FFR2 RR Gm 2: WSH 1, PHI 3 - Moose Tracked
Hot or good? Good or hot? Call me crazy, but the Flyers might just be both.
Led by a sixteen-save performance by Brian Elliott and a two-goal game from Scott Laughton, the Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 3-1, over the Washington Capitals. They improve to 2-0-0 in the three-game round-robin tournament, outscoring the two most recent Eastern Conference champs by an impressive 7-2 margin.
First things first, here's where the East round-robin stands with one game left for everyone. The Capitals have one point; the Bruins have zero. They'll play against each other on Sunday, with a Boston win of any kind clinching them the three seed; a loss puts them at four and the Caps at three. The Flyers and Lightning each have four points, meaning the winner of Saturday's contest earns the top seed in the East for the playoffs, guaranteeing them a first-round meeting with the lowest seed from the qualifiers who advances.
Even though on Friday the Flyers played pretty similarly to their first game against the Bruins, the lineup looked a lot different. Michael Raffl's injury against Boston unfortunately might be severe, with AV saying he'll "be out a while." Joel Farabee was the logical choice to replace Raffl in the lineup, seeing as he played 50 games for the club this season and was a pretty solid player overall.
On the less expected front, James van Riemsdyk continued his descent into AV's doghouse and was healthy scratched, with Connor Bunnaman playing his first game since February 22. JVR has always been a streaky player, but it's definitely a bold decision to scratch a guy on-pace for over 23 goals. Brian Elliott also got the nod in goal, a long-term move ensuring Moose is game-ready in case Carter Hart struggles or is injured. Still, with every game counting in this tournament, I understand the desire to have Hart in goal every game. But every good house, business, and car needs some insurance, and starting Elliott is the hockey equivalent of making an insurance payment.
And what an insurance policy Moose turned out to be. It took nine minutes for the Caps to put a puck on goal, but it was Ovechkin bombing a lose-puck from the high-slot. Elliott calmly steered it aside with his left pad, as both teams struggled to find their normal pace in the early going. Washington was outstanding on the forecheck, but the Flyers defense shut them down once they had possession. The Flyers didn't have the puck a lot, but that's typical for them in the first period.
But then top gear kicked in, and boy did it kick in big. A lot of people were surprised, if not disappointed, to see Scott Laughton in the top-six over JVR's goal-scoring prowess and Farabee's potential. However, his line with Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny looked great, scoring a goal and driving play. Our old friend Radko Gudas tried his patented "blind clear up the boards" that worked oh-so well in the 2018 playoffs (and by oh-so well, it kinda cost us the series), flinging the puck into the skates of Hayes. His centering pass was at the very edge of the radius of TK's reach, killing his chance for a shot. But with eyes in the back of his head and chirps on the tip of his tongue, Konecny curled a no-look feed to set up Laughton for a slam-dunk.
The feel of the game continued into and through the second period. Neither team established much in terms of quality chances, despite a lot of power-play time. Their were ten power-plays in the game, nine in the first forty minutes. Philadelphia's penalty-kill looked in peak shape, with Kevin Hayes wasting more time with Harlem Globetrotters-esque jaunts into his own zone with the puck. The power-play had their moments, but wasn't able to light the lamp on any of their six tries.
However, the Flyers did prove they can score when their opponent only has four players on the ice. With 4-on-4 action due to a jumble of penalties around the midpoint of the game, Kevin Hayes went back to work. Hayes became a puck-handling wizard for a good ten to fifteen seconds, hypothesizing the Washington defense. That trance let Travis Sanheim slip to the netmouth uncovered. Hayes found him with a saucer pass, and Sanny fooled Braden Holtby with a slick drift and across-the-grain shot that doubled up the Flyers lead.
Only in the third period did the Flyers finally find close to top gear. Like they did against the Bruins last Saturday, the Flyers entered the third period with a two-goal lead, dominated despite score effects suggesting they should be getting caved in, and extended their edge to three. Once again, Hayes made a beautiful pass right to the front of the net, where Laughton darted to tip-in his second goal of the game and third of the round robin, a goal that should have put the game on ice.
In reality, it only put the next twelve seconds on ice. Travis Boyd tipped in an otherwise pretty normal shot from Carl Hagelin to cut the Capitals deficit back to two. The Capitals earned a power-play a few minutes later, putting the Flyers in a spot where they probably would've crumbled under pressure the last few years. But these are the 2019-20 Flyers, the fourth best regular season team in the Eastern Conference, and a TOP TWO seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. No collapse here. 3-1 Flyers. FINAL. On to the next, then on to the best of the best.
The playoffs are coming. And for once, it feels like Philly is ready.
With the power-play 0 for 7 in the round robin, it's no surprise to learn that Shayne Gostisbehere will dress for Saturday's game against the Lightning. Ghost has always been a great power-play quarterback, and it will be interesting to see where (or if) he slots onto the Flyers man-advantage. He'll be playing with Braun at 5-on-5.
Also for Saturday's game: Steven Stamkos is out for the Lightning. Jake Voracek is also out for the Flyers; both are not available to play. JVR will be back in the lineup, playing with Derek Grant and Nic Aube-Kubel. In a bit of a twist, Farabee will jump up to line one with Coots and G.
The newest Flyer, Linus Sandin (signed from the SHL in April) is being loaned back to the SHL. This is because it's a lot more likely they will be playing before the AHL, if the latter even returns. It's a bit surprising since I think Sandin should be competing for a roster spot at training camp, which may or may not be a possibility now.
According to NHL PR, Kevin Hayes is the first Flyer to have three assists in a playoff game since another former Ranger, Jaromir Jagr, in Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quaterfinals against the Pens.
Speaking of the Pens, with Montreal eliminating them (lol) on Sidney Crosby's birthday (LOL), the Flyers are down to three possible first-round opponents. A win against the Bolts means they'll meet the Habs, a loss leaves them to face the winner of the Blue Jackets-Maple Leafs series (CBJ leads 2-1).
Haven't seen or heard anything about the POG helmet in the bubble. Hopefully that changes soon.
1st - Scott Laughton (PHI) - 2 Goals, 1 Assist, 62.43% xGF
2nd - Kevin Hayes (PHI) - 3 Assists, 64.39% xGF
3rd - Travis Konecny (PHI) - 2 Assists, 60.49% xGF
WSH - 8/9 @ BOS (0-0-2)
PHI - 8/8 @ TB (2-0-0)