FFR2 Gm 39: PHI 2, ANA 1 (OT) - Duck, Duck, Moose
GO BIRDS! Oh yeah, and go Flyers, too.
Just hours after the Philadelphia Eagles clinched the NFC East with a 34-17 victory over the New York Giants, the Philadelphia Flyers followed suit with a WIN, 2-1, in OT, over the Anaheim (No Longer Mighty) Ducks. Hooray for a not pointless post-Christmas California road trip for the first time in what feels like forever. I guess they listened to my request from yesterday after all!
There was a bit of sloppiness to be expected from the Flyers on Saturday against the Sharks. After all, they had just traveled 3,000 miles and hadn't played a hockey game in five days. Granted, they played much poorer then they should have even with those circumstances, and the scoreboard reflected their futility harshly.
On Sunday night, the Flyers were much sharper despite playing for the second time in less than 24 hours. Philadelphia dominated at 5-on-5 to the tune of a 54.26% Corsi and impressive 61.53% xGF. But the game didn't get off to a very promising start. Erik Gudbranson beat Brian Elliott with a knuckle puck from the right point just 35 seconds into the contest, and the Flyers first three and a half minutes weren't great. Then the Ducks took a penalty, and although the Flyers PP was stymied, they seemed to find their footing after that.
It wouldn't be long before they were rewarded with a goal of their own. The Giroux-Couturier-Konecny line was broken up after being gashed against the Sharks, with Jake Voracek replacing TK on the right side of the Flyers top line. It paid major dividends early, as Couturier deposited a loose rebound on a high slot shot from Voracek.
That was it for goal scoring for the rest of regulation. Both goaltenders were excellent throughout the contest. Gibson made countless saves on several Flyers odd-man rushes during the contest, as well as robbing Konecny on an outstanding cycle for the Flyers early in the 2nd and Hayes on a great feed from Farabee in the 3rd. Brian Elliott recovered from the early fluke goal and played one of his best games of the season. Ells stopped Ondrej Kase on a great chance late in the 1st, then denied Getzlaf on a wide open-timer with just six minutes remaining in the 3rd.
The third period was a little more dicey for the Flyers, but that's to be expected considering the short rest. Yet the Flyers continued to battle, killing off a 70 second 5-on-3 power play for the Ducks early in the period. Though it was clear the Flyers were starting to tire, both goaltenders had to make some great saves to send the game to overtime.
Overtime was actually fairly one-sided, as the Flyers had most of the quality chances of the extra session. Gibson stood tall on partial breaks for Couturier and Konecny, set up brilliantly by Giroux and Farabee, respectively. He also stoned JVR on a backhander in tight. With 1:15 to go, it looked like we might be headed for the dreaded shootout (thunder and lightning cackles in the distance).
But then Jake Voracek picked up the pick in his own zone with the Ducks in full retreat mode. Anaheim was likely expecting Voracek to try and carry the puck ahead and try to create a chance off the rush with his silky smooth hands. And then suddenly, Voracek snapped a long stretch pass, the kind that never works, except then you see Kevin Hayes skating behind the defense with the puck and realized Jake just pulled off a Christmas miracle. Hayes had nearly been caught from behind on a few odd-man rushes earlier in the game, but this time broke away cleanly and fooled Gibson with a backhand-forehand deke, winning the game in overtime!
This was a win the Flyers absolutely had to have, especially since they lost against the lowly Sharks (who I'm still not convinced will be lowly forever). But the fact of the matter is the first three teams the Flyers face on this road trip are bottom-five in the NHL; the final three are 8th, 10th, and 13th in the league. Losing the first two games of that stretch was simply not an option. As Jake Voracek, what the Flyers did tonight is "what good teams do. They recover and go win the next one." That's exactly what the Flyers did Sunday, and that's exactly what they need to do in LA.
The expected result played out considering how overtime has treated both teams this season. Anaheim is just 1-4 in games ending in OT; the Flyers remain perfect at 3-0.
Jake Voracek tied Eric Lindros and Rick MacLeish for 6th all-time in assists for the Flyers in the 1st period, then passed them with number 370 on the OT winner.
Sean Couturier, the beneficiary of Voracek's first helper of the night, became the sixth Flyer to double digit goals this season, joining van Riemsdyk (12), Hayes, (12) Giroux (11), Lindblom (11), and Konecny (11).
Per Jordan Hall, the Flyers are 14-3-1 when Kevin Hayes records a point. That's been happening a lot lately; he's got 16 in his last 19 games, helping to put that 10 game scoreless streak in the rearview mirror.
Flyers who stood out in this game in a good way: Giroux, Farabee, and especially Aube-Kubel. One who didn't was Mikhail Vorobyev. The Flyers gave him a vote of approval by keeping him over Morgan Frost, who was sent to the Phantoms (more on that in a separate article). You'd expect better than two minor penalties, one coming in the offensive zone. The analytics weren't much better: his Corsi was negative relative to his teammates and his xGF% was an ugly 29.98%.
Claude Giroux was lively all night long, winning puck battles and creating a ton of chances. In the first period, the Flyers registered eight shots on goal; five of them belonged to Giroux. Another positive for G: he's finally back on the left side of PP1, a change made during the San Jose game.
It really has been a trying season for the Anaheim Ducks, who were in the Western Conference Finals as recently as 2017. They dealt with a ton of injuries right before the break, but even with healthy, they've struggled. The Ducks haven't won two straight games since October 29-November 1.
POG Helmet Standings Update!
Moose - 3
Raff, Steady Eddie, TK, JVR, Snake - 2
Starter, #OskarStrong, Coots, Phil, Snowman, Pitsy, Laughts, Timba, Hayeser - 1
One last important update - on Saturday, it was reported by a couple sources, including the Inquirer's Sam Carchidi that Oskar Lindblom will begin treatment next week.
1st - Kevin Hayes (PHI) - OT Winning Goal (12)
2nd - John Gibson (ANA) - .943 SV% (33/35), 2 GA on 2.98 xGA
3rd - Claude Giroux (PHI) - Assist (16), 73.72% xGF
PHI - 12/31 @ LA (16-21-4, L1)
ANA - 12/31 @ VGK (21-15-6, W1)
*Advanced Stats from Naturalstattrick.com