Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 25: PHI 4, PIT 2 - Shortie and Stollie
So long, basement!
The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 4-2, over the archrival Shittsburgh Penguins, now having won 3 straight games at PPG Paints Arena dating back to Game 2 of last year's playoff series. Since that series, both teams have gone in the wrong direction. Both Pennsylvanian teams have struggled early to start the season, as struggling stars and poor, injury rideled goaltending, coming into this game in the bottom fourth of the Eastern Conference.
Yet it looked like things were going to revert back to the playoffs, where the Penguins dominated the Flyers at basically every turn in the most lopsided 6-game series I've ever seen. Just 39 SECONDS IN, the return of Provorov-Gostisbehere to start a game for the 1st time since October gave up a 2-on-1. Jake Guentzel turned back the clock to vintage 3rd period Game 6 form, finding Sidney Crosby, fresh off a natural hat trick against Colorado, for an unstoppable one-timer on the game's first shot to beat poor Anthony Stolarz. Here we go again, we thought. At least the beatdown the Flyers were surely about to take could basically guaranteed Dave Hakstol's termination.
But wait a second, straight outta the abyss for the hundreth time, here come the Flyers. Specifically, here comes Travis Konecny. TK took a beautiful stretch pass from Robert Hagg to get behind Kris Letang and made sniping on Casey DeSmith look far too easy. I always feel like Konecny just plays a little bit better against the Pens, which makes sense considering his fiesty playstyle. The goal was TK's 8th of the year and 5th in his last 6 games tied the score before the Penguins could get the Flyers in the "scared straight" mode that killed them against Ottawa.
As always, this edition of the Battle of Pennsylvania developed into a physical yet high-octane affair. Radko Gudas was particularly effective in the former - his 5 hits were tied with the always energetic Konecny. Both teams had chances - the Penguins created several scrums in front of Anthony Stolarz that easily could have generated a goal on several occasions, whereas the Flyers got their fair share of high-danger chances, most notably a breakaway for Jakub Voracek that saw DeSmith make two highlight-reel stops.
The game went by so fast in fact that hardly anyone had time to notice that Riley Sheahan gave the Pens a 2-1 lead on a short-side shot that Stolarz probably would have liked back. But just 63 seconds later, his team bailed him out. Jakub Voracek was able to freeze the Penguins defense before sending a perfect cross-ice pass for the better captain's one-timer, as G beat DeSmith to even the contest.
Philadelphia started the 3rd period short-handed because of an undeserved roughing minor on Radko Gudas in a scrum at the end of the 2nd, leaving everyone just waiting for the tie-breaking goal. And it came. Just now how you expected.
After Andrew MacDonald retrieved the puck behind the Flyers goal, Scott Laughton sent the puck ahead to a skilled right-handed forward that gets a lot of PK time. This unnamed but apparently pretty good hockey player breezed around a confused Kris Letang and sniped 5-hole on DeSmith for a shorthanded breakaway. Wondering who it is? I'll give you another hint - his number's in the 20s. Have it?
Claude Gir-does anyone else hear that sound?
I remember it from the Arizona comeback, but I can't put my finger on it - oh right.
BY GAWD THAT'S DALE WEISE'S MUSIC!
Dale the Snail showing some speed for his 1st career SHG (and the first shortie all season for the Flyers) to make it 3-2 Philly just 51 seconds into the 3rd. The last time the Flyers were in this building, the tide of the game largely turned on a Flyers short-handed goal, that one coming from Valtteri Filppula. Weise, who has been surprisingly effective this year, but should never seen top-6 minutes again, pots his 2nd of the year to give the Flyers their first lead of the night.
The Penguins pressed throughout the 3rd and were able to generate some good chances. At the end of the aforementioned power play, Sidney Crosby found himself wide open at the right side of the net with the puck lose and there for the taking. Just like when he missed an empty net in the final seconds of the 2nd period of Game 2. Or where Neuvy robbed him in the final minute of Game 5. You know Sid had PTSD just standing there, and sure enough he was unable to settle down the bouncing puck and tie the score. Derek Grant of all people nearly got the shortie back, but Stolarz stoned him on a shorthanded breakaway of his own. Yet the Penguins never completely grasped control of the game, and even after pulling DeSmith they still struggled to maintain possession in the Flyers zone. Finally, with less than 30 seconds left, Jake the Snake swatted a bouncing puck around Kris Letang and deposited his 7th goal of the season into the empty Pens' net, sealing the victory for the Flyers, their first in 8 days.
