Flyers-Hurricanes Observations: Perfect Storm
Sometimes an injection of youth can help jumpstart a group. The Flyers certainly got a shot in the arm with the newest addition to the lineup.
For the second straight game, Morgan Frost was a presence, scoring another goal and assisting on the game-winning goal in the Flyers 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. That helped snap the Flyers four-game losing streak and get them back into the win column. It was also just another affirmation that Frost sure looks like he belongs in the NHL.
Here are some observations from the Flyers win over the Hurricanes.
In two games, Frost has been one of the Flyers best players. In this game in Carolina, his two points couldn’t have come at bigger moments.
Let’s start with Frost’s shorthanded goal. Frost was only on the ice because of an offensive-zone face-off with nine seconds left on a penalty kill, so he hasn’t been trusted with extensive PK time just yet, but the Flyers clearly set a play off the face-off that was executed perfectly. Claude Giroux wins the face-off and puts the puck right in Frost’s wheelhouse. The quick release catches Petr Mrazek off-guard and goes right through the five-hole.
That goal made Frost just the sixth