The atmosphere surrounding this Philadelphia Flyers club is beginning to change. A team that was written off just a week ago is now on a three-game point streak, with two wins against Colorado and Florida and then an overtime loss to the NHL-best Washington Capitals on Saturday night.
The old cliché in sports is that there are no moral victories in a loss, but the Flyers got as close as you could to a moral victory in their loss to the Capitals. That is partially due to the fact that they did get something out of the loss, a point, but they also showed that they can play a quality sixty minutes of hockey against the league’s best.
The Flyers hung with the Capitals the whole way. They actually outplayed them in the first period, but once again it was a story of unsuccessful scoring chances in the opening frame.
From there the Flyers fended off a strong attack from Washington. The Capitals’ domination started at the beginning of the second period and stretched nearly halfway through the period, but the Flyers kept the Capitals to the outside and Steve Mason answered the bell when necessary.
The orange and black pushed back late in the second period with the help of two unsuccessful power plays, and going into the locker room tied after forty minutes gave them some confidence that they could beat this team.
The Flyers used that confidence with a great goal in the opening minutes of the period. Unfortunately that would be all they could muster, and the Capitals scored 81 seconds later to take the wind out of the Flyers’ sails. Mason once again came up huge in the final minutes of the third period, outside of the power play, to extend the game and earn a point.
The teams traded chances in overtime, but a ticky-tacky call gave the Capitals a power play that they would finally convert on. Mason made his best save of the game prior to that, but he couldn’t stop the screened snipe from Backstrom on the man advantage.
- Lots of special teams play saw limited 5v5 ice time totals. It looks like the Flyers finally have a solid top three lines, with the fourth line clearly lagging behind in minutes.
- The top line keeps generating chances, but they can’t get anything into the back of the net. Jordan Weal continues to look like he belongs in the top six on this team, however. He was constantly wheeling through the offensive zone and making things happen.
- After a great debut together that resulted in Valtteri Filppula‘s first goal as a Flyer, the second line struggled against the Capitals. They generated a paltry two scoring chances, the lowest on the team, while allowing five as well as the lone 5v5 goal against on the evening.
- This line has the potential to struggle defensively at times, and Evgeny Kuznetsov exposed that. In 5:46 of Kuznetsov against Filppula, the Capitals had 11 shot attempts to the Flyers’ two, including six scoring chances and a goal.
- One good game and one bad game for this trio so far. They should stick together for a few more games at least, but if they struggle again don’t be surprised to potentially see Konecny back in the top-nine.
- While the second line struggled, the third line thrived. I’m not sure why the Capitals keep matching up Alex Ovechkin against Sean Couturier, because it seems that Couturier wins most of those battles. In 5:40 with both of them on the ice, the Flyers had 13 shot attempts to the Capitals’ four, including eight shots on goal, eight scoring chances, and a goal.
- Not only did Couturier and company shutdown the Capitals’ top line, they scored the only Flyers goal of the game as well. Couturier started it off by checking Ovechkin off the puck, then Gudas got it up to Nick Cousins. Cousins got the puck through the neutral zone, over the blue line and then he found Matt Read with a cross-ice pass. Read’s shot was deflected perfectly in front by Couturier and into the back of the net.
- Getting a legitimate middle-six center to complement Couturier was the best thing the Flyers could’ve done for his game. The Flyers now have three good centers in Giroux, Filppula and Couturier, and can roll three lines. It’s now more of a top-nine and a bottom-three than the previous top-six and bottom-six.
- Travis Konecny looked healthy in his return to the lineup, though he was a bit rusty and was limited in his ice time. He got time on the second power play unit, but saw the least amount of time during 5v5 play. He could stay there for another game or two, but he has the offensive skill and is one of the team’s best 5v5 point producer so he should be moved back into the top-nine soon.
- The penalty killing of Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was outstanding. The four-on-three in overtime obviously wasn’t good, but they killed off three crucial penalties before that against one of the best power play teams in the league. I’ll give credit where it’s due.
- The top pair of Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald played their usual game it seemed like against the Capitals. Provorov had a few great defensive plays, including one highlighted in our GIF Rewind earlier. MacDonald had an up and down game, with more downs than ups per usual. The pair played some high-event hockey, with MacDonald being on the ice for a defense-high 10 scoring chances for and a team-high nine against.
- Michael Del Zotto and Radko Gudas are playing with some swagger. It looks like being here past the deadline has given Del Zotto confidence and he has played well in the past few games. Gudas has as well, including the aforementioned pass that sprung Cousins on the Couturier goal.
- If Del Zott0 and Gudas can return to form like they played early last season, the Flyers will have a much better chance at going on a run.
- Shayne Gostisbehere saw limited usage at 5v5 due to six power plays, but looked like himself once again. Brandon Manning struggled at times, which is expected of the sixth defensemen. His stellar start to the season seems so long ago now.
It seemed like the Flyers were taking a lot of shots from the point, but they also got pucks in deep and then back out in front of Holtby — sometimes too close in front of Holtby. The chances in front of the net are great to see and will eventually result in goals for this club.
The Capitals are one of the best first period teams in the league, but the Flyers outplayed them before going back on their heels a bit in the second period. The third period both teams played rather cautiously after scoring early, resulting in low-event hockey.
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.