The Philadelphia Flyers were just hoping to not get embarrassed yet again by their cross-state rival. They were riding a three-game losing streak (in three must-win games) with another tough task against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
However, the Flyers came away victorious against Pittsburgh in a triumphant victory. Their playoff hopes are still infinitesimal, but beating the Penguins is always a good time.
The Flyers were a mess in the opening minutes of the game. The Penguins were nearly immediately setup in the offensive zone off the opening faceoff, but they were able to hold them at bay and battle through the opening stanza. Ineffective power plays by the Flyers stalled the Penguins a bit, and then a successful penalty kill stopped the Penguins momentum as the teams headed scoreless into the locker rooms.
They came out on fire in the second period. The third line went to work and opened the scoring, and then the boys killed off another penalty early in the second period. Then they finally got a power play goal on their third chance of the game. After that, however, it was all Penguins. Pittsburgh pushed play hard in the second half of the second period, but Steve Mason was having none of it. He came up huge time and time again to keep the Flyers up by two before they had a little push of their own to end the period.
It didn’t look like the Flyers’ prevent defense was going to work, especially with Bellemare being double-shifted at times, but they were able to keep the Penguins off the board and got two more of their own late in the period to pull away. The final score of 4-0 looks great, but the Flyers didn’t necessarily look that good throughout the sixty minutes of play.
- Nick Cousins went from a healthy scratch to the top line with Jordan Weal out of the lineup, but that’s a problem. If Dave Hakstol trusts Cousins on the top line then there is no reason for him to be a healthy scratch.
- The old days where a team needs two scoring lines and two checking lines are over. Teams should have four lines that are capable of playing in all three zones. The good teams in the league have that, but the mediocre ones have guys like VandeVelde playing night in and night out while guys like Cousins, Weise and Lyubimov are healthy scratched.
- Dale Weise also returned to the lineup for Roman Lyubimov and had one hell of a game. Weise isn’t going to be able to play in the top-six, but he should be used on the third or fourth line nearly every game.
- Claude Giroux scored an even strength goal at home! And it was in a relatively important spot! Late in the third period while the Penguins were battling back, Pierre-Edouard Bellmare (taking one of his few shifts on the top line) intercepted a pass and fed Giroux for a great one-timer. It put the Flyers up 3-0 with just a few minutes left in the third period, and took the wind out of the Penguins’ sails.
- The top line was matched up against Sidney Crosby for most of the game, and they did a great job in ending his point streak. In nearly seven minutes head-to-head, the Flyers had eight shot attempts and the Penguins had six shot attempts while both Giroux and Crosby were on the ice. Crosby was also on the ice for Giroux’s goal.
- Wayne Simmonds did his thing as he was a physical presence all game long and got his 200th NHL goal on a power play rebound.
- Cousins saw limited ice time in the third period as Bellemare took a few of his shifts on the top line.
- When the second line is on the ice it’s going to be fast-paced, high-event hockey. The trio of Travis Konecny, Valtteri Filppula and Jake Voracek are incredibly fun to watch, but they are also vulnerable in the defensive end. They can cycle for days in the offensive zone, but if they get caught in the defensive zone it could be a mess. That was evident against the Penguins as the line got off over 13 shot attempts, but also allowed over 20.
- It’s great to see Konecny back in the top-six for the second straight game, and what should be regularly. The kid has shown he can skate and stickhandle with the best of ’em, and while he may need to polish up his defensive game, he can create offense like nobody’s business.
- The line seems to gel together incredibly well. There was a stretch in the game when the three combined on two two-on-ones, but were stopped by Murray. Konecny’s speed, Filppula’s calmness with the puck, and Voracek’s ability to takeover a shift are proving to be an offensive force.
- What a game it was for the third line. Inserting Dale Weise into the lineup was a curious move, especially on the third line, but it paid off big time. Weise was in the right spot at the right time for the Flyers’ fourth goal of the night, but also played a big part in their first goal. He got in on the forecheck then in front of the net before Sean Couturier’s rebound goal.
- Couturier had himself a night as well. He shutdown his favorite player, Evgeni Malkin, and scored that goal. In over 9 minutes of head-to-head time, the Flyers had seven shot attempts (six on goal, six scoring chances, one goal) with Couturier and Malkin on the ice. This includes Couturier beating Malkin to the rebound on his goal.
- The line was given a lot of neutral zone (5) and defensive zone starts (3) with just one offensive zone start, but they still took it to the Penguins. Their corsi for (14 to 9) was great, but their expected goals for of over 85% (0.97 to 0.15) was hugely impressive. They also wracked up 10 scoring chances (six high danger) to the Penguins’ three (zero high danger).
- Dave Hakstol needs to stop using Chris VandeVelde every game. But Pierre-Edouard Bellemare had a good game!
- Bellemare led the team in corsi for (13 to 5) in nearly 10 minutes of icetime at 5v5. Hakstol thought highly enough of him to even put him on the top line for a few shifts in the third period. That’s not exactly a great thing, but he made the most of it. Hopefully it was only temporary due to a shortened bench as Matt Read seemed to miss a bit of the third period.
- Over the weekend Ivan Provorov set a new career-high in minutes with 25:13 played against the Boston Bruins. Well, that career-high was shortlived. On Wednesday night against the Penguins, Provorov played 27:16 total, including 20:46 at 5v5, as he saw time on both the penalty kill and the power play. It’s easy to forget sometimes that Provorov is just a rookie since he brings his A game night in and night out. Even while paired with Andrew MacDonald, Provorov does something great every game.
- Provorov finally got some time on the top power play unit, and he made the most of it. He calmly stopped a Penguins’ clear at the blue line and played catch with Giroux before firing it over to Gostisbehere whose shot rebounded to Simmonds for the goal. The power play has been struggling, but Provorov could inject some life into it.
- After infamously giving up a 2-on-0 chance on Monday night against Columbus, the Michael Del Zotto – Radko Gudas had a phenomenal game against the Penguins. They were constantly pushing play forward and got rewarded for it. Their raw shot attempt numbers look good, but when you factor in quality they look even better. They had an expected goals for percentage of 66.67% which is pretty good for a middle pair.
- Gudas was on the ice for a defense-high 22 shot attempts, 10 shots on goal, two goals and 12 scoring chances. It was a great game for the pair.
- It’s tough to judge a third pair comprised of a washed up veteran and a young, offensive defenseman, but the two didn’t do too great at even strength. They got bailed out a few times by Steve Mason after turning the puck over or being hemmed in their own zone. Nick Schultz brings nothing to the table besides experience.
- Shayne Gostisbehere at least brings a cannon on the power play. He was on the right faceoff circle in the new power play setup, and his shot rebounded right to Simmonds for the Flyers’ second goal. His shot was lethal last season from the point, and it’s just that much better from the sidewall. He’ll generate plenty of chances if he stays in that spot on the man advantage.
The Flyers made the most of their opportunities. They finally got a few bounces to go their way, which was most evident on the Weise goal. Just a few games ago they weren’t getting those bounces, but they got them against the Penguins.
It was a battle the whole way through. The Penguins outchanced the Flyers in the first and third periods, but goaltending was the difference. The second period was the big one for the Flyers as they got the two goal lead and never looked back.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick
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Sons of Penn Radio (January 23rd)
On this week of SOP Radio, we celebrate a thrilling overtime victory, discuss Dave Hakstol’s coaching decisions, and forecast potential trade opportunities and prospect development.