FFR2 Gm 16: PHI 3, TOR 2 (SO) - Coo-lutch
How do you beat a brick wall? One stickhandle at a time.
For the second time in exactly a week, the Philadelphia Flyers went the whole distance with the Toronto Maple Leafs. It took another 65 minutes and eight fewer shootout rounds, but the Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 3-2, shootout style, over the aforementioned Maple Leafs.
Result aside, this was actually a very similar game to the last meeting between these two teams last Saturday. Brian Elliott and Frederik Andersen both stood on their heads throughout the game, making countless incredible saves. The Flyers had a lead, Toronto tied it in the third, and then the Flyers failed to win the game despite several great chances toward the end of regulation and in overtime. But after coming through in the clutch in each of their last two games, scoring three unanswered in the 3rd against Carolina and beating Montreal in overtime, the Flyers came into this one with a tinge more confidence, and that was enough to be the difference.
Like the last time these two teams met, the Flyers first period was probably their worst. They had just a 42.31 Corsi For% at 5-on-5 in the 1st, the only period of regulation they didn't win the shot attempt battle. And yet, that was largely mitigated because of Elliott's stellar play and two goals. Phil Myers had the first one, sniping from the slot on a nice rush play. Oskar Lindblom had the second, tipping in a Travis Konecny pass at the side of the net to end an 0 for 9 drought for the PP.
To their credit, the Leafs didn't quit on this game. It would've been easy for them to get frustrated at their early lack of finish, and to top it all off, Mitch Marner left the game after a freak leg injury early in the 2nd, returned to the bench once, and then left for good. But instead, the Leafs came out guns blazing in the second, and cut the lead in half on a slot snipe from Travis Dermott.
That goal served as a wakeup call for the Flyers, who responded nicely in the back half of the period by regaining control of the game. Their momentum carried over into the early stages of the 3rd, but literally every single member of the Flyers fourth line was robbed in succession by Andersen, highlighted by a down-but-not-out kick save (and a beauty) on Andreoff. Shortly after, Auston Matthews, who was looking all reLAXed behind the Flyers net, turned a fake lacrosse move into a cross-crease tap-in for William Nylander that evened the game.
The rest of the game can only be described as sweaty. Both clubs are on the first half of a back-to-back, so depth players that don't usually play a ton late in tie games did. The Flyers depth was excellent, and created a ton of chances. Claude Giroux's breakaway turned 2-on-1 bid in the final 90 seconds was the best, but G missed the net with his shot. Toronto also came oh-so close to breaking the deadlock, headlined by a beautiful deke by Trevor Moore and ensuing wrist shot he clanged off the crossbar.
Overtime was just as intense, if not more. After a slow initial 90 seconds, 3-on-3 revved up to its maximum potential. The Flyers had about four 2-on-1s, and Ivan Provorov had a mini-breakaway, but struggled to even hit the net, let alone score. Toronto did have the majority of the chances, and with 7.1 seconds left, earned a power play. It might not sound like much time, it was nearly enough. John Tavares took a backhander that caromed to the side of the net, and William Nylander was right there to win it-PSYCH! Moose made an incredible lunging blocker save as the horn sounded, sending the game to a shootout.
TOR: The Leafs decide to go first for no apparent reason (why do you think the home team bats last in baseball?). John Tavares managed to keep himself together and not fall down (remember that?), probably because he wasn't facing Carter Hart. His slot wrister was swallowed up by Ells nonetheless.
PHI: Travis Konecny, the only Flyer to score in last week's shootout, was stopped on a similar move. That's what you get for being a copy cat, Teeks.
TOR: The mere sight of that nightmare of a mustache of Auston Matthews' face paralyzed Brian Elliott, preventing him from making the save. Fortunately, the right post bailed him out.
PHI: Claude Giroux walked in, wound up to fool Andersen, and... wait, he actually took a slapper? AND IT ACTUALLY WENT IN? Captain Claude turned back the clock to a better time when shootouts didn't exist and lit the lamp clap bomb style, putting the Flyers a save away from victory.
TOR: That save didn't come. William Nylander scored on a forehand deke almost as beautiful as himself (and certainly more beautiful than his haters). Elliott nearly closed his pads quick enough to prevent the puck from squeaking through, but into the net it went. We play on.
