FFR2 Gm 9: CBJ 4, PHI 7 - Hayesday
Updated: Apr 24
WORTH. EVERY. PENNY.
The Philadelphia Flyers WIN for the third straight game, overcoming a late 4-2 deficit with five, count 'em - FIVE unanswered goals in the third period, beating the post-Bob Columbus Blue Jackets by a final score of 7-4, improving to 2-0-0 against the Metro this year.
Though Columbus lost much of the starpower that made them dangerous the last few years (Panarin, Duchene, Bobrovsky), they are still a solid team. They have plenty of good players and remain well coached and well motivated under John Tortorella. They're probably not a playoff team, but they are capable of playing with and beating anyone on any night.
The Flyers earned their first four wins of the season largely due to offensive breakthroughs after extended cycles and sound defensive play when they needed it most. Saturday night was definitely a war of attrition. But for a while, this felt like a same-old Flyers type of game. Poor goaltending in their end, an average netminder looking Vezina caliber on the other, and some of the big boys weren't playing up to snuff.
By the end of the night, the narrative had flipped. The teams looked fairly even through 20 minutes. A series of penalties early on preventing either team from getting going, leading to an overall choppy frame. Jake Voracek and Boone Jenner traded bad-angle goals, and the teams went into the 2nd tied at 1.
Columbus managed goals early and late in the second; the Flyers only got one in the latter portion. Pierre-Luc Dubois sniped on Elliott down low just after a CBJ power play expired to give his team the lead, which they held on thanks to Joonas Korpisalo stopping (among other great chances) two breakaways in the same minute from Couturier and Niskanen. The Flyers eventually tied the game late in the frame, as the Hockey Gods continued to pay-back JVR for his early bad luck with a power-play redirect. But just 25 seconds later, an ugly rebound from Elliott turned into a goal credited to Boone Jenner (it looked like an own goal from Hagg or Lindblom), sending the Jackets to the locker room on top.
We've heard a lot over the summer and early on in the season about how this year's group will improve from the flaws of last year. It's one thing to talk the talk, but walking the walk (or skating the skate, I guess) is much harder. This was an opportunity for the Flyers to show us what they're made of, to prove they were ready to fly, not die. But then Elliott overreacted to a point shot that missed the net and Josh Anderson beat Robert Hagg to the rebound, which appeared to put Columbus in the driver's seat, now ahead 4-2.
It took a while in the 3rd for the Flyers to reach top gear. For the next eight or so minutes, the Flyers merely looked good, but not dominant enough to overcome the deficit. Ironically, it was a Flyers mistake that got the comeback going. With a delayed penalty on Columbus, the Flyers took a too many men penalty, turning away a man advantage in favor of some 4-on-4. The Flyers used the extra open ice to their advantage, as after weeks of struggle, the Ghost Bear, in peek season (Halloween, duh) went bar down past Korpi, suddenly cutting the deficit in half.
Seeing one of their most struggling teammates light the lamp was enough for everyone else to step their game up. And what a sight it was to see. Less than 2 minutes later, Ivan Provorov walked in from the left point, and with Korpisalo probably thinking shot (much like on the Voracek goal), slipped the puck off James van Good-all-along-sdyk's stick and over Korpisalo, tying the game up!
Even though the team is coming awfully close to turning a corner, it's hard to kill off all of your bad habits in one fell swoop. Sean Couturier took his second minor penalty of the night with 5:57 remaining, tripping up Anderson. One way or another, a turning point was upon us.
This was the clearest example of the old Flyers mentality finally being pushed off a cliff. Their penalty kill has been so tenacious and persistent all year, it's almost impossible to believe they came in to tonight without a short-handed goal. No longer. The Blue Jackets forced one too many passes to a Ryan Murray standing at a vulnerable point position. Kevin Hayes read the play, broke up the pass, and sprung himself down the ice. Several strides and stickhandles later, the light came on and the horn went off, as Kevin Hayes scored on his own rebound to give the Flyers the lead!!!!!!!!
From start to finish, it was an incredible effort by Hayes to earn his fourth goal of the year. The points may not have been there as consistently as hoped, but Hayes has rarely had a bad performance. Even when he's not scoring, he's winning battles in the corner, driving to the net, and making an impact in his own zone (just like he did on this goal). The Flyers wouldn't be where they are today if Hayes never came to Philly.
To their credit, the Flyers avoided a let-down, killing off the rest of the penalty. Hayes recorded his second assist as a Flyer (and of the game) when he chopped the puck to Michael Raffl, who swatted it into an empty Jackets net to put the game on ice. But not content with ending the fun there, Travis Konecny did what snipers do, picking the top-left corner on Korpisalo for a PPG with 13 seconds left. The perfect icing on quite the cake of a performance the Flyers put together Saturday night.
There will always be ups and downs in this sport. The best teams will have their struggles, the worst will have their breakthroughs. The Flyers are not a perfect team; no one is. They will never be able to satisfy all of their critics, at least until they lift the Stanley Cup over their heads. Most don't believe they have a chance of playing into June. The season is still young, and regression will probably come soon enough. But, for now:
This is about as good as it gets. Don't look now, Philly, but your hockey team is finally beginning to fly.
The Flyers have won three straight games in October for the first time since October 22nd-28th, 2014.
Last year, the Flyers were just 10-16-4 against Metropolitan Division foes. They'll have to be much better against them this year, and this is a great chance to get off on the right foot. Each of their next three games are against teams in the Metro.
In fact, after playing 7 of their first 8 games against the West, the Flyers will play 14 straight games against teams from the East. Their next contest against the West isn't until November 23rd (vs. Calgary).
This was a weird game to analyze for Brian Elliott. On one hand, he made some flat out huge saves in some big moments that allowed the Flyers to stay in the game during their weak points. On the other, he allowed some ghastly rebounds and gave up some pretty bad goals. I'll give him a pass because of his stellar play earlier in the week, but maybe let's not play him three straight games again.
Shayne Gostisbehere is the same way, but his evaluation extends to the whole season. He hasn't looked good, turning the puck over in truly ugly fashion numerous times and lacking his dynamic burst. But the thing with Ghost is his game is very dependent on confidence. Is his big third period enough to bring him back to the bright side? Only time will tell.
Of course, these are still the Flyers, and so there has to be some bad news. Scott Laughton is out for four weeks with a broken finger after taking a puck to the hand tonight. More about his impact and who could fill the void separately.
POG #5 wasn't tweeted out by the Flyers, but based on how he played and this tweet, I'm going to assume it's Kevin Hayes, tying TK, Elliott, Hart, and Raffl for the lead. Will update tomorrow if different evidence comes out.
1st - James van Riemsdyk (PHI) - 2 Goals, 1 Assist
2nd - Kevin Hayes (PHI) - 1 Goal (SH & GW), 2 Assists
3rd - Jakub Voracek (PHI) - 1 Goal, 2 Assists
Next CBJ - 10/30 @ EDM (8-2-1, W1)
PHI - 10/27 @ NYI (7-3-0, W6)
*Photo Credit: Yong Kim/Philadelphia Inquirer