Flyers-Hurricanes Observations: Calm Within a Storm
There were a number of times last season and early in this season that Carter Hart was a difference-maker for the Flyers, the only reason the team even had a chance to win in some games. That was the story on Tuesday night.
Hart was tested early and often by Carolina, a total of 14 shots in the opening period, all of which stayed out of the net. Even through the second period, when Hart faced just nine shots and allowed the inevitable tying goal -- an impossible one to stop at that -- the Flyers were somehow alive in the game because of Hart's play.
When the team scored three goals in the third period to secure a 4-1 win over the Hurricanes, it was a justified win for the netminder, who appeared to be back to the form that has his potential so sky high.
More on Hart and some other observations from the Flyers win over the Hurricanes.
Some nights, it doesn't take very long to see that a goaltender just has it. Hart had it on Tuesday.
The shots piled up pretty quickly for Carolina and Hart was up to the task on all of them. His best sequence of the opening period came off a turnover, as Andrei Svechnikov got the puck wide open in the slot and fired a one-timer that was stopped. Hart also got the rebound chance and poked a third rebound chance out of harm's way.
Even in the early moments of the third period, after the Flyers had regained the lead, Hart had to remain sharp and protect the lead. The Flyers helped with some insurance goals late, but Hart was the main reason the Flyers won this game.
"There’s no doubt that for the first ten minutes, Carter gave us a chance to start playing, to execute, to make a few plays," head coach Alain Vigneault said. "He played a real sound game where you could tell he was in control. It reflected in our group in the second and third period where I felt we were better. That’s a real good team there and that’s a quick team. They put a lot of pressure on you. I thought we handled it a lot better in the second period and the third, as far as being able to break out of our end and go and spend some time and get some opportunities in their end."
"I think for me, just getting back to the basics and not trying to overthink things," Hart said. "When it’s practice time, that is the time to focus on things and worry about the little details. But when it is game time, you play. You do all your work in practice and worry about all your details, and technical side of the game. When the puck drops, all that work you put in, it’s time to just play."
In Carolina, they have the Storm Surge after victories. There was certainly a storm brewing at the start of this game, and Carter Hart was the calm within the storm.
Another game, another timely goal for Travis Konecny.
Through 14 games this season, Konecny has 15 points and he has recorded a point in 11 of the 14 games so far. His goal at 1:12 of the third period proved to be the game-winner and was already his seventh goal of the season.
Arguably, Konecny has been the most consistent forward and perhaps even player on the Flyers so far this season. Playing well and doing things the right way consistently helps earn you a few lucky bounces. Goals don't come much easier than the one Konecny scored on Tuesday.
The rebound from Matt Niskanen's shot sat perfectly for Konecny at the side of the net. It was an easy slam dunk for Konecny, who at seven goals is already almost a third of the way to tying his career-high for goals, matched in each of the last two seasons.
Vigneault had some high praise for Konecny's start to the season following the win.
“I didn’t know him coming into this year. I had heard a lot of things about him, about the potential that was there. I think you’ve got to give credit where credit is due and that’s him," Vigneault said. "He knew coming into this season that there were a couple of things about his game, especially his puck decisions, that he had to improve. He came in this season knowing that he had to make some adjustments and he did. When I put that line together, they seemed to have some pretty good chemistry, and they seem to be building, so I have no intention at this time of breaking them up."
Konecny has been on a line with Sean Couturier and Oskar Lindblom almost from the start of the season. It has easily been the Flyers best forward line. There is no reason at all to change it, no matter how things may be going for the rest of the group.
The 19-year-old may be here to stay. Joel Farabee scored his second NHL goal on Tuesday, but that's not the reason he has everyone's attention.
For most of the game, the Flyers were limited on offense, held to just 15 shots through the first 40 minutes and just the one goal. But as the third period went on in a 2-1 game, it was becoming increasingly obvious who the next best player on the ice was outside of the goaltender and perhaps Konecny, who brings a certain energy to every shift. It was Farabee. If anybody deserved a goal for the remainder of the game, it was him.
Farabee got his goal, using speed to go wide on defenseman Jake Gardiner and try to tuck a chance in on Petr Mrazek. The save was made, but Farabee stayed with the play and was able to bury his own rebound. Just seconds before the goal, Farabee got his stick on a cross-ice pass destined for the side of the net where Warren Foegele was waiting looking for the tap-in to tie the game.
Throughout the game, Farabee continued to bring energy and outside of a first-period tripping penalty and the defensive zone turnover that led to a quality scoring chance for Svechnikov, there wasn't really any blemishes to his game. The kid just plays smart hockey. It's helping him become a permanent member of the team.
“I’d have to say that as far as poise and being able to win puck battles and to make the right play on the wall, he’s probably one of our better players on our team right now," Vigneault said. "I’ve got a lot of trust and faith in what he’s doing on the ice and I think he’s only going to get better. He’s a good young man that wants to work."
I asked Farabee if playing with Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, as he has for the last two games, allows him to take more chances and be more aggressive with the puck, as he was on his goal or making a great move on entry in the first period to start an odd-man rush with van Riemsdyk.
"Yeah, maybe a little bit. Just playing with them, there’s always a play to be made," Farabee said. "There’s always close support with them. There’s always room to make plays. I think that helps out. I think a lot of it is just confidence. Just knowing when you’ve got to take your medicine and get the puck low or when you can make a play is the biggest thing."
Farabee's confidence appears to be at its highest right now, which can only mean better things to come for the rookie.
Giroux was also rewarded with a goal in the third period, taking a bouncing puck in the neutral zone the other way and beating Mrazek five-hole.
It's no secret that following the 7-1 loss in Pittsburgh, Giroux was mentioned by Vigneault, mentioning that the leadership group needed to show more. In the last two games, Giroux has a goal and an assist in each. That now has Giroux up to four goals and 11 points in 14 games.
Points aren't everything. Giroux has been noticeably better in each of the last two games, more involved on the offense, generating more chances and taking charge on a couple of plays to score goals.
Giroux's four goals are over the last seven games. In that time, he also has seven of his 11 points. Perhaps Giroux has hit a turning point and is going to get back to point-per-game status. His last two games are certainly something to build on.
It's 14 games into the season and the 2019-20 season is rapidly approaching the quarter-mark. The Flyers have been very much improved on special teams this season. The power play again struck for a goal, getting the Flyers on the board in the first four minutes of the game. At 1-for-3 in Tuesday's game, the Flyers moved to fifth in the NHL. The Flyers penalty kill was 3-for-3 and is now up to 13th in the NHL.
Special teams can certainly decide a game, and over the course of the last few, the Flyers have typically been on the right side of the battle. They won the special teams battle on Saturday against Toronto. They won it last Saturday against Columbus. They won it against Vegas a few weeks ago.
Even on nights when the power play hasn't been on point, the penalty kill has been fairly successful. Even with the lopsided losses to the Islanders and Penguins, the Flyers didn't allow a power-play goal in either game. In fact, in the last seven games, the Flyers have only allowed a power-play goal to the Devils -- they were 2-for-4 that night. In the other six, opposing teams' power play has gone 0-for-19. In that same time frame, the Flyers power play has gone 5-for-25.