Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 22: NYR 0, PHI 4 - You Grit What You Get
It's amazing what putting Tyrell Goulbourne in the lineup and inducing your opponent into a turkey coma can do for you.
Ok that second one probably helped a bit more.
The Philadelphia Flyers WIN their annual Black Friday matchup in style, 4-0, over the formerly red hot New York Rangers and currently red hot Henrik Lundqvist, stopping their 4-game losing streak probably just in time to save Dave Hakstol's job.
Look, it may be better off for this team long term for Hak to be fired, and losing is pretty much the only way that's gonna happen, but I just can't bring myself to do it. The only time I've done was after the Flyers were eliminated from the 2017 playoffs in like late March. I only had to do for like 8 games but it sucked, and I don't want to do that again unless I absolutely have to.
And look, Hak made some interesting decisions that looked worthy of another episode of: Dave Hakstol, What Are You Doing? that actually paid off! Tyrell Goulbourne in for the now-demoted Nicholas Aube-Kubel was a wash, which is all you could hope for (it's a dumb transaction though - seriously, is Hexy counting on a 4th line AHL enforcer to get this team energized?) Starting Cal Pickard may have been obvious, but we've seen Dave blow obvious decisions before, and it worked in spades. But folks, it's time to acknowledge elite top-6 forward Dale Weise.
Because apparent ex-Ranger Dale the Snail may have had the game of his Flyers career in this one. He was all over the ice - tenacious on the forecheck, wreaking havoc in front of Henrik Lundqvist, drawing a penalty (he also took one but it was a bad call), creating scoring chances, even being a key part of a penalty kill that actually did their job! Weise has finally looked like the player Ron Hextall thought he was signing two summers ago and has actually become a key piece in the Flyers bottom-6 after being healthy scratched the first 3 games.
Weise was not the only Flyer looking good in Friday afternoon, especially early. After Wayne Simmonds told Pierre McGuire in a pre-game interview, Philadelphia came out and outshot the Rangers 18-5, a preview of things to come. After several great chances, the Flyers of course cashed in on a greasy toss from Travis Konecny that went off the pad of Lundqvist and the glove of Brady Skjei before finding the back of the net. For all of the great chances that TK has been unable to finish this year (including one late in Buffalo that could've gotten the Flyers back in the game), it was good that he had a lucky bounce go his way.
The overall pattern of this game wound up following how most people felt on Thursday. Everything was off to a great start - the Flyers were feasting on the Rags through 20. Things started to even out more in the 2nd - which makes sense, because in Thanksgiving, the 2nd course is never quite as good as the 1st, right? Granted, it's still pretty good - the Flyers outshot New York 18-14 and to my eyes still had the better of place (highlighted by a Weise mini-breakaway that Lundqvist miracuously got with his right pad). Still 1-0 after 40.
Then came the wait for desert, which is always a bit painful. And over the first 15ish minutes of the 3rd the Rangers started to push back, much like the average American's stomach on Turkey Day. The Rangers started generating some quality chances - Lias Andersson was robbed by Pickard on a partial break and Tony DeAngleo hit the post a few minutes later, and it was looking like the Flyers' bellies might burst too soon.
But then came dessert came and boy was it worth the rate. Immediately following a swarm from the Rags, the Flyers top line took advantage of an odd-man rush with TK finding Coots for a beautiful goal (no Ranger in the way needed), issuing a crippling blow with just 5:21 left. An ENG for Weal and another tally for Coots off a TK shot that somehow slipped through Lundqvist in the dying minutes sealed the deal. Philadelphia dominated the red-hot Rangers in a game that Dave Hakstol (and the team) had to had, as they gain a little bit of ground. The Flyers get the win, the beat reporters and Mike Milbury get the fight they wanted (TK decisioned Ryan Strome after the latter threw a late check on Couturier in the 2nd), and everyone gets to stuff their face with leftovers to the tune of a Flyers victory.
