get a lead, but another turnover early in a period cost them the lead.
This one was probably the worst of the three turnovers, and it resulted in one of the defensemen getting benched.
Brandon Manning collected the puck behind his own net and passed it to Radko Gudas on the right side. Gudas tried to return the puck to Manning, and sent the puck behind the net, but Manning had left that area and was on the right side next to Gudas. That was the first mistake, but it wasn’t the only one. Manning got into a one-on-one battle in the corner off that errant pass, and Gudas eventually won a battle behind the net to get it back.
He made one mistake already, but had a chance to redeem himself on the shift.
Gudas was checked as he tried a backhanded clearing attempt, and Tie Domi hit Zac Rinaldo cutting into the circle with the pass. Manning fell down as Rinaldo shot the puck, and it beat Elliott up high to tie the game at three early in the 3rd period. Elliott would probably like to have that one back as well, and you know that Gudas would. Radko Gudas did not see the ice after that shift.
Luckily the Flyers were playing a team like Arizona, where they could make three mistakes and still win, otherwise these three mistakes would be even more magnified than they are already. It’s easier to swallow these plays in a win, but it’s tough to watch them make similar mistakes in consecutive games.
Arizona didn’t really earn any of their three goals on Saturday night, nor did the Canadiens on Thursday night. The Flyers found a way to win both games still, but the defensive mistakes will have to be cleaned up moving forward.
There have been storylines centered around defensive miscues in back-to-back games now, but fortunately there have also been back-to-back positive storylines as well.
Power play efficiency paces Flyers
For the first time all season, the Flyers have scored multiple power-play goals in back-to-back games. They were two-for-four on Thursday night against the Canadiens, and were once again two-for-four on Saturday night in Arizona. That’s a four-for-eight clip after going oh-for-eight in their previous two games.
Once again the power-play goals were just like they drew it up. The top unit won the faceoff and set up on their second opportunity, midway through the first period. Couturier won a battle along the boards, kicked it down to Simmonds, who rimmed it around to Giroux at the half wall. He sent it up top to Gostisbehere, who started a three-way passing play with Voracek hitting Giroux with a cross-ice pass for a one-time blast. That’s back-to-back games with power-play goals for Giroux, who has answered his self-criticism pretty well this week.
After failing to convert later in the period, they scored on their fourth and final power play early in the second period. Right after Goligoski tied it up, Simmonds gave the Flyers the lead again from his office.
Gostisbehere recieved a pass at the point from Couturier after some hard work in the corner by Coots and Simmonds to win the battle. He saw Simmonds alone in front of the net, waited for his man to go down for a block, and lofted a shot towards the net that Simmonds tipped home with ease.
If the Flyers’ power play can get hot, it can help carry this team up even more in the standings. They’ve been able to score a pair of crucial goals in these last two wins, and hopefully that success can continue down the stretch.
Impressive third period push by Flyers
One of the frustrating things about the Flyers this season has been their passive play, especially late in games. That was once again an accusation by some in Arizona, but the Flyers were anything but passive in the final 20 minutes. They had some offensive zone pressure even before Zac Rinaldo tied it up early in the period.
The Flyers looked like a playoff team playing against the lowly Coyotes that they are in the third period. But they just couldn’t find the back of the net or get a bounce. They dominated the final 20 minutes of regulation, and had several great scoring chances that either just missed, were blocked, or were robbed by Antti Raanta.
The Flyers out-attempted the Coyotes 30-9 in the 3rd period, out-shot them 16-3, and out-chanced them 11-2. It was all Philadelphia in the third period, getting chances from outside as well as the slot, but it was just one of those periods where nothing could go in.
It helps that the Flyers won, so we can look at this in a positive light, but even if they lost in a skills competition a 30-9 shot attempt advantage isn’t something to sneeze at.
Neuvirth makes history with clutch SO win in relief
Michal Neuvirth made history on Saturday night as the first NHL goalie to come in cold to a shootout and get the win. Neuvirth stopped (or forced wide) all five attempts he faced after Brian Elliott allowed a goal to Nick Cousins then was injured while stopping Clayton Keller’s attempt.
Neuvirth was the sixth goalie in NHL history to relieve his starter in the shootout, and was the first one to come away with the win. He has been stellar all season in the shootout. He came up big against Ottawa until Mike Hoffman’s great Forsberg-move, and was five-for-five in Arizona.
Neuvirth will likely get the start on Sunday in Vegas, but hopefully Brian Elliott isn’t seriously injured. He appeared to suffer a lower-body injury, perhaps an aggravation of his previous injury. Alex Lyon would have to take a flight to Vegas on Sunday morning in order to be the backup if Elliott can’t go, or they could go another route for an emergency situation.
- The Raffl – Laughton – Weal line continues to impress. They scored the Flyers’ only 5v5 goal in the game after a fearless play in the neutral zone by Weal to get the puck up to Laughton, who dropped it back to Raffl for an absolute snipe. They’re listed as the fourth line right now, but are playing more like a third line.
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