PHI: The only Flyer who has a clutch gene when it comes to the shootout, Sean Couturier, moved in slowly from the right side. Not much happened at first, and then zippity, zappity, oh, there goes gravity! Coots dropped Frederik Andersen with 76 stickhandles, finishing on his forehand to win the game for Philly!
Things are finally starting to break the right way for the Flyers. After a merely ok month in the standings despite amazing analytics, the club is beginning to get results. They haven't been perfect in any of their last five games, and yet they're 4-0-1. Granted, it's easier for many fans to get worked up over a mediocre October, especially seeing as the month ended with blowout losses to the Islanders and Penguins. And the Flyers aren't world beaters by any means.
But they also aren't the same old Flyers of Dave Hakstol past. This is a new team with new systems and new players and a new mindset, and so far, it's working out pretty well. Obviously, you'd like the standings to reflect that a little bit more, but odds are, if the Flyers keep playing as good as they have so far (still top 5 in Corsi!), then odds are they will. There's reason for optimism for these Flyers.
Man, that feels good to say.
Sean Couturier has the Midas touch when it comes to shootouts - he has the shootout winner in each of the Flyers last three wins in the skills contest (March 27 vs. Toronto, November 1 @ New Jersey).
In fact, each of the Flyers last three meetings against the Maple Leafs have gone all the way to the shootout.
Since I won't seem biased if I say this now, extend 3-on-3 to 10 minutes, Gary!
In case you need further evidence that Oskar Lindblom is very, very good, he leads all rookies from 2018-19 in goals since January 9 by a pretty wide margin. Lindy has 21 - no other rookie has more than 16 (Toronto's Andreas Johnsson is 4th at 15). Fitting that he scored in front of Dave Hakstol, who wasn't exactly as sold on Lindblom's game, evident by his low ice-time and benching in Hak's final game with the Flyers early last year.
The play that Lindblom scored on wasn't even a new look from the Flyers power play. They tried literally the exact same play on Thursday against Montreal, but Carey Price made a great save on it. Freddie Andersen wasn't as lucky. TK sold the shot well, and Lindblom finished it off.
Phil Myers has two goals and three points in five games since being called up, already more than he had in his 21 game trial at the end of last year. Myers has looked sharp with the puck in every game and has only been getting better. He's very close to becoming a permanent member of the Flyers defense.
Keeping with the theme of youngsters, tonight was Joel Farabee's 10th NHL game. That means the first year of his entry-level contract officially begins this season. Had he played 9 or fewer NHL games, it would not have began until next year. It's not a guarantee that Farabee will stay up the whole season, but he's playing more than well enough to stick around.
One more note on the kids. Congrats to Flyers prospect Bobby Brink - the 2019 2nd rounder was named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Rookie of October, scoring 6 points in as many games for the University of Denver. His 3 goals are tied for the most among freshman across the entire NCAA.
After all of the roster moves Chuck Fletcher has made, the oft-struggling fourth line finally delivered a breakout performance Saturday. Michael Raffl, Andy Andreoff, and Tyler Pitlick were beasts on the forecheck, created chances around the net, and did everything a good fourth line should. It showed in the stats, too - they were the only Flyers forwards over 50% Corsi For at 5-on-5.
Elliott was very technically sound tonight, but he also wasn't afraid to take a risk. With about 5 minutes left in the 1st, and the puck slowly trickling into the Flyers end, right before Mitch Marner would've picked it up for a breakaway, Elliott reached out and poked the puck away, sending Marner spiraling over him in the process. Standard stuff in EASHL, but pretty bold to pull off in real life.
We have a new leader in the POG Helmet Standings!
Raff - 2
TK, Starter, Ells, JVR, Nisky, and Coots - 1
Not only did the Flyers win, but their AHL affiliate the Phantoms won 3-2 in overtime (thanks to a two-point night from Morgan Frost), and their ECHL affiliate, the Reading Royals, won 6-4 as well. All was well in Flyers country Saturday night.
1st - Sean Couturier (PHI) - Shootout Winner
2nd - Brian Elliott (PHI) - .950 SV% (38 Saves), 2 GA on 3.35 xGA
3rd - Frederik Andersen (TOR) - .938 SV% (30 Saves), 2 GA on 2.49 xGA (Expected Goals Against)
PHI - 11/10 @ BOS (11-3-2, L2)
TOR - 11/10 @ CHI (5-7-4, L1)
Advanced Stats from Naturalstattrick.com