Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 47: BOS 3, PHI 4 - Hart Trick
The Flyers now lead the league in two categories - faceoff percentage and hats thrown in January.
Because for the 3rd time in their last 4 games, the Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 4-3, over the Boston Bruins (just like in the Super Bowl, Philly beats Boston) on the strength of a great performance by Starter Hart and another hat trick, this time by Sean Couturier.
Let's be clear here - the Flyers did not deserve to win this game. The Bruins had well over 70 shot attempts in this contest, outshot the Flyers 42-19, controlled the vast majority of play, and, oh yeah, jumped out to a 2-0 lead, the 2nd straight game the Flyers had fallen behind by that margin. Two unstoppable cross-crease goals from David Pastrnak on the power play and Peter Cehlarik's first in the NHL. Against the Flyers, you say? What a stunning develop-what is he, the 4th one this week?
Scott Gordon did not elect to call his timeout, which was fair considering I felt like the 1st was the most even of the three periods. His team responded to the vote of confidence, as a few minutes after Cehlarik's tally, Jaroslav Halak was beaten by an Oskar Lindbomb from the slot. Ok, it wasn't much of a bomb - in fact, Halak probably should've stopped it. Still, Oskie's first goal in... wait, how long has it been since it he scored?
Spits out water - 30 GAMES? Sheesh, Oskar. And we were all joking when we said scoring the first goal of the year was gonna make him the new Boyd Gordon. Just like his fellow 2nd-year forward Nolan Patrick Monday, Lindblom breaks his drought and uses the confidence to build a strong game overall. That goal was critical in keeping the Flyers in this one, putting them within 1 goal after the 1st period.
But the real reason the Flyers were still in the game after 20 minutes was the man between the pipes. Starter Hart, coming off an up-and-down performance against Minny, was dominant in goal all night. Several big saves, including breakaway stops on Pastrnak and Donato kept the Flyers alive, giving the offense the chance to wake up in the 2nd.
The Flyers would've liked to deliver a more consistent performance offensively, but when they were on tonight, they were on. That was evident in a 1:15 span in the 2nd, when Sean Couturier scored twice to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead. The first goal was a beautiful deflection off a Jake Voracek slapper shot right at Coots stick - the second, a beautiful backdoor feed from Simmer to cap off a beautiful passing play on the man advantage, putting the Flyers in the lead.
But in addition to having to deal with a relentless Boston attack, the Flyers had a spy in their lineup. Jori Lehtera, he who must not be played (except for the last 2 games) took the most moronic 5-minute boarding major of all-time, getting kicked out of the game in the process. He literally had enough time to offer Ryan Donato some cocaine while sizing him up, knowing full well he was about to deliver an illegal hit, and yet still did. Frankly, I'd be shocked if it didn't earn a suspension. Hopefully it's for the whole season. Seriously.
Faced with an incredible amount of adversity, the Flyers improving PK and Carter Hart stood on their heads. A bevy of blocked shots and big stops shut down the entirety of the Bruins 5-minute power play, obviously a huge kill for the team. The Flyers took 2 more penalties in the 3rd period, and the PK stood their ground both times. The increased aggressiveness and tweaks made by Scott Gordon have clearly been having a positive effect on the PK as it slowly makes its way out of the basement.
All of this was setting up something special, we just couldn't tell what. It became apparent when the Flyers got a 2-on-1 with just under 5 minutes left, especially when you saw who had the puck on his stick. Yes, that is Sean Cout-hatty-ier sniping on Halak, finishing off his... 1st career hat-trick? Seriously? John, you literally called his 2nd one in the playoffs 9 months ago. Leaving out playoff stats like that has always been a pet peeve for me, but I'll let it slide, only so I can cheer for Coots more.
It felt like the Flyers were destined for victory after that goal, even though it was only their 4th shot of the period. But that Cehlarik guy decided he still wasn't done, tipping in a Marchand shot with 1:06 to go, instantly dealing flashbacks of the Calgary game to Flyers fans everywhere.
Thankfully, the team didn't buckle and fall back like they did in that collapse. In fact, after another good save by Hart, Couturier was able to draw an interference penalty from a stickless David Krejci that all but wrapped the game up (although ended his bid at a 4-goal game). Yes folks, it appears the Flyers may just be fun again. If nothing else, they have plenty of Hart.
The last few games have reaffirmed a fear of mine for the last few weeks. The eye test says the Flyers have been a bad team, and while analytics suggest they're not awful, it's not like they're playing like world beaters and just not getting the bounces. But there is still a lot of talent on this team. Giroux, Coots, JVR, Provy, TK, Ghost, the list goes on and on. Even if some of those guys are still struggling, it just seems like there's too much talent for the Flyers to remain in the basement for ever.
For the record, I'm not suggesting they'll come close to the playoffs, but there's a good chance they wind up in a position that leaves them on the outside of the top of the draft lottery. But the short term high is nice, especially for the development of guys like Hart. Either way, I'll try to take the positive out of it. I recommend you do the same.
James van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier become the first set of Flyers teammates to score hat tricks in the consecutive games since Mark Recchi and John LeClair in 2002.
Another reason you should've been scared when the Bruins pulled within 1 - since 2015, the Bruins have scored 5 lead-changing goals in the final 2 minutes of regulation against the Flyers, and are 4-0-1 in those games.
While this was Coots' 3rd hat trick of his career if you count the playoffs, it was his first natural hat trick regardless of the time of the season. He becomes the 8th player to have one this season, and the first to do so in 2019.
Claude Giroux recorded his 500th career assist on Lindblom's tally. Only Bobby Clarke has more for the Flyers.
At the forefront of the Flyers PK, which went 3/4 including the 5-minute major was Robert Hagg with a career-high 7 blocked shots. Coots, Giroux, Lindblom, and Provy were also particularly sharp down a man.
How to tell the Flyers best defenseman are struggling - Provy will have troubles handling the puck (he did tonight) and Ghost will miss the net (he did tonight too). Still, both had their moments tonight, especially Provorov, who had 2 assists.
Provorov was also on the 2nd PP unit tonight, replacing Travis Sanheim. I actually thought they didn't look half bad in terms of getting set up and zone time (their usual issues), but wish they would've shot the puck more.
Stat of the night: Jori Lehtera played 5:40, yet took 17 penalty minutes. Remind why this guy is still playing, Scott?
The guy who might take his spot if he is suspended (or benched, as he should be), Dale Weise, was actually put on waivers by the Flyers Tuesday for the 2nd time this season. He cleared, and is still on the NHL roster, so the move was likely done to gauge interest and open up flexibility. Weise is eligible to be sent down and called up at any point over the next 30 days.
Prospect news - one of the more underrated players in the Flyers pipeline, left winger Matt Strome, was recently named captain of the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL. Speaking of prospects, I plan to do another prospect pyramid near the end of the month, probably around the All-Star Break.
1st - C. Hart (PHI) - .929 SV% (39 Saves/42 Shots)
2nd - S. Couturier (PHI) - 3 G
3rd - P. Cehlarik (BOS) - 2 G
BOS - 1/17 vs. STL (20-20-5)
PHI - 1/19 @ MTL (26-17-5)