FFR2 Gm 34: ANA 1, PHI 4 - Oskar Strong
Osk not what your teammates can for you, but what you can do for your teammates.
On a night where humanity outweighed hockey, the Philadelphia Flyers win 4-1 over the Anaheim Ducks, snapping their 3-game losing skid in their return to Philadelphia, and more importantly, their reunion with Oskar Lindblom.
Some of the Flyers players had not seen Lindblom since the diagnosis, which seems to have been last Tuesday based on the information we've received. Lindblom was at the Wells Fargo Center for the morning skate, which had to have been an emotional reunion with his teammates.
If there was any doubt the Flyers weren't playing this game with Lindblom in mind, everyone who walked into the Wells Fargo Center was treated to an "I Fight for Oskar" Hockey Fights Cancer sign on their seat back. The Flyers wore their pink Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys during warm-ups. At the first TV timeout, a heartfelt video tribute of Lindblom doing all the things that make him the Oskar Lindblom we know and love, from waving at the camera to celebrating goals and even a photoshoot with Gritty played on the jumbotron. At its conclusion, fans were asked to raise their signs in support of Lindblom.
Like the Flyers were ever going to lose this game after all that.
In addition to the emotional boost of playing for one of their own, the Flyers received an added jolt - Travis Konecny made his return to the lineup after missing the last three games with a concussion. The first period was mostly forgettable for the Flyers, filled with missed passes and strong saves from Carter Hart. But just seconds after a power play expired, TK took a feed from Sean Couturier at the right circle. He could've just whipped it blindly on net, but took an extra second to make a play, and found Captain Claude backdoor for a tap-in, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead 55 seconds into the second.
Once again, the Flyers were able to flip the switch, going from mediocre at best in the 1st period to flat out dominate to begin the second. After a few more good shifts, Morgan Frost broke into the offensive zone and made a beautiful pass, sending Travis Sanheim in from the left point. Sanman put the puck low in front of the net, where it caromed off a Flyers stick and in! And who else to tip that in than David Kase, with his brother Ondrej watching from the Ducks bench and his mom and dad in the crowd. David with his first career NHL goal, well deserved after his great play on the road trip, and the Flyers doubled up their lead.
If there was one area the Flyers could be criticized for other than their slow starts, it's been their discipline as of late. Joel Farabee's 5-minute penalty took the Flyers out of Sunday's game (and will keep Farabee out of the lineup for quite some time), and the Flyers decided to honor those 5-minutes by taking five minor penalties Tuesday night. With about three penalty killing forwards out of the lineup, that's not exactly a fool-proof strategy. Though the PK was largely stellar, they did break once on a double-deflection goal credited to Rickard Rakell late in the second, making it a one-goal contest after 40 minutes.
But Carter Hart never let Anaheim re-even the tally. Starter was absolutely sensational throughout Monday's contest. There isn't one save that stands out above the rest like his glove save on Mikko Rantanen Wednesday, but that was because he faced so many dangerous shots (17 high-danger chances) and yet made most of his 40 saves look easy.
It also helped that the Flyers were able to get him some insurance early in the third. Jacob Larsson made an ill-advised drop pass at the Flyers blueline, leading to a Philadelphia 2-on-1. Jake Voracek had Morgan Frost driving to the net, but with the passing lane closing, he elected to pull the trigger himself and sniped on Gibson, restoring the Flyers' two-goal lead!
Hart and the Flyers defense were able to hold off the Ducks the rest of the way, with Hart making some more great saves and Sean Couturier finishing the night on a high-note with an empty-netter from the red-line. It was a chippy game, featuring an early fight from Chris Stewart and Nic Deslauriers, but it never got out of hand. The Flyers weren't perfect, but thanks to Hart's great performance and timely execution in the offensive zone, they prevailed in a game they had to have for reasons in and beyond the standings.
Give all the credit in the world to the Flyers for this victory tonight. Anaheim isn't a great team, but there are a lot of teams who can't put three pucks past John Gibson. They could have easily let their emotions get the best of them, and no one would have blamed them if they did. But they used them to fuel their performance tonight, which lacked consistency but certainly not effort and determination. Battle like they did tonight the rest of the way, and the Flyers will not only make this season worthwhile, they'll make Oskar Lindblom proud.
