Flyers 5: Takeaways from Friday’s Flyers-Golden Knights Game
After 10 games, the Flyers finally returned to the win column. The losing streak has come to an end.
No, the Flyers didn’t snap their fingers and suddenly become a force to be reckoned with. There was plenty in their process in this game that left a lot to be desired. But as we’ve done with numerous wins already this season, the Flyers can turn to their goalie and thank him for being the catalyst that ended this streak.
Entering this game, there was another question of effort and pride. There were struggles in virtually every facet of the game. Perhaps one of those areas got a boost in a positive direction.
Here are five takeaways from Friday’s Flyers win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
1. Hart Stopping
The win that snapped this 10-game losing streak is the Flyers ninth of the season. It’s also the sixth for Carter Hart, and like many that came before, he’s the primary reason the Flyers came away with the two points.
Hart was simply sensational. The goals he allowed in the game – all in the final two minutes of the period – were virtually unstoppable, notably the slam dunk goal for William Karlsson and the open-net rebound for Max Pacioretty. While Hart would probably like to have the initial shot that led to the rebound back, he otherwise played brilliantly.
Early in the game, Hart had to be at his best with the Golden Knights bearing down. Early in the second, Vegas was again controlling the play. In the third, there were multiple chances, 15 total including five high-danger scoring chances according to Natural Stat Trick, for Vegas to either equalize or trim a two-goal lead.
If there’s one player on the team that shouldn’t have any questions about his future, it’s Hart. He has answered the bell constantly, done what he can to keep his team in the game. Sure, Sunday’s start against Tampa Bay was ugly, but his overall performances have been solid throughout the season.
2. Where There’s a Willman…
What a story Max Willman has. His journey through the minor league ranks brought him to the NHL this season, making his NHL debut in this season’s opening game.
Willman has bounced back and forth between the AHL and NHL this season, and even in and out of the lineup while up at the NHL level. He was back in the lineup for Derick Brassard, out with an injury, and Mike Yeo wanted to give him an opportunity with players like Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk.
But Willman was actually on the ice with Patrick Brown and Zack MacEwen early in the second period, as the Flyers had to adjust with Sean Couturier in the locker room getting stitches for a cut to his wrist from a skate. During a shift with those two, Willman scored his first NHL goal, picking up a loose puck at the right circle and firing it home. His celebration said it all.
3. Special Delivery
If you’re going to end a long losing streak like this one, you have to take advantage of opportunities. The Flyers were handed two of them in the third period. They cashed in on both.
Early in the first period, the Flyers got a power play that lasted all of five seconds before a penalty on van Riemsdyk nullified the man-advantage. On their second and third power plays, the Flyers scored both times, first getting a one-timer from Couturier from the right circle, then getting a friendly bounce off the endboards and a nice setup by Travis Konecny to van Riemsdyk for the goal.
On Couturier’s goal, some Flyers history was made. Claude Giroux had the secondary assist, his 334th career power-play point. That made him the all-time franchise leader in power-play points, passing Bobby Clarke.
Additionally, van Riemsdyk’s tally came just as the period was nearing the halfway point and provided some much-needed insurance.
Even the Flyers penalty kill held up their end of the job. The Flyers killed off the brief five-second power play that the Golden Knights got in the first, then the next four full penalties as well. Vegas did score a power-play goal in the final two minutes of the third with a 6-on-4 attack, but the Flyers stayed the course when there were multiple moments that Vegas could have crawled back into the game.
4. Holding Down the Fortress
It wasn’t just the penalty killing that did the job. It wasn’t just Carter Hart making saves. There were several key blocked shots as well.
The Flyers finished the game with 20 total, but it was a blocked shot by Rasmus Ristolainen that really could qualify as a save that could have very well been the difference.
Even with the blocked shots, the penalty kill, and Hart’s performance, the Flyers got the win in a game that wasn’t exactly what was thought to be the type of game they needed to break out of the streak. Remember it wasn’t long ago during this streak that the talk was that it was going to take a 1-0 or 2-1 game for the Flyers to break this. They scored four goals, allowing three, and came away with the two points they had been looking for. It wasn’t pretty, but it still can provide a little shine to an otherwise dreadful week to this point.
“When you go through something like we’ve been going through, I think the hardest thing is to deal with the emotion,” Yeo said. “You look at tonight, I thought we had a great start, we give up a goal right at the end of the period, we were able to come back out, re-establish the lead, and then you give up another goal right at the end of the period. We knew it wasn’t going to be perfect, especially against a team of that caliber, but our guys competed so hard tonight.”
5. On to Arizona
So what’s next for the Flyers? Well, there’s very little time to revel in their first victory in 11 games. They have another one on Saturday night in Arizona.
The key here is that this starts a stretch of games against teams that fall into the rankings much closer to where the Flyers sit. Arizona is the NHL’s last-place team. They have dates with Montreal, ranked 31st in the league, and Ottawa, ranked 30th in the league, on the slate next week. New Jersey is also on the schedule again, and they are not that far ahead in 23rd place.
The Flyers already have dug quite a hole, so it’s reasonable to already look at the season and feel like there is no hope for a turnaround. But we’ve seen this act before, and the Flyers are certainly far from mathematically eliminated. That doesn’t happen in December. The key for them is that these games are really all must-wins. The team can’t focus in on turning things around and trying to make the playoffs and things of that nature and have people really believe there is a case without an extended winning streak.
Saturday presents the Flyers with an opportunity to win back-to-back games for only the third time this season and first since Oct. 27 and 28. It will take a lot more than back-to-back wins, and perhaps even a four or five-game streak won’t mean all that much either. What matters here for the guys in the locker room is finding a way to string together results the other way, especially now that the losing streak is over. It’s in their hands to try to right the ship and avoid having the season slip away before Christmas arrives.