Final Score: Flyers 3, Ducks 2 | (5-7-0)
Alright so something I really hate is how much importance the Flyers and the TV broadcast team seem to have been making out of a road trip coming at a perfect time to turn this team around. I know that when you’re on a road trip, it’s great for the team building chemistry and getting the boys to really come together as a unit. Which is totally understandable, and I think a road trip is great for any team in that sense. But that didn’t seem to be the biggest reason why this team was excited about getting on the road. To me, it seemed like the Flyers were ready to just not have to play at the Wells Fargo Center anymore because they tighten up at home when the fans start getting on their ass. Sure, building some team chemistry on the road is an added bonus for this team. But it really seems like they just wanted to play some hockey away from the hometown crowd. And that just doesn’t seem like something a mentally strong group would want. But ya know what? I don’t care. Because if this road trip is able to make the Flyers become a competent team and not miserable to watch? Well then I’m okay with it because even if all that win last night did is prolong the Hakstol era in Philadelphia, I wouldn’t be able to take 82 games of what we saw leading up to this road trip.
The Flyers weren’t perfect last night and the Ducks aren’t a very good team. But for the first time in a while, the Flyers played a hockey game that didn’t make you want to change the channel after the first period. Hell, for the first time in a while the Flyers actually went into the first intermission with a lead. They were able to string together multiple shifts with sustained pressure and it didn’t look like they were constantly chasing the game with the ice tilted in the other team’s favor. There were still some really bad turnovers. The team was still lazy/sloppy at times and iced the puck like crazy. But for a team that has seemed completely lost at times this year–especially at the beginning of games–they did enough to grab a pretty important regulation win. And at this point that’s all you can really ask for.
Welcome To The New Age… Of The PECO Powerplay
I’m not sure when the last time the Flyers changed up the top powerplay personnel for any reason outside of injuries was, but it was long overdue before last night. The top powerplay unit had been one of the strengths of this team for a while but recently they’ve just become way too predictable and way too stagnant. It’s a group who have been together for years and even though that means the chemistry is there, that also means that 30 different penalty killing units around the league know what to expect. So on the first powerplay of the night last night, Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny bumped up onto PP1 while Simmonds and Voracek slid down to PP2. And here’s why they were able to find success right away–Jake Voracek wasn’t out on the ice.
Now that’s not a knock on Jake or anything. But the other 30 teams in the league know that Giroux is always going to be looking to hit that cross ice pass to Voracek on the powerplay. I don’t think the Flyers have had a powerplay in 5 years where Giroux didn’t attempt to make that pass over to Voracek. Everybody is anticipating it and you can see Andrew Cogliano standing in that lane to take that pass away from Giroux. Only this time, it’s Travis Konecny on the other side of the ice. So not only is Giroux not looking to hit TK with that pass, but having Cogliano worried about staying in that passing lane opens up a little more space for Couturier to be open. Giroux puts it in a perfect spot, Coots makes a perfect deflection, boom, it’s 1-0 Flyers. All because Giroux didn’t try to force a pass over to Voracek.
Later in the night we saw a powerplay start off with Patrick and Konecny up on PP1 but halfway through, Simmonds and Voracek came on to replace them and stay out there with Couturier, Giroux and Gostisbehere. And in my opinion, that’s the perfect way to handle powerplays from here on out. As long as 14, 28 and 53 have the gas to stay out there, then you keep them out with both groups. The reason why it’s smarter to have Simmonds and Voracek come on for the 2nd half of a powerplay is because you can’t keep putting those guys out there with a full 2 minutes to work with anymore because they just dick around with the puck too much. They waste so much time looking to make the perfect pass and it just grows stagnant. But if you put them out there with 51 seconds to work with and they have to get pressure right away? Well then something can happen out of that. So the Flyers may have only scored once on the powerplay last night, but it looks like they have a decent gameplan here moving forward.
Ladies And Gentlemen… Ivan Provorov Is Back
Okay so there is one very bad Provorov moment that we’ll have to get to later in the blog, but for right now let’s just all exhale a sigh of relief that Ivan Provorov’s dark days are coming to an end.
It’s no secret that Ivan Provorov had been having a pretty disastrous start to the 2018-19 season. He looked like he was just broken out there for the first 11 games of the year. Like a shell of himself. He was making horrible decisions with the puck, he looked like he had negative confidence, and he wasn’t making enough plays defensively to make up for the mistakes he was making offensively. It was looking bad for Ivan Provorov. Which is why this goal–regardless of how much of a lucky bounce it may have been–is so huge. Because this is a goal that can get him out of his funk and turn some things around. First off, this is just a great job of Provorov to get his ass to the front of the net and provide a screen at the very least. Great awareness to know the Flyers had numbers and to stay with the rush and get to the slot. And then the bounce may have been lucky, but Provorov scores this goal because he got himself to the right spot on the ice and he was ready to make a play. So you have to be good to get lucky. And right away, you can start to see some of his confidence and decision making come back after scoring this goal.
