Coming off a disappointing loss to the New Jersey Devils in which the team gave a lackluster effort, the Philadelphia Flyers turned it around against the Carolina Hurricanes. Sixty-plus minutes of solid hockey earned the boys two points.
The Flyers are, for all intents and purposes, out of the playoff race, but winning is still fun and exciting. Winning is even better when it’s the young guns that step up for the victory. Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier led the way for the Flyers in a 4-3 overtime win. A 2-0 lead was relinquished, but a last minute goal scored by Konecny, from Provorov, gave way to an overtime winner for Brayden Schenn.
A win ultimately hurts their draft position, but a win like the one we saw on Sunday night is nothing to get upset about. From here on out the games are more about the process, effort, and individual performances rather than the outcome. Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek are the Flyers’ core right now, but Konecny, Provorov, Couturier and even Schenn are all still young and it’ll be important for them to finish strong and be able to maintain that confidence in the offseason and going into next season.
If it was Andrew MacDonald, Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare who were the stars of the game in the comeback victory, the tune would be a little different. But when the kids show a late resurgence for the come from behind win, you can’t be upset about it.
For draft position you may want the Flyers to lose every game the rest of the season, but this isn’t a computer simulation. The Flyers dress 20 players a night, and have multiple coaches who will fight until the very last breath for the playoffs, and then after that potentially for their jobs or a contract. If the players still think the games are important, “playoff-like” games, it’s good to get the kids some experience in those situations.
The Flyers made the Hurricanes look like, well, the Hurricanes. They controlled play throughout almost all of the game. It was rare for the Hurricanes to be set up in the Flyers’ zone at any point, and they rarely had any sustained pressure for a few shifts in a row without the Flyers getting at least a few shot attempts off.
The shots weren’t finding twine for most of the first forty minutes though, as only two of the Flyers’ 46 shot attempts (29 shots on goal) went in through two periods of play.
The Hurricanes took the lead early in the third period, but the Flyers didn’t ever give up. They kept pushing and eventually scored right after a power play expired to send it into extra time where they finished it off.
- Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare each had more ice time than Sean Couturier through two periods of play, which is a problem. Dave Hakstol put the pedal to the metal in the third period with his best guys, but there is no way that the fourth line should be seeing anywhere close to 10 minutes a night.
- The top line had a good night despite not getting on the board. Claude Giroux led the way with an impressive 73.33% corsi for (22-8), and an even better scoring chances for of 91.67% (11-1). There were a few shifts in the second period where the line had everything but the finish, which seems to be this team’s slogan.
- Travis Konecny, man. The kid just does something great every game it seems. He made the play to create Dale Weise’s goal, but didn’t get credit for an assist for some reason. He wheeled around the top of the zone and got back to the faceoff dot where he scored from last week, and rather than shooting it high he put it in front where Weise cleaned up the garbage.
- Konecny made sure to get on the scoresheet with his last minute goal. Ivan Provorov’s shot went just wide and Konecny smartly put the puck out in front, where it bounced off of a skate and into the back of the net. It wasn’t a snipe, but it looks the same in the box score.
- Sean Couturier had himself a night. It seems to be an up-and-down ride over the past few weeks with Couturier, but his highlights have seemed to overshadow his lowlights.His best plays of the night were on the first and final goal. He got in deep on the forecheck and caused a turnover that led to Provorov’s goal, and then he drove to the net with speed and power on the overtime winner. Couturier was dominant with three assists, including one on the overtime winner, while playing shutdown defense in tough usage.
- Couturier didn’t see an offensive zone start, with six coming in the neutral zone and six in the defensive zone. He shutdown another rookie, Sebastian Aho, with the Flyers out-attempting the Hurricanes 12-4 (shots on goal 10-2) in 7:22 with Aho and Couturier on the ice together. He isn’t flashy, and he’ll never get the respect he deserves, but Couturier is putting together one hell of a season.
- I eluded to it earlier, but the over-usage of the fourth line just has to stop. The Flyers have three lines of similar caliber, and then they have the fourth line. The top three lines should be seeing a larger share of the ice time while the fourth line should be used minimally, between five and eight minutes a night.
- Ivan Provorov is a machine. The rookie showed off his Russian rocket of a wrist shot in the first period to open the scoring and then played solid defense all game long against the Hurricanes. He finished his game off with the primary assist on the game-tying goal, and the secondary assist on the game-winning goal. Provorov should be rewarded for his efforts, perhaps by giving him a new defensive partner.
- Michael Del Zotto and Radko Gudas continue to be great. They’re keeping opponents off the board and limiting their chances. If the Flyers were still in the playoff race I would want this pair to stick together, but there is no reason to not experiment with the defensive pairs in the final 11 games of the season.
- Provorov and Gudas have been the Flyers’ best defensemen this season, and they each play on opposite sides. A Provorov – Gudas top pairing should work wonders, leaving an opening for a Gostisbehere – Del Zotto pairing. Finally they would have the two anchors, MacDonald and Schultz, together as a defensive pair. Even if they don’t work, it’s better to find out now rather than at the start of next season when the team has a clean slate.
- Shayne Gostisbehere looked good against the Hurricanes. He was able to execute his little shake ‘n bake move at the blue line to create space a few times, and he looked great when paired with Del Zotto or Provorov for a shift or two late in the third period while the Flyers were pushing for a goal. Gostisbehere may never be more than a second or third pairing defenseman and an offensive specialist, but he’s been playing a solid all-around game recently.
The Flyers got plenty of shots, and they got to the dirty areas. It was a win that the Flyers deserved to have after controlling play for most of the game.
The Flyers let up as the game moved along, but they still man-handled the Hurricanes in shot attempts. They had as many shots on goal as the Hurricanes had shot attempts, and only 10 less scoring chances than Carolina’s shot attempt totals.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick
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