FFR2 Gm 22: PHI 5, CAR 3 - Morgoals
EMERGENCY WEATHER ALERT: Frost warning in the Raleigh area! Anyone within a 48-mile radius of PNC Arena could be affected. All storm surges are cancelled until further notice.
What can you say, crazy things happen when the Flyers win! On Thursday night, they did just that, 5-3 over the Carolina Hurricanes, snapping their own 4-game losing skid and the Canes 4-game winning streak in one fell swoop.
The Flyers process hasn't been great for most of December. They're in the bottom half of the league in 5-on-5 Corsi and Expected Goals throughout November, and graded out very poorly by either metric on Thursday (45.45% and a ghastly 35.73%, respectively). The Flyers heavy emphasis on the dump-and-chase seems to be biting them, and they're going to need to clean up their overall play if they want to contend.
But on the heels of a four-game losing streak where at least two of the games (Ottawa, the Islanders considering the 3-0 lead) should've been easy wins, there's something to be said about finding a way to win. And that's exactly what the Flyers did, despite the fact they were playing a hot Carolina team on the road.
Granted, they didn't start the game looking like they had any plans of victory. Sebastian Aho took advantage of a Flyers giveaway along the wall and put a tricklier through Elliott from the slot; Teuvo Teravainen followed suit with a similar shot, this time from the right circle, that Elliott got a piece off, but not enough. Suddenly, with less than five minutes, elapsed the Flyers found themselves in danger of being routed, giving up goals on their first two shots.
But the Canes gave the Flyers a path back into the game, taking a penalty moments later. Jake Voracek would even up the penalty sheet 1:06 later, but at 4-on-4 the Flyers star players were still able to take advantage of the extra open-ice. Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny worked the slowest give-and-go in NHL history to get the Flyers back in it. G hit TK with a stretch pass up the right boards; Konecny brought the puck behind the Carolina net, skating to his left as he cheekily reversed it back to the right, where Giroux one-timed it in.
Not to be deterred, the Flyers power play operated again later in the first period. The new look top unit of Giroux, Provorov, Konecny, Frost, and van Riemsdyk got the job done, with Provorov firing a wrister through a textbook JVR screen, knotting the score. Considering where the Flyers were 5 minutes in, the Flyers were more than happy to be even after 20.
All that momentum translated into a period where Carolina dominated play, outshooting the Flyers 19-4. The Flyers did a fair job at keeping a decent portion of those shots to the outside; not many of the Canes chances in the period were highlight reel. On the other hand, the Flyers were opportunistic. At the end of a penalty kill less than 3 minutes into the frame, the Flyers earned a rare offensive zone face-off. Claude Giroux diagramed the play to perfection, setting up Morgan Frost for a beautiful one-timer past noted Flyers legend (TM) Petr Mrazek for his 2nd goal in as many NHL games!
Hot start by Frost aside (oh, the irony), the Flyers were only able to ride that goal for so long. Early in the 3rd, Joel Edmundson took advantage of a bouncing puck that eluded Claude Giroux just inside the Flyers blueline. Elliott made the initial save on his re-directed point shot, but Brock McGinn spun the rebound cross-crease to a wide open Lucas Wallmark, who tapped the puck in to tie the game once again.
Thankfully, the Flyers took Wallmark's goal as a challenge to be better rather than a sign that they were getting worse. After generating a few decent chances in the immediate aftermath, the Flyers new best line (which this season is usually whatever line TK's on) took over. Konecny won a race on the forecheck, tipping the puck to Frost below the goal line. From there, Morgan enabled Sault-mode (that's pronounced Soo, btw), creating a level of time and space usually only found in junior hockey. Frost sauced the puck past Brett Pesce where Claude Giroux re-directed it in, once again putting the Flyers on top!
Lost in the shuffle of Morgan Frost's emergence and the Flyers rediscovery of offense for most of the game was Brian Elliott. After the forgettable stop, Moose was sensational throughout the contest, keeping the Flyers in the game, even at their lowest moments. If you were looking for consistency, you got from minute five to fifty-seven. If you wanted flashiness, see the final three minutes, where Elliott robbed Nino Niederriter and Aho with point-blank pad saves. As the clocked ticked down, Kevin Hayes mercifully broke his 13-game goalless drought with a long-range empty-netter.
At the end of the day, the Flyers earned this victory. They stayed persistent, not letting the game get away early when it easily could have. They capitalized on their chances, and made sure the Canes didn't do the same. That alone won't get them back on track, but it's a pivot from their recent struggles to a potential surge. Ironic that's the message coming out of their first trip back to the building where last year's playoff hopes died.
The Flyers last two regulation wins may have been separated by sixteen days, but they have something in common - both came as a result of 3rd period breakthroughs against Carolina. The first one started a four-game winning streak; hopefully this victory has a similar effect.
Alain Vigneault opted for the uncommon 11 forwards, 7 defenseman deployment Thursday, scratching Andy Andreoff to allow Robert Hagg to play. Hagg only skated for 8:58, the lowest of any Flyer (Ghost was second-lowest in TOI at 10:57).
James has officially caught up to Trevor in the Battle of the van Riemsdyk's - the two brothers have now played 12 games against each other, with both winning six.
This was just the Flyers second road regulation win in twelve tries. The other was a 4-1 victory in Chicago on October 24.
Tonight was Claude Giroux's eleventh career four-point game, his first since December 8, 2018 at Buffalo (1 goal, 3 assists).
Morgan Frost is the first Flyer to score in their first two NHL games since David Laliberte (October 31-November 2, 2009). Hopefully Frost has a much better NHL career than Laliberte (no offense).
Additionally, Frost the first Flyers rookie to score in their first two games period since TK (October 14-15, and then again on the 18th for a 3rd straight game, in 2016).
After morning skate, Scott Laughton was medically cleared to return and should be back in the lineup for the Flyers next game Saturday. What moves they will pull to activate him remains to be seen (they'd be about $1.5 million over the cap with him healthy), though the way Morgan Frost has played, I can safely say he's sticking around.
Sean Couturier played in his 600th NHL game, and at just 26 years, 249 days old, he is the youngest Flyer ever to reach this milestone. Congrats, Coots!
Speaking of last year and disappointment, over the summer I did an article over a game that I saw as the breaking point - a 3-0 loss to New Jersey where they hit 6 posts and Elliott was injured that sent the team spiraling. That game was the same night as my school's spirit week dance. This year, this game fell on that occasion. Maybe we'll look back on this as the opposite; for once, maybe this will be the night that saved the Flyers.
POG Standings Update!
Raff - 2
TK, Starter, Ells, JVR, Lindy, Nisky, Coots, Phil, and Frosty the Goalman - 1
1st - Claude Giroux (PHI) - 2 Goals, 2 Assists
2nd - Morgan Frost (PHI) - 1 Goal, 1 Assist
3rd - Teuvo Teravainen (CAR) - 1 Goal, 1 Assist
PHI - 11/23 vs. CGY (10-11-3, L5)
CAR - 11/23 vs. FLA (12-5-5, W3)
All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 and from Naturalstattrick.com