The Philadelphia Flyers won a hockey game. They finished out their three-game western Canadian road trip with a win. After dropping back-to-back frustrating games in Calgary and Edmonton, the orange and black came out firing against Vancouver.
Goals from Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek and Brayden Schenn powered the team to victory, with Shayne Gostisbehere assisting on all three.
Dave Hakstol did the unthinkable in this game; he healthy scratched Andrew MacDonald. He dressed seven defensemen with Michael Del Zotto returning on Thursday, and then decided to make MacDonald the healthy scratch on Sunday night.
We saw two new defensive pairings as a result, with the sheltered Streit-Gostisbehere pair remaining intact. We also saw a change on the second line due to injury.
Jordan Weal was ruled out with an upper-body injury, so Dale Weise took his spot on the second line. It isn’t the ideal fit, but the third line was playing so well that seemingly Hakstol didn’t want to break them up. Roman Lyubimov also returned to the lineup on the fourth line after being scratched for the seventh defenseman on Thursday.
It wasn’t a dominant win that you’d like to see against a bad team like the Canucks, but it was a win. That’s all the Flyers can ask for right now. After losing games in which they won the shot attempt battle, it’s nice to see them get some bounces and have the game go their way. And they even somehow ended up winning the shot-attempt battle!
The Flyers scored an early power play goal before the Canucks pushed back hard in the end of the first. But Michal Neuvirth and the Flyers for holding them off until the second period.
The Flyers took a quick 3-0 lead early in the second period, but the Canucks battled back. They got one back just a minute later off a deflection play, and then the teams went back-and-forth for the remainder of the period. Vancouver made the Flyers sweat a little as they made it 3-2 midway through the second, but the Flyers held on.
With a one goal lead heading into the third period, the Flyers would usually try to protect it by all means necessary defensively. However, in this one there was some offensive urgency from Dave Hakstol’s bunch. The Canucks had two strong pushes, but besides that the Flyers may have had the better scoring chances. They ended up with more shot attempts, shots on goal, and scoring chances than the Canucks.
It wasn’t a full sixty-minute effort, but it was enough to win a hockey game. They capitalized on their power play opportunities, scoring on two of three, and added a goal off a great stretch pass on the rush for their third.
- The top line had its fair share of ups and downs against the Canucks. Obviously the power play goals from Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn were the highlights, but they also had a few shifts where they were camped out in the offensive zone.
- On the other hand, they got out-attempted by an inferior Canucks’ line. It’s not what you want to see from your top line. Luckily they were able to keep the shots from hitting the net; just four of the 18 shot attempts against while Claude Giroux was on the ice were shots on goal, the other 14 were blocked or missed the net.
- “Everything but the finish” was said multiple times in reference to the Flyers’ top six, if only they could bring in Kimmo Timonen for the Finnish.
- Konecny – Couturier – Voracek was magic, Weal – Couturier – Voracek was just as good… but Weise – Couturier – Voracek dominating? I’m not sure if anyone saw this coming. It seems that Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek can make a good player out of just about anyone they play with.
- They got off 20 shot attempts while allowing less than 10, with most of their shots hitting the net. Couturier and Voracek were on the ice for a team-high 10 shots on goal, with Couturier also allowing a team-best two shots on goal against. Couturier’s offense may not ever come like we had hoped, but his defensive game is always there.
- The two workhorses combined for a beautiful goal off the rush. Shayne Gostisbehere banked a stretch pass to Couturier as he entered the offensive zone to get a shot off, and Voracek weaved by the defense to get to the front of the net and put home the rebound. It was a thing of beauty and something that these guys needed.
- They had a few other odd-man rushes throughout the game, but most of them involved Dale Weise who can’t seem to buy a goal. He had the best possession night of them all though, with 20 shot attempts for and just five against in over 14 minutes.
- I intially thought that one of these three forwards would join the second line in Weal’s absence, but the decision to put Weise in the top six and keep this line intact proved to be a good one. This line is a forechecking and cycling machine while not allowing much of anything in the defensive end. Nick Cousins had another great game, and his wingers Michael Raffl and Matt Read did their parts as well.
- They were on the ice for Vancouver’s first goal, but their wasn’t too much they could do about it. A Sedin shot from the point was deflected in front past Neuvirth for the opening tally.
- The fourth line has played the most minutes together out of any line for the Flyers, which is baffling. They only got eight minutes of ice time but it seemed that every time you saw the Flyers in the defensive zone, it was the fourth line on the ice. They got demolished in terms of shot attempts and got put into the spin cycle while looking for a clear in the defensive zone.
- While the numbers don’t look great for this pair, it did look great seeing Ivan Provorov freed from Andrew MacDonald. Provorov had his standard, solid game. His positioning is so good that sometimes you don’t even notice it. He’s all over the ice, but he doesn’t get much help from his partner.
- It was nice to not see #47 get the puck and immediately hold your breath waiting for a mistake, but Brandon Manning isn’t exactly the top-pair replacement you’d like to see. I think Dave Hakstol acknowledged that as well by limiting the ice time of the top pair and giving some of it to the second pair.
- The top pair held their own against Vancouver and have played well in the past together, so hopefully Provorov can continue to be free from the MacDonald shackles this week.
- The numbers look good, but it wasn’t a good eye-test game for Michael Del Zotto. He was caught in no man’s land a bit on Vancouver’s second goal and had a few crucial turnovers that Neuvirth had to bail him out on. It’s his second game back from injury and with only three games before the trade deadline we may be reaching an impasse with Del Zotto soon.
- Radko Gudas, on the other hand, had a good game against the Canucks. He was on the ice for a team-high 23 shot attempts and nine scoring chances. Ideally I would like to see how a Provorov – Gudas pair works moving forward. Afterall, that may be who he’s left to work with after the trade deadline and going into the start of next season.
- What a game by Shayne Gostisbehere. His assists all came in a different fashion, and all had a significant impact on the goal. His power play shot rebounded to Simmonds for his goal, he fed a great stretch pass to Couturier on Voracek’s goal, and he made a drop pass to Schenn for his goal.
- Not only did he have his first career three-point game in the NHL, but he was also solid in all three zones. He was given the great check of the game for his diving stick-check to bat the puck away and was sound defensively all night long. This is the Gostisbehere we need to see moving forward.
The Flyers ended up winning the shot attempt battle, but that wasn’t the most important thing in the process. The most important thing for the Flyers in their win was their efforts and ability to get the puck into the slot for chances rather than settling for shots from the outside.
Their point shots hardly register on the heat map, and even their shots from the outside on the right wing are from the faceoff dot, not up by the blue line. We’ll have to wait and see if this was just a one game aberration or if it’s a systematic change by Hakstol and the Flyers.
The Flyers ended the first period with a lead for just the 10th time this season, and they held it the rest of the way. They didn’t deserve the lead after one period, but their second and third period efforts were stronger than expected after a weak first. It was a solid win for the orange and black.
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.