Last year, 11 of the 16 teams in playoff position as of American Thanksgiving wound up making the playoffs. The year before it was 12, and the 3 years before that it was 13. In 2016 and 2018, the Flyers found a way to be one of the few to jump back into the picture. They'll have to do it again to avoid this year being a complete failure, and probably to save Dave Hakstol's job.
The Flyers have now won 4 straight games against the Rangers, dating back to 2/18/18. They have also shutout the Rangers in back-to-back games for the 3rd time (10/20/99 - 10/22/99, 12/30/09 - 1/21/10).
Gotta give a lot of credit to Cal Pickard in this one - he looked a bit shaky with his rebound control in the 1st but wasn't tested enough for it to be an issue. When the Rangers woke up in the 2nd and especially the 3rd, Pickard was ready. His breakaway down-and-out right pad sprawling save on Lias Andersson was his biggest - just moments after, Couturier would pot the 2-0 dagger, which never would've happened without Pickard's effort. A fitting recepient of the victory helmet for sure.
Kind of a weird roster transaction - goalie Anthony Stolarz was called back up after the game, although no injury to either Pickard or Lyon was reported. To make room, Brian Elliott was placed on IR retroactive to November 15th.
Another piece of news from the minors, this one much worse - center German Rubtsov, the #22 pick in the 2016 draft, is out for the year according to head coach Scott Gordon. After a disappointing draft +2 season, Rubtsov was rediscovering his offensive touch with 10 points in his 14 professional games after a strong training camp. Really sucks for his development.
Forgot to mention this in the Buffalo recap I believe - after not having a fighting major their first 20 games, the Flyers get 2 in as many games (Laughton on Wednesday, TK today - both decisioned). Call it the Goulbourne effect (even though he wasn't up for Wednesday's game).
The scrap, the apple, and the geno - that's right folks, it's a Gordie Howe hat trick for TK! The last time I can find a Flyer having one was Dale Weise on 3/30/16 against the Islanders. TK's fight was also the 4th of his career, and the 2nd against the Rangers.
Giroux's assist was his 481st (he finished the game with 483), putting him past Brian Propp for the 2nd most assists by a Flyer. As with many offensive stats, he's still got a long way to catch Bobby Clarke (852).
If there was one criticism I'd have for the Flyers, it was too many passes on 2-on-1 chances. A couple of times Flyers like Giroux and Voracek had good chances to shot, but elected to make a relatively low-percentage pass through good defense and couldn't get it cleanly through. I'm all for making the extra pass if it's there, but if it's not, don't force it.
And since this is the Flyers and we can never have complete positivity, I'll point out that Shayne Gostisbehere didn't have his best game in this one. Ghost made a couple of bad turnovers in this one, not looking like his usual confident self with the puck.
Alright fine, you want some good news? The Flyers PK was a perfect 3 for 3, not allowing a power play goal for just the 6th time in 22 games.
After a rough start (3 G, 0 A in his first 11 games), Sean Couturier has put up an impressive 14 points in his last 11 and is now on pace for a 37 goal season. I personally didn't think Coots would stay down for long, but he's always had his doubters, and hopefully these last 11 games will quiet them back down.
I know most people don't give gifts for Thanksgiving, but for you, I'm going to be nice: after nominating himself for their Person of the Year cover, TIME Magazine gave us the pleasure of a 1-on-1 exclusive interview with Gritty: http://time.com/5460789/gritty-interview/ (sorry for not knowing how to hyperlink on this website)
Want some more reading? JVR just published an article himself on the Players' Tribune. It's mostly about his time with Toronto, but does mention Philly a decent amount and is overall a good read (and it features another hilarious quote about Gritty: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/james-van-riemsdyk-nhl
1st - T. Konecny (PHI) - 1 G, 2 A
2nd - H. Lundqvist (NYR) - .933 SV% (39 Saves/42 Shots)
3rd - C. Pickard (PHI) - 1.000 SV% (27 Saves/27 Shots)
NYR - 11/24 vs. WSH (12-7-3)
PHI - 11/24 @ TOR (15-8-0)