Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 12: PHI 3, ANA 2 - Pat On the Back
Admit it, you thought they were gonna quack under pressure, but there was no way the Flyers were going to duck out of Anaheim without 2 points.
Sorry, that was bad.
You know what wasn't bad? The Philadelphia Flyers winning, 3-2, in over-oh that's right they won in regulation, over the Anaheim Not So Mighty Ducks. They've really lived up to that description early on this year, being carried by John Gibson and now having lost each of their last 7 games, 6 of them in regulation. And without Gibson starting on Tuesday, the Flyers struggling offense was primed to breakout. Surely they would be able to create quality chances against the defensive mess that is the Ducks, right?
While a lot of the focus was on the call ups the Flyers made (Aube-Kubel was slotted in at 4th line right wing, Goulbourne was healthy scratched), the Flyers made some major changes to their power play units. Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek flipped spots with Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny, balancing out the talent levels of the units. However, all three of the old PP1 members factored in on the Flyers first goal. Shayne Gostisbehere slid the puck to Claude Giroux, who threaded the needle for a perfect redirection by ELITE 1st line center Sean Couturier, who scored his 4th goal of the year and first on the power play to give the Flyers the early lead. Yes, you read that right folks, the Flyers actually scored first.
Philadelphia kept their pressure up throughout the 1st period, outshooting Anaheim 10-7 in the opening stanza. However, their lead didn't last long in the 2nd. A red-hot Pontus Aberg took advantage of a breakdown by the Gostisbehere-Folin pair, then froze Elliott with a slight hesitation and beat him upstairs to even the score. You could easily spread the blame to any one of those three players, but personally that's a shot where you need a goalie to make a stop.
Alright, here comes the downfall! Who's ready for 5 more unanswered goals by the Ducks with Dave Hakstol doing absolutely nothing to stop them?
Apparently, not the Flyers, for once. Later in the frame, with the Flyers in the middle of a change, Claude Giroux created a shooting lane and fired one of the leg of - oh my goodness he actually scored.
Ivan Provorov FINALLY lights the lamp, a perfect redirection off his skate and the fist pump to follow, breaking him out of his slump offensively and giving the Flyers the lead back. Provy has finally looked more and more like himself over the last week or so, but it's amazing what a goal can do for confidence. Coots and Provorov were dancing all over the ice Tuesday, and I'm sure the fact they scored was a big part of it. 2-1 Flyers after 2.
While the Flyers played a strong first 40 minutes, with constant aggression and offensive chances, outshooting Anaheim 27-16 after 2 periods, it seemed like yet another passive 3rd period would due the Flyers in. The Ducks controlled play for the majority of the 3rd period, and the Flyers felt like a ticking time bomb throughout the stanza, with the Ducks just waiting for the fuse to burst.
Their spark came in the form of a Jordan Weal tripping minor, and a bad one at that, giving Anaheim a chance to tie things up. The Flyers penalty kill had been 3/3 going into that kill and generated a short-handed breakaway for Scott Laughton earlier (he was stopped), but you just knew the Ducks would strike. Sure enough, Cam Fowler was giving all kinds of space on the right side of the zone, and fired a shot that Brian Elliott overplayed off Aberg's leg to tie the game. Yep.
At first I thought this was a bad goal on Elliott, but the re-direction off Aberg made it difficult, and the passivity of the Flyers PK once again burned them. This had all the makings of a classic Flyers choke job, and one that would further heaten the seat of Dave Hakstol. The real question was would they get 0 points or 1.
How about 2?
21 seconds after Fowler scored, the Flyers responded. Philadelphia had put an emphasis on working behind the goal line in this game, and it had created some good chances, notably one from a pinching Travis Sanheim set up by Jordan Weal. But it didn't bear any fruits until the dying minutes. It was Lindblom tracking down the lose puck this time, and feeding one in front to -
THAT ROSY CHEEKED SNIPER NOLAN PATRICK!
