Flyers 5: Takeaways from Flyers-Lightning
The Flyers entered the Round Robin knowing they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Consider this win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday everything.
The Flyers have the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Who would have imagined that a season ago?
This was the toughest of the Flyers three Round Robin games. The Lightning brought higher intensity, more sustained zone pressure than we’ve seen, forced more turnovers and kept the Flyers on their heels more. But the Flyers also kept them to the outside and that made a huge difference in closing out this game.
Here are 5 takeaways from Flyers-Lightning.
1. A NAK for the Net
Pretty much every game the Flyers have played has featured a key contributor that plays below the top six. Scott Laughton has had a few games like this in joining the second line. Michael Raffl and Nate Thompson scored against Boston. The line of Laughton, Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny shined against Washington. In this game, it was Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
Playing on the third line, Aube-Kubel got the scoring started with a deflection of Shayne Gostisbehere’s point shot. He then executed a give-and-go with Sean Couturier, burying a one-timer to make it a 2-0 game.
There were a couple of times he came close to completing the hat trick. Aube-Kubel also finished the game with six shots on goal and three hits.
It continues to boost the narrative that this team has a ton of depth. In the three Round Robin games, the Flyers never trailed and outscored the opposition, 11-3. The number of goals for Claude Giroux? Zero. The number of goals for Couturier? Zero. The number of goals for Hayes? Zero. The list goes on and on. It’s the depth making the contributions, and that is what makes a contender. The Flyers are certainly viewed as one now.
2. Turning Point
Aube-Kubel’s first goal seemed to turn the tide, but there were two close calls for the Lightning that proved to be turning points for the Flyers.
Early in the game, the Lightning appeared to have all the control. They made the crisper passes. They sustained zone time for longer. They were getting chances. Nikita Kucherov hit the post on one chance, then got a breakaway off a giveaway by Matt Niskanen. Carter Hart stood tall.
That save came with 13:04 left in the first period and gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead in shots. From there, the Flyers scored twice and outshot the Lightning, 18-3, for the remainder of the period.
Two of those shots came with the Flyers already ahead 2-0 and on a power play. Alex Killorn had a shorthanded breakaway and got two chances on goal. Hart said no to both. The goalie’s poise and maturity showed again.
Those are the scoring chances that can completely change playoff hockey games. The goalie that will be at the other end of the ice during Hart’s first playoff series would know.
3. Ghost Steps In
In the exhibition game against Pittsburgh, Shayne Gostisbehere wasn’t anything spectacular, but you could see how his mobility had improved. His appearance in the Round Robin finale on Saturday could possibly make or break his chances to get into the lineup.
Gostisbehere looked solid on the defensive end and used his offensive abilities to set up a pair of goals. Both of these assists were shades of his 2018 self.
On the first goal, Gostisbehere recognizes that he may have a shooting lane and lets a shot go. There is netfront presence by Aube-Kubel and Gostisbehere puts it on goal. The deflection worked to perfection to beat a high-end goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
His pass on the second goal, setting up Joel Farabee for his goal, is a rocket. Couturier makes a great play to keep the play alive along the wall. Gostisbehere gets control and in one motion throws the puck across the slot to Farabee for the one-timer.
That’s the offensive contribution that keeps Gostisbehere in the lineup. It may have bought him another game when the first round begins.
4. The Payoff for Farabee
When the Flyers announced that Jake Voracek would be out for this game and Farabee would move to the top line, this had to be seen as an opportunity for Farabee, not only to stay in the lineup by continuing to do the little things well, but also to maybe make an impact on the scoresheet.
Farabee certainly made a contribution, assisting on Aube-Kubel’s second goal and scoring the third, his first two playoff points.
It’s easy to see that Farabee possesses the skill to be a talented scorer in the league, but he’s so young and still going through those learning experiences. There are shades of what his potential could be, and you could certainly see that in Saturday’s game.
5. On to Montreal
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this game is what happens now that the Flyers are in the top seed. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in their qualifying round series, meaning the Flyers will play the 12-seed that just completed a shocker in the first round.
Obviously, the goalie matchup in this game is very intriguing. Carter Hart has idolized Carey Price for most of his life. This is who he gets to face in the first round. The Canadiens also don’t have a star-studded lineup, but have shown that it doesn’t take star players to work hard and defeat a team with high expectations.
This is also going to be the first step for the Flyers in a playoff run. It’s been a long time since the Flyers have been favorites in a playoff series and eight years since their last series win.
Every team that makes it to this point is tough and can’t be overlooked, and if the Flyers can bring a similar level of play to this series, it could only be the beginning of a long stay inside the Toronto bubble.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.