Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 13: PHI 5, LA 2 - Just for Kicks
Put your feet up and enjoy this one Flyers fans, just make sure there's an LA Kings' stick in the way.
The Philadelphia Flyers win consecutive games for the first time this season, 5-2, over LA Kings.
If you read LA as one word it makes sense. Gramatically, anyways.
While the Ducks record didn't necessarily portray how poorly they have been playing early on, the Kings record does just that - 3-7-1 entering play Thursday night. And to pour salt on the wound, Jonathan Quick is out indefinitely after surgery to repair a torn meniscus. It stinks for the Kings, who had expectations to be good this year after signing Ilya Kovalchuk in the offseason, but for the Flyers, it's more of a you'll take what you can get scenario. Philadelphia came into this road trip desperately needing points, and they happen to start it off with two of the coldest teams in hockey.
The Flyers were actually able to string together another solid start to Thursday's game at 5-on-5, but their early problem was discipline. The Flyers took 3 penalties in the 1st period, including giving LA a 5-on-3 for 1:36. So how many goals was the PK torched for?
The Kings offensive looked very uncoordinated throughout the 1st period, which was magnified by the 5-on-3 that saw them get just 2 shots on goal (none of which were very high quality) and fail to take advantage of a struggling Flyers PK. And the Flyers were ready to make them pay.
With just under 3 minutes to go, elite top 9 forward Dale Weise got the puck on the right wing with the Flyers setting up to create a good chance on Kings goalie Jack Campbell. And in typical Dale Weise fashion, he completely fanned on the shot.
But wait! The hockey gods have now permitted for bounces to go the Flyers way, as Weise picks up the puck again, suddenly in a better position than before. Weise found a wide open Ivan Provorov driving to the net, who deposited the puck past Campbell and gave the Flyers the first goal of the game. Or at least the imposters who kidnapped the Flyers and replaced them with people who actually know how to play the first 20 minutes of a hockey game.
The goal was a good, albeit fortunate play overall, but what excited me the most was that it was Provorov that scored it. Not only was it his second in as many games, when Ivan Provorov is at his best it's when he's activating in the offensive zone and is not afraid to jump up to create chances. He had seldom done that for the first 10 games, but he's finally rounding into shape, and just in time, too.
Unfortunately, all good things, like the Flyers winning and the penalty kill being competent, don't last forever. On their 4th power play of the night, LA finally struck. This wasn't necessarily a systematic breakdown as it was that the Flyers were just tired. Following a failed clear from Jori Lehtera, former Columbus Blue Jackets legend Jeff Carter (he also had a brief stint with the Flyers too) got 2 point blank shots off on Elliott, the 2nd of which found the back of the net. And here we go again.
Or not. Why? Because Oskar Lindblom has discovered the magic of playing the puck behind the goal line, that's why.
It started with a play that looked eerily similar to the game winner from Tuesday. Lindblom made a perfect pass from behind the goal to a wide open Wayne Simmonds, who snapped the puck past Campbell and restored the Flyers lead. Then Lindblom decided he wanted some of the fun, passing the puck to Jake Voracek and then directing the puck in with his skate after dropping off to the side of the net for another quick strike.
Key word there is "directing." Because it really looked like this goal was going to be called back. Lindblom definitely moves his skate in a distinct kicking motion, but apparently because the puck (or maybe the skate?) hit off a Kings' stick after, the kick was nullified and the goal still counted. Hey, I said the hockey gods were finally gonna start giving us breaks, so there you go.
It looked like that lead was going to hold up going into 2nd intermission, but the Flyers just played awful in the last 2 minutes of the frame. After Elliott made a great save on a wide open Anze Kopitar, the Kings got a goal that looked eerily similar to their first tally. This time it was Ilya Kovalchuk picking up his own rebound in front and beating Elliott, making it a 3-2 game after 40.
LA picked right up where they left off in the 3rd, controlling play for the first 10 minutes as the Flyers started to turtle. But a Jake Voracek breakaway just before the halfway mark seemed to change the tone. Voracek may have been stopped, but the Flyers finally remembered that controlling the puck is a good thing, regardless of the score and period. Sean Couturier amplified that message by stealing a puck at his own blue line and springing Claude Giroux for the team's 2nd clear cut breakaway of the frame. This time, the Captain did not miss, beating Campbell and sealing the victory. A Robert Hagg near 200-foot empty netter was the icing on the cake.
While you obviously take the results of the last 2 games with a grain of salt considering the competiton, remember how often the Flyers have played down to teams for the last few years. Makes you appreciate those 4 points that much more.
That being said, Los Angeles is one of the stingier teams in the league regarding giving up high-danger chances despite their poor record. Which makes the fact the Flyers were able to pick them apart for 4 goals on a tended net that much more impressive.
In a complete 180 compared to the Flyers recent struggles at Honda Center (and against the Ducks in general), Philadelphia is now 10-3-1 in their last 14 games at Staples Center.
The PK was better on Thursday, going 4-5 (80%), and of course killing off the aforementioned 5-on-3. They looked a little more aggressive in their own zone too. Granted, the Kings power play wasn't very sharp, but the Flyers PK did what they had to.
While the penalty kill was still bad last year, one saving grace was the Flyers were generally good at staying out of the box. This year, not so much. Philadelphia has the 9th PIM per game, compared to 19th last year.
He hasn't received much ice-time (less than 14 minutes total), but Nicholas Aube-Kubel has looked solid. He's been tenacious and effective on the forecheck and has mostly made good decisions with the puck. Which means he'll probably be scratched on Saturday for Tyrell Goulbourne. You know why.
Back-to-back 2 point nights for Nolan Patrick, who now has 6 points in as many games since returning from injury (he had 0 points in his first 4 contests).
I personally thought Travis Sanheim was pretty good Thursday, but apparently Dave Hakstol didn't agree with me (shocker), because Sanheim only got 13:32 time on ice, by far the lowest amongst Flyers blueliners. The next lowest was Folin at 18:29. I'm honestly done guessing what Dave Hakstol thinks of Sanheim - he seems to like his game (at least that's what he says), but his decisions seldom show it.
Michal Neuvirth sat out the game (although he probably wasn't going to play anyway) for precautionary reasons. The Flyers are taking precaution because it appears Michal Neuvirth is in fact, still Michal Neuvirth.
Another solid game for Brian Elliott - 2 goals against in both games of this roadtrip, some timely saves on good chances in both, benefitting for a shot off iron that could have changed momentum (but didn't) in both, and most importantly, picking up 2 points in both.
Brian Elliott and Sean Couturier are tied with 1 assist this season. That is all.
1st - I. Provorov (PHI) - 1 G
2nd - J. Carter (LA) - 1 G, 1 A
3rd - O. Lindblom (PHI) - 1 G, 1 A
PHI - 11/3 @ SJ (6-4-3)
LA - 11/3 vs. CBJ (7-5-0)