Just like Oskar will make us proud in his battle, which I'm sure he knows by now he won't be fighting alone. From now until he returns to the ice (and mark my words, he will beat this), the Philadelphia Flyers, us the fans, and the entire NHL are one-hundred percent Oskar Strong.
Here's some clarity on the Flyers injury situation. Michael Raffl is skating and shooting but isn't cleared for contact yet; he'll probably return shortly after Christmas. Scott Laughton has been placed on normal IR with a groin injury; expect him back sometime during the post Christmas road-trip. Tyler Pitlick does NOT have a concussion - it's actually a sinus-related, and he could be back as early as this week.
In a minor roster move, Carsen Twarynski was sent back to the Phantoms after playing in Sunday's game, with Andy Andreoff re-called for the second time this year to take his place.
Somehow, Joel Farabee's late hit on Perreault earned the rookie, who has no prior disciplinary history, a 3-game suspension. Alain Vigneault absolutely blasted the Department of Player Safety for the sentence, and he is right too. The hit was late, but the DPoS have given lesser punishments (or no punishment at all) for far dirtier hits for repeat offenders. They threw the book at Farabee and then some.
Claude Giroux's goal tonight tied him with TK and Oskar Lindblom for the team lead with eleven. It was also his 23rd point - the same number that Oskar Lindblom wears. And of course, Lindy is 23 years old as well. Hockey, man.
Carter Hart hasn't faced nearly as much rubber as he did most nights last year - the Flyers averaged the second fewest shots allowed per game entering tonight. Hart had five 40-plus save performances last season; his 40 saves Tuesday were a new season high.
Hart's season hasn't been perfect, but he has been dynamite at home, especially as of late. Hart has won each of his last five games at the WFC, posting a .948 save percentage at the Farg since November 23rd.
A 2-on-1 like the one Jake Voracek scored on is usually a spot where he tries to pass, but with the defender taking away Morgan Frost, Jake made the right call to let it rip. Credit Voracek for making the adjustment on-the-fly, scoring his first goal in 10 games in the process.
The Flyers improved to a stellar 15-1-3 when entering the second period not trailing.
Quote of the year candidate: "I'm (the) winner in my family," David Kase to the media, talking about how his brother Ondrej reacted to his 1st NHL goal. Also, check out this caption from NBC Sports Philly (it's not the first time they've added some humor to their descriptions this season).
As a little brother myself, I fully support this message.
David Kase is the rookie that will get most of the attention, and deservedly so, but he wasn't the only one with a strong showing Tuesday. Nicholas Aube-Kubel was great on the forecheck and made some nice plays with the puck. Mikhail Vorobyev was entrusted with PK work and handled that role well.
But back to Kase for a moment - POG Helmet Standings Update!
Raff, Steady Eddie, Moose, TK - 2
Starter, JVR, #OskarStrong, Coots, Phil, Frosty, Jake, Pitsy, Laughts, Kase - 1
Perspective is always a difficult thing to have, and in wake of the Lindblom diagnosis, it's easy to be sad when thinking about the Flyers even with the victory tonight. But one year ago, the Flyers made two decisions that changed the course of their franchise. Dave Hakstol was fired. Carter Hart was called up. Not everything has been perfect since then, but the Flyers have certainly been trending up over the last 365 days.
Per Sam Carchidi of the Inqurier, Flyers players will be wearing Oskar Lindblom T-Shirts from Biscuit Tees under their jerseys beginning on Thursday's game against Buffalo. If you'd like to buy one for yourself or are in need of a few more Christmas gifts, here's a link to their website: https://www.biscuittees.com/
1st - Carter Hart (PHI) - .976 SV% (40/41), 1 GA on 3.33 xGA
2nd - David Kase (PHI) - 1st NHL Goal, +14.79% xGF Rel
3rd - Claude Giroux (PHI) - Goal, +3.14% Corsi Rel
ANA - 12/16 @ Sans Taylor Hall NJ (10-17-5, W1)
PHI - 12/17 vs. BUF (16-12-7, L1)
*Advanced Stats from Naturalstattrick.com
**Pictures from Bill Meltzer, Sam Carchidi, Drew Hallowell, Derik Hamilton (AP)