FFR2 Gm 24: VAN 1, PHI 2 - ScoRWacek
Come on Flyers, how am I gonna reach my word quota with only 60 minutes of hockey to write about?
Well, it'd be easier to do if the Flyers won - and they did! The Flyers beat the Vancouver Canucks by a final score of 2-1, their first home game that hasn't gone beyond 60 minutes since November 5.
This game was pretty similar to the Flyers last contest on Saturday. Once again, they faced a Western Canada team that had high hopes in October (Calgary at the beginning of the month, Vancouver after). After a low-event first period, the Flyers kicked it into high gear after 20 minutes, dominating the final two periods of play. In both games, they held a 2-1 lead with under 2 minutes remaining in the 3rd.
The difference between the two contests? Nothing more than a little bit of puck luck, and maybe a little bit of extra effort to make sure they avoided losing a 3rd period lead for the 8th time in 10 games. But the way the last week has played out, it might mean the world to that locker room going forward.
This time, the Flyers poor start resulted in the opposition striking first. Michael Raffl turned the puck over with a backhand pass from his off-wing, allowing Bo Horvat to slip a beautiful feed to JT "I'm amazing now" Miller, who's on nearly a point-per-game pace, chipped the puck over the blocker of Carter Hart to start the scoring.
But when the puck dropped at the beginning of the second period, the Flyers looked like they were playing with rockets attached to their skates. Suddenly, they were flying, absolutely dominating play with an incredible 94.51% xGF at 5-on-5. That just doesn't happen. Philadelphia had all 6 high-danger scoring chances of the period. Ironically, it was a broken play - a centering pass from Jake Voracek that took a fortuitous bounce off a Vancouver skate - that led to Sean Couturier's in-tight snipe, tying the game 1-1.
Despite their incredible period, the Flyers found themselves heading to the locker room at 2nd intermission with only one goal to show for their efforts. And so the 3rd period opened with the game still very much up for grabs. Vancouver's power play had a chance to take the lead, but Hart stoned Brock Boeser on a great chance off the rush to keep the game even.
The Flyers continued to control play, dominating in the offensive zone for most of the stanza. Finally, with just 8:33 remaining, the Flyers turned one of their most dangerous chances into a goal. It all started with Justin Braun imitating his former teammate Erik Karlsson, swinging all the way from the right point to behind the left post. From there, Jake Voracek opened up in a shooting position in the left circle. Braun slid the puck right in his wheelhouse and the Snake put it top shelf, off the right post, cross bar, and twine, to give the Flyers their first lead of the night!
There was little doubt that the Flyers would take that lead; the bigger question was could they hold on to it. Vancouver's last-best chance came with 20 seconds remaining and Thatcher Demko at the bench. Alex Edler made an incredible high-to-low past, finding an underrated goal scorer in Josh Leivo all alone down low. Leivo got the shot away quickly, but not before Hart could slide to his left, saving the day with an incredible left arm stop.
Last year, the Flyers had about ten games in the first two months of the season that looked like they could be turning points. But this game really feels like that. The Flyers have dominated play in back-to-back games, and Carter Hart has been sharp in both. The only concern that came out of the Calgary game (other than maybe the power play) was the Flyers growing trend of collapsing late in games. They made sure that wouldn't happen Monday.
As a result, they have 5 points in their last 3 games and continue to lurk in the shadows, hoping they will earn the opportunity to prove they are more than a bubble team; and that they're prepared and good enough to seize it.
Shayne Gostisbehere was healthy scratched for the second consecutive game. AV said his benching on Saturday had more to do with preferring a physical style that Hagg is well suited for against Calgary specifically. On Monday, he called this a "reset" for Gostisbehere, saying that he needs more out of Ghost offensively, which is definitely true. He's on pace for just 22 points, which would easily be the fewest in his career.
To his credit, Vigneault said Ghost has taken this "like a pro." Ghost is a special player when his game and head are in the right place; the Flyers are banking that this move will get both back where they need to be.
After tying a franchise record for fewest wins at home in a season (19) a year ago, the Flyers have been incredible in the Wells Fargo Center so far. Their 7-1-4 home record ranks fourth in the NHL.
The Canucks hadn't lost a game when leading after the 1st period all season (7-0-1); nor had the Flyers won a game when they were down after 20 (0-6-2). First time for everything!
Philadelphia's defensive performance is even more impressive when you consider they held Vancouver to nearly half as many shots on goal (17) as they average (33). Their forth ranked power play was also held off the board on two attempts.
Here's a prop bet you could've made a lot of money on at the beginning of the season. The highest scoring power play defenseman. Young Quinn Hughes with 13 points. How about the blueliner with the most goals of the man advantage? That's Ivan Provorov with 4; he had 2 power play goals in his first three seasons.
POG Standings Update!
Raff - 2
TK, Starter, Moose, JVR, Lindy, Nisky, Coots, Phil, Morgan, Jake - 1
1st - Sean Couturier (PHI) - 1 G, 62.07 CF%, 85.77% xGF (+20.77 Rel)
2nd - Jakub Voracek (PHI) - 1 G, 1 A, 60.00 CF%, 85.55% xGF
3rd - Thatcher Demko (VAN) - .941 SV% (32 Saves/34 Shots)
VAN - 11/27 @ PIT (13-7-4, W2)
PHI - 11/27 @ CBJ (10-9-4, W1)