FFR2 Gm 44: WSH 2, PHI 3 - Hagging Around
I've never been more happy to be wrong!
Contrary to my prediction, the Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 3-2 over the Washington Capitals for their first victory of 2020. On the second-half of a back-to-back no less. Why? Because for the first time since December 23, the Flyers were back at the Wells Fargo Center, where they become a combination of the early 80's Islanders and Gretzky-era Oilers, conquering all those who dare challenge them in their home barn.
Yes, despite missing two of their starting defensemen and playing on the second half of a back-to-back (in fairness, Washington played yesterday, too) against the number one team in the NHL, the Flyers did what they couldn't in San Jose (26th in the NHL) and Los Angeles (28th): win a hockey game.
And they do so by outplaying the Capitals with a strong start (57.58% 5-on-5 Corsi, 1.33-0.37 Expected Goals at all situations edge) and defying score effects, controlling play in the 3rd despite leading the entirety of the final 20 minutes (63.33% 5-on-5 Corsi, 1.48-0.89 all situations Expected Goals advantage). All of that was enough to mitigate a rough start for Carter Hart, who settled down over the final two periods, a 5-1 disparity in penalties favoring Washington, and a difficult second period that saw the Flyers fail to register a shot on goal for the first 13 minutes of the period.
For the second straight contest, Travis Konecny struck first for the Flyers before the first TV timeout. The Capitals carelessness with the puck resembled Carolina's start Tuesday; both were plagued with some egregious turnovers in the first ten minutes. Both also recovered and scored two goals in the first as well. Washington tied the game on a Nicklas Backstrom one-timer from a below the goal-line feed from Tom Wilson that snuck under Hart's right arm. Hart was also to blame on the second goal, failing to seal an unscreened point shot, which led to a delayed Flyers penalty, an a centering pass that Jakub Vrana buried for his 19th goal of the year.
But the Flyers responded well to both goals. Tyler Pitlick nearly scored to make it 2-1 Flyers after Backstrom's tally - Holtby denied his re-direct on a beautiful pass from JVR. The Flyers were trailing late in the period, but with less than 45 seconds to go in the first, Robert Hagg decided to hit something other than a random player along the boards 5 feet away from the puck, blasting his first goal of the year past Holtby to even the tally!
As mentioned, the second period was easily the Flyers' worst of the game. I don't think it's as ugly as the stats say - Washington's Corsi and Expected Goals For were around 75%. The Flyers had a decent amount of possession, and created some dangerous chances - none of which hit the net. One of them belonged to Kevin Hayes, and although he couldn't finish a great chance in the slot, he would get another opportunity late in the frame. With the Flyers short-handed, an aggressive Scott Laughton forced an ill-advised pass by John Carlson that Hayes intercepted for a clear-cut breakaway. Hayes sold shot, then deked to his backhand and beat Holtby's outstretched left pad to give the Flyers their first lead of the night!
It would also turn out to be the last goal of the night. The Flyers played an outstanding third period; even though both teams played in different buildings Tuesday night, the Flyers looked much fresher than the Caps. Teams trailing in the 3rd period usually outshoot and out-chance the team that's winning, but the Flyers managed to control play despite taking two more penalties, bringing their total in the game up to five. However, the Flyers PK reverted to November form, completely shutting down the Capitals talent-filled PP. Washington wasn't able to pull Holtby until the final minute thanks to a late penalty of their own, and the Flyers held on to earn their 1st victory of the decade.
The Flyers burnt through basically their entire margin for error with their futility on this past road trip. But they were always going to have to play good hockey down the stretch in order to make the playoffs. Even if the Flyers had gotten an extra three to four points on the trip, they would only be one spot higher in the standings and would not be a lock for the playoffs by any stretch. The Flyers are a good team - they have been for most of the season. They just need to develop more consistency to their game, which should be easier considering they only have one road trip of three games the rest of the year. That will be the key for rebounding from the rough start to the second half and making this a successful season.
Alain Vigneault dropped his second legendary quote of the year postgame (the first is in the Flyers twitter bio, in case you forgot): "I'm going home tonight, I'm gonna have a martini, I'm gonna enjoy the win."
I was right about the Flyers calling up Mark Freidman (Andy Andreoff was sent down to clear cap space), but it may not be why I thought. Shayne Gostisbehere missed tonight with a knee injury, undergoing an MRI. Ghost hasn't been himself for most of the year, but losing him long-term would be a major blow, especially with Braun out as well.
NHL referees' number one enemy Sean Couturier hit a milestone tonight, playing in his 622nd game with the Flyers. He passes Rick Tocchet for sole possession of 15th in all-time games played for Philly, per Alex Appleyard of The Athletic.
Coots also has 20 points in the Flyers first 20 home games this season, the first time he's done that in his NHL career.
Robert Hagg's goal ended a 32-game goal-less drought for the Swedish defenseman. His last tally was March 21 against the Islanders.
Hayes' goal tonight was his eight career short-handed goal, his second of the season. Both of this year's were on breakaways and both wound up being game-winning goals.
The Flyers remain undefeated in regulation when tied after 20 minutes (10-0-3) and leading after 40 minutes (14-0-2).
With their victory tonight, the Flyers are still sitting at just two home regulation losses on the year, tied with the Boston Bruins (who have, in fairness, played five more home games than the Flyers) for the fewest in the NHL.
POG Helmet Standings Update!
Moose, Raff - 3
Steady Eddie, TK, JVR, Da Snake - 2
Starter, #OskarStrong, Coots, Phil, Snowman, Pitsy, Laughts, Timon, Hayeser - 1
It's not too late to vote Claude Giroux for the Last Man In at the 2020 All-Star Game! Vote up to 10 times a day through January 10 at NHL.com/vote
Major props to Carl Hagelin and Nicklas Backstrom of Washington, both of whom wore Oskar Strong shirts to support their fellow Swede. Broadcaster Eddie Olcyzk (pictured below), a cancer survivor himself, also donned the shirt in front of a national audience on the NBCSN broadcast.
1st - Kevin Hayes (PHI) - SH Goal (13), 63.16% Corsi, 68.06% xGF
2nd - Travis Konecny (PHI) - Goal (14), 64% Corsi, 75.52% xGF
3rd - Jakub Vrana (WSH) - Goal (19)
WSH - 1/11 vs. NJ (15-20-7, OTL1)
PHI - 1/11 vs. TB (25-13-4, W8)
*Advanced Stats from Naturalstattrick.com
*Thumbnail Photo from Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images