FFR2 Gm 7: VGK 2, PHI 6 - Second Wind
If that's the way it's gonna Fara-bee from now, I think we'll be just fine!
The Philadelphia Flyers return to the WINNING column with a 6-2 victory over the Loss Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL debut of Joel Farabee (and the NHL return of Mikhail Vorobyev). After an 0-3-1 swoon that was improbable by analytics, the Flyers were rewarded for a sound process and strong play.
While the Flyers did play a commendable game against the Golden Knights, this game was largely decided in between the pipes. As much as Oskar Dansk lost this game for the Golden Knights, giving up two stinkers in the 2nd and looking lost on numerous occasions, Brian Elliott was spectacular for the second time in as many starts.
Elliott stopped 35 of 37 shots, but it was the quality and timeliness of his saves that were so huge. Notably, Elliott stopped a slot shot from Jonathan Marchessault, a wide open look for Paul Stastny, and looked poised on numerous net-front scrambles. The only pucks that got by him were a 5-on-3 wide-open one-timer from Marchessault and a breakaway from Reilly Smith, who Elliott also got the better off on several great chances (though he was helped twice by the post). Ignoring his relief appearance in the already lost Edmonton game, Elliott is 68 for 72 this year, an incredible .944 SV%. It may be early, but Elliott has been a pleasant surprise so far.
You know what else has been a pleasant surprise? This light up the world second power play unit. The top unit has had their moments this year, but haven't looked amazing, scoring three goals thus far. The second unit has FIVE, which I'm pretty sure is more than they had from 2015-2018 combined. In 2017-18, there was exactly one goal scored when no members of the top unit were on the ice, and it was assisted by Brandon Manning and due in large part to a screen from Dale Weise. I think I got PTSD just writing that.
But they scored twice tonight, including the first goal of the game, when Lindblom's cross-ice pass deflected on over for a Travis Konnection (this is a thing now), sniping top cheese late on the PP. Their other goal was a thing of beauty. Sean Couturier was drifting puck at the right circle, practically mocking his soon-to-be prey. As he made the cross-seam pass, Travis "10,000 IQ" Konecny lifted the stick of Jon Merrill so that the puck could get through to its appointment to some Nisky Business on the far side. Nisky must've taken notes from Ovi from his time in Washington, blowing away Dansk with a one-timer.
In between those goals (other than the aforementioned amazing Elliott saves), the Flyers tallied twice. The first was an innocent dump-in by Scott Laughton that Kevin Hayes picked up. Hands moving at a New York minute, Hayes dragged the puck from forehand to backhand, wrapping it through Dansk's five-hole. 55 seconds later, a seeing eye wrister from Ivan Provorov found twine, thanks to a Michael Raffl screen. NHL.com will tell you it's Raff's, but replay pretty clearly showed (and Raffl even admitted post-game) that the puck went clean in, and will become Provorov's 2nd goal of the year.
After the two Vegas goals made it slightly interesting (not really, I'm trying to be nice), the Flyers put things away for good. Wanting to make sure he would end the game with at least one goal, Raffl tipped a loose puck in the neutral zone, creating a breakaway. The Austrian Rocket made a slick move to his backhand, slinging the puck to the back of the net as the hopeless Dansk's jock-strap practically went flying into the stands.
It just felt like a perfect ending to a massive bounce-back game for the Flyers. Though Vegas didn't play terribly Monday night, the Flyers were the better team other than perhaps the first 5 minutes of the second period. For the first time since the home opener 12 days ago, the eye test and analytics both agreed the Flyers deserved to, well, fly! It was apparent that after the Hayes goal, the Flyers confidence shot to the ceiling, and instead of things snowballing in the negative direction, the Flyers spiraled into success in all facets of play as the game progressed.
On paper, this was very much a game up for grabs. The Golden Knights were in a different time zone than usual, but had won their last two entering the City of Brotherly Love. Both teams started their backups. The Knights have been one of the most likable and well-oiled teams in the NHL basically since the beginning of their existence. And yet, the Flyers took care of them will relative ease. Any moments of angst were quelled by Elliott's great play.
We spent the entire first half of the 2018-19 season looking for a turning point victory that never came. Each glimmer of hope was followed by an embarrassing loss. Now, they have laid a building block towards success this season, which is the only one that matters. Monday's win was great, and should be celebrated. But when the dust settles, as the schedule keeps going, it's time to keep building.
Though the Knights did have plenty of positives tonight (and as a whole this season), one area Gerrard Gallant's club needs to clean up is discipline. Vegas leads the NHL with 12:30 penalty minutes per game, a number they actually improved Monday despite taking 5 minors.
While a slow start is never ideal, Alain Vigneault has hardly let that get in his way before. Check out this tweet from NBC Sports Philly's Jordan Hall from late Monday afternoon.
Joel Farabee had a very strong first NHL game on Monday, continuing his excellent play from the Phantoms (3 goals, 1 assist in 4 games). While Twarynski and Bunnaman struggled with the pace of the NHL, Farabee was excellent with the puck, exhibiting quick decision making. His only mistake was when he was basically left to cover for a defenseman (a tough spot for any forward) and failed to cover Marchessault, leading to a scoring chance. But on the whole, Farabee (3 shots on goal) was as good as you could've hoped for game one of many.
Farabee was also given an incredible opportunity to play on the top power play unit right off the hop, serving as a bumper-net front hybrid with JVR moved back to the net-front presence role. Farabee looked as solid at even-strength on the PP.
The other rookie making his season debut, Mikhail Vorobyev also looked solid. Misha finally seems to be putting the criticisms of his effort (or lack thereof) to rest, as he had an outstanding backcheck late in the 1st to force a turnover.
Vorobyev also recorded an assist on the soon-to-be Provorov goal, snapping a 13-game scoreless streak at the NHL level.
Tonight was a break through game for many Flyers, but one player still on the schneid is JVR. This season, van Riemsdyk has 38 shots on goal, by the far the most of any player without a goal. Justin Schultz is second with 26. And van Riemsdyk even hit the post tonight. Keep going, JVR - the goals will come soon, I promise!
We now have a three-way tie in the POG helmet standings! The Austrian Rocket has caught up to TK and Starter thanks to his two-point night and strong work on the PK and forecheck.
1st - Michael Raffl (PHI) - 1 Goal (we talked about why), 2 Assists
2nd - Oskar Lindblom (PHI) - 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 55.99% xG
3rd - Matt Niskanen (PHI) - 1 Goal (PPG), 58.62% CF, 67.74% xG
VGK - 10/22 @ CHI (2-3-1)
PHI - 10/24 @ CHI (2-3-1 - Twining!)
*Advanced Stats from Naturalstattrick.com