While not too much changed tonight in the lineup - AMac and Lehtera did come in for Folin and Weal respectively, and Provy was back with Hagg by night's end, so only the new look forward lines (25-19-17, 12-21-93, 23-15-22, with the top line staying the same) were different from the end of Tuesday - things will undoubtely be different the next time the Flyers take the ice. Off until Friday, the Flyers will almost certainly have a new GM by then, with former Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and Columbus assistant GM Bill Zito looking like the front runners. They may very well have a new head coach by then, although tonight may have (again) saved Dave Hakstol's job just in the nick of time. Change is coming, and we have known that for a while now. All we're waiting for is the details.
As mentioned above, one of the biggest reasons for the Penguins this year has been the struggles of their best players. Since October, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel have combined for just 1 even strength goal. For a team so dependent on their starpower, the Penguins desperately need these guys to get going if they are to make it back to the playoffs (I still think they will, by the way).
This game certainly wasn't lacking star power on paper - 3 of the 4 leading scorers in the NHL since 2011-12 dressed in Saturday's game. You can probably guess them anyway, but they are Sidney Crosby (1st), Claude Giroux (2nd) and Evgeni Malkin (4th). If you're curious, Patrick Kane is number 3.
Anthony Stolarz becomes the 6th different goalie to start for the Flyers in their last 6 regular season meetings against the Penguins. Preceeding him, from most recent to least, were Alex Lyon, Petr Mrazek, Michal Neuvirth, Brian Elliott, and Steve Mason (miss him).
Stollie was great between the pipes Saturday, stopping 30 of 32 in the win. The Sheahan goal may have been a bit weak, but Stollie made up for it with good rebound control, poise in the face of several net mouth scrambles, and, oh yeah, survived being trucked by Phil Kessel late in the 3rd period. To which the refs called no penalty. Thanks, stripes.
In fairness to Stollie, Sheahan had scored just 1 goal in his last 21 games, so he was pretty much due for a goal in this one no matter who started for the Flyers.
While I was excited to see the Provy-Ghost duo reunite for the first time in about a month and half, the results were surprisingly awful. Neither defenseman looked on their game and the pair struggled by advanced metrics and the ice test alike, making it easy for Dave Hakstol to split them up again. These two desperately need to get going if the Flyers are going to turn things around, since there is such a clear gap between them and the Flyers next best defenseman (which is probably Sanheim, maybe Gudas).
You know which defenseman did look on his game? Andrew MacDonald. Which is shocking, because he usually doesn't even get in games this year. Yet MacDonald looked solid all night and recored his first career 3-point game, assisting on 3 Flyers goals scored on a tended net.
With the firing of Gord Murphy Tuesday, Kris Knoblauch ran the defense Saturday. Hak did say finding a replacement was a priority, so it's doubtful Knoblauch will have that responsiblity for much longer. But he did better at it than he has done with the power play, so.
Maybe not so much actually - only 11:02 for Travis Sanheim? Really? When is the coaching staff going to learn to trust this kid and let him show that he is a top-4 defenseman? He's not going to learn if you barely play him, Dave (slash Kris).
Believe it or not, this wasn't the earliest into a game Sidney Crosby's ever scored against the Flyers - he tallied 16 seconds in to Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, a game the Pens would go on to lose 8-5 and a series they would drop in 6 games. Man that brings back some good memories.
For all we talk about the decline of physicality and the importance of fighting in today's NHL, it played a major role in tonight's game. In what I'm calling the reverse Dan Carcillo, Wayne Simmonds got into a fight with the giant Jamie Oleksiak less than 2 minutes after Crosby scored. It may have been a draw, but it got the Flyers back in the game - TK struck less than 4 minutes later and the Flyers were back in business.
Cal Pickard was claimed off waivers by the Coyotes on Wednesday, and therefore is no longer with the organization.
Note: The monthly power rankings are getting moved back a week (just for this month), so they'll be out on the 2nd Sunday (the 9th).
1st - C. Giroux (PHI) - 1 G
2nd - S. Crosby (PIT) - 1 G (and a L)
3rd - T. Konecny (PH) - 1 G
PHI - 12/6 vs. CBJ (15-9-2)
PHI - 12/4 vs. COL (15-6-5)