The Flyers didn’t end up scoring here or anything but that’s great work by Provorov along the boards to control the puck and ends up making a great pass to Giroux that leads to a couple different scoring chances. Even though there wasn’t a goal scored, that’s still quality pressure for a team that struggles to get pressure like that on a regular basis.
One of my biggest complaints about the Flyers before last night is that they were a team without an identity. They weren’t going to beat teams with skill. They weren’t going to beat teams with speed. They weren’t going to beat teams physically. There was nothing defining this team. I think last night we saw the Flyers start to add at least some sort of personality to their team, and they are going to be a team who just pisses everybody as much as possible to get the win. And last night it was Travis Konecny and Wayne Simmonds leading the way, getting under that bald headed prick Ryan Getzlaf’s skin all night.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Travis Konecny is just a younger Brad Marchand. And that’s exactly who the Flyers need him to be. From a parental standpoint, I would appreciate if Konecny would stay away from Getzlaf for a while because that’s a bear you don’t necessarily want to keep poking. I don’t think Konency would come out of that tilt alive. But he was being a little rat to Getzlaf all night and clearly got in his head. Not only does that take Getzlaf out of the game a little, but it also adds a little more life to the Flyers’ bench. And fortunately he has Wayne Simmonds there to be his big brother and handle any business in case TK bites off more than he can chew. Those are moments that build chemistry and trust on the team. And if you have pests out there like Travis Konency making life miserable for the opposing team, well that gives your team and identity and you’re no longer easy to play against. The goals were obviously important last night but TK being a pest may be a key to the season.
NolPat The Savior
I’m pretty sure Nolan Patrick saved a few jobs last night with this goal that came just 21 seconds after the Ducks tied it up late in the 3rd period. If the Flyers had gone to overtime last night and lost that game, I think there are a few people who would have been on the chopping block already. Ian Laperriere being one of them considering it was a powerplay goal for Anaheim that tied it up with under 3 minutes to play. But a great pass by Oskar Lindblom followed up by a great cut and shot from Nolan Patrick allowed the Flyers to avoid that disaster. This was a big night for Nolan Patrick. He helped provide the screen on the Couturier goal to open up the game. He had an assist on the Provorov goal. And then he scored the game winner. That’s the type of shit you love to see out of a 2nd overall pick.
Let’s Talk About The Bad Real Quick
So I just mentioned how Nolan Patrick probably saved a few jobs with that game winner, but nobody should be thanking NolPat more right now than Ivan Provorov. Because with that goal from Nolan, this moment ends up being completely irrelevant. But we still have to talk about it anyway because I’ve been seeing a lot of people wrongly place some blame on Jordan Weal for the Ducks tying it up late in the 3rd period. But watch that video for me real quick. That turnover up the boards from Ivan Provorov is the shit that happens just way too frequently from the Flyers. They are lazy and reckless with the puck in their own zone. Provorov doesn’t even take a look up the boards, throws a soft pass up to the blueline that ends up getting intercepted, and then Jordan Weal ends up taking the penalty but it shouldn’t have gotten to that point in the first place. Provorov had time to look up, snap a pass off straight to Weal’s stick, and then that puck is out of the zone. Instead, it’s a bad turnover that leads to a penalty that leads to Flyers penalty kill giving up yet another PP goal.
And again on the penalty kill, it’s just laziness that is killing this team. Fowler is able to just get to the middle of the ice, nobody even gets a stick on him, he curls back around the faceoff circle and has 4 Flyers just staring at him. Gudas doesn’t even think to take a look at the front of the net where Pontus Aberg is screening the shit out of Brian Elliott. Everybody is just watching Fowler coast around out there with the puck and a game that should have been wrapped up by the beginning of the 3rd period is now tied with 2:12 to go. All because of an Ivan Provorov turnover and lazy penalty killing. So that’s bad.
Also–what was up with the icing last night? I need somebody to watch the game again and keep track of how many times the Flyers iced the puck. Count both how many times they iced the puck and then how many times the icing was unforced. Because it seemed like at least 65% of the times were just errant passes that come from not being dialed in mentally. Fortunately for the Flyers, the Ducks aren’t a very good team right now so the excessive amount of icings didn’t hurt them. But against a good team? Well they’ll make you pay for those mistakes and keeping tired legs out on the ice defensively. That and the penalty killing both need to clean it up fast because a team like San Jose will make you pay on Saturday night.
Like I said, it wasn’t a perfect game for the Flyers by any stretch. But they did enough to get the win and to get the win in regulation. 2 assists from Giroux. Provorov finally getting himself on the board. Nolan Patrick playing a role in all 3 goals. These are all things that are going to make the Flyers a successful team. It kind of sucks that the team winning is good news for Dave Hakstol’s job security, but I don’t want to be so cynical that I’d rather root for the team to lose so I’m just going to enjoy this one. And you should, too.