Now that we’ve all caught up on sleep after the California trip and the nature of its unforgiving late-night starts, let’s talk about a few things regarding the Philadelphia Flyers.
Where do we even begin? Well, it all starts with the influx of youth on the team. I know some of you just read that and either made a snide remark about Oskar Lindblom in your head or said it out loud, but let’s concentrate on the youth that is here. Travis Sanheim has looked decent in his first few games as a rookie, Nolan Patrick comes as advertised thus far, and my goodness, Taylor Leier is fun to watch in comparison to the fourth liners we’ve been accustomed to over the last few seasons.
Other than the players, assistant coach Kris Knoblauch joined the coaching staff as one of the hottest names in junior league hockey. There was a lot of hype surrounding the Flyers heading into San Jose where they would emerge with a 5-3 win. A 2-0 loss sunk the Orange and Black to 1-1, but the team rallied to beat the Ducks in overtime 3-2 on Saturday night to end the successful three-game swing.
There’s a lot to like with this team after the first three games, so let’s take a closer look at a couple of goals the team has scored and see what we can take from them.
Let’s break it down.
The play starts on the far half wall. Couturier will try push the puck up the wall for a teammate.
The puck bounces off a skate and squirts out. Now Couturier is in a race for the puck. Keep an eye on Shayne Gostisbehere and what he does in the next panel.
Ghost doesn’t pinch. He knows if he loses the race, it’s an uncontested breakaway. Instead he peels off and give Couturier an option should he win the race or at least get his stick on the puck first.
You can also see that Couturier won the race and established body positioning to shield off the defender. Notice how he uses his right arm and leg as an obstacle to impede the defender. Couturier keeps the puck as far away from him as possible. Simmonds also sees that Couturier has won the race to the puck and has found a seam of open ice.
Couturier has regained full control of the puck and is holding off the defender. Again, look at how Couturier uses his body and his reach to shield the puck. Now he has two options: push the puck toward Ghost or backhand it to Simmonds. Also, notice how Vermette – the defender to the right – has also failed to pick up Simmonds.
Look at all that open space for Simmonds now. The only thing between him and the goalie is a defender who is out of the frame and is too far away to really contest the shot. It was a great play by Couturier and finish by Simmonds, aided by the heads up decision by Gostisbehere to back off and let the boys win the battle.
Now let’s take a look at the first goal of the game. Even though it was technically scored at even strength, this goal was all about the power play execution.
This play begins and ends with Ivan Provorov.
As you saw during the gif, Provorov showed some great hands by drawing the puck in close to him to slide it over to Weal on the half wall.
Weal takes the puck down to the hashmarks and observes the situation. Couturier has moved himself into scoring position if Weal feels brave enough to attempt a cross-ice saucer pass. Ducks defender Korbinian Holzer has his stick blocking the passing lane, so Weal decides to work the puck down low to Patrick who has already shown his skill of passing from behind the net.
What really makes this play work is two-fold. One, the goaltender has to look behind him to locate the puck. This hinders his ability to set up for a shot if the puck gets out front. It also puts the penalty killers at a disadvantage, too. They, too, must defend the player behind the net while constantly looking over their shoulder for oncoming threats.
During this shot, you’ll see each player from the Ducks converge on the puck.
The puck going behind the net has sucked the penalty-killing unit below the hashmarks. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa plays this right and negates the more high-danger pass to the slot. Couturier has his stick ready in a shooting position should Patrick elect to let him fire away. But what Patrick sees is a passing lane left open by Logan Shaw and a wide open Provorov sneaking in from the point. Patrick threads a pass to Provorov who tees it up for his first goal of the season and Patrick’s first NHL point.
The Flyers seem to have a few new wrinkles to their power play thanks to Knoblauch. Patrick has an uncanny ability to find his teammates from Gretzky’s Office that makes the second power play unit a real threat. His ability to thread the needle is going to make him an effective player, especially on the man advantage.
Couturier has also gotten off to a nice start. While he hasn’t finished some prime scoring chances, he’s been effective in every game and is finally showing how good he can be with two solid wingers on either side.
The Flyers are feeling good at 2-1-0 after a challenging California trip that they didn’t back down from. They’ll take on the defending Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators tonight as they try to continue to gain momentum and build upon a solid start to the season.