Nolie with the snip-e, beating Ryan Miller and scoring what might wind up being the biggest goal of the Flyers season, giving the Flyers a 3-2 lead with just 1:51 left!
Even better than the goal was the way the Flyers responded. No let down. Instead, Philadelphia was able to kill off the next minute with several steals and shots in the offensive zone, limiting the Ducks time with an extra attacker. The Flyers bent, but did not break, and picked up 2 huge points against a floundering Ducks squad.
Believe it or not, there will be some Flyers fans that won't be happy the Flyers won Tuesday night. What this win does is allow Dave Hakstol and Ron Hextall to think everything is fine when it clearly isn't and avoid making the changes that this team may need to become elite.
While I see their point, I'm not ready to give up on this season just yet. It's only 12 games, and the Flyers have been notoriously slow starters even before Hakstol, and I'm convinced things won't stay as bad as they have been. There's simply too much talent up-front, even with JVR and Michael Raffl on IR, for the Flyers to stay down too long. Besides, with Giroux and Voracek starting to age, and Wayne Simmonds becoming a pending UFA in the offseason, the time to win is now. Maybe not this year, but soon. And I'm not sure making a coaching change about 15% into the season is the way to go. It may be. We all like to rant about firing Dave Hakstol, but even if the Flyers were to do that, they'd have to find a replacement stat. And Scott Gordon isn't it. The Flyers have always had a knack of pulling out of the abyss in the nick of time under Dave Hakstol. We'll see if they can do it again.
Tuesday's victory marked the first time since February 2nd, 2003, that the Flyers won a game in regulaton.
The Flyers offensive pressure may have seemed impressive, but what is just as impressive has been the Ducks' ineptitude this season. Anaheim is giving up the most shots this year while also taking the fewest, and have given up 45 shots in 4 of their first 12 games. Hard to win games like that, even with John Gibson bailing them out in net most nights.
The Ducks results are finally starting to show their level of play; with the loss on Tuesday, Anaheim fell to 0-6-1 in their last 7 games.
One of the reasons the Flyers have had trouble keeping the puck out of their own net? Stop me if you've heard this before, it's the goaltending. I feel like I've blamed the defense for most goals given up this year and generally given (usually) Elliott the benefit of the doubt, but I didn't realize how bad the Flyers have been in net this year - a .860 save%, dead last in the NHL (for reference - Florida is 2nd worst at a .867 save%).
For the second straight year, Ivan Provorov scores his 1st goal of the season in Anaheim. Granted it only took him 3 games last year, but hey, better late than never.
While the new top power play unit looked solid, the 2nd unit of Simmonds-Weal-Voracek-Lindblom-Provorov looked awful, somehow giving up two 2-on-1s in the same power play.
The previous comment made it far less surprising that Dave Hakstol went back to his old PP1 in the 3rd. After the new top unit went out to start the Flyers 3rd power play, Konecny and Patrick were replaced by Simmonds and Voracek, with Giroux, Couturier, and Gostisbehere all staying out. The old unit also started and played most of the Flyers 4th power play later in the 3rd.
After Patrick's late go-ahead goal, he did some jawing with Ryan Kesler. This was a pretty physical game in general, but one of the more egregious plays was Kesler slashing Patrick off a neutral zone face off. Maybe I should've just called this game "Nolan's Revenge."
Pontus Aberg, who scored both of Anaheim's goals, has now scored 4 goals in his last 2 games. I guess that's better than the traditional Flyer way of giving up 2 goals to a guy who hadn't scored in his last 26.
Last year the Flyers 3 game road trip to Western Canada saved their season - it immediately followed the 10-game losing streak and saw the Flyers win all 3 games, then win their next 3 after that. The season may have never truly been lost, but regardless, we'll see if this year's trip out west can have the same effect.
1st - N. Patrick (PHI) - 1 G, 1 A
2nd - P. Aberg (ANA) - 2 G
3rd - S. Couturier (PHI) - 1 G
PHI - 11/1 @ LA (3-7-1)
ANA - 11/1 vs. NYR (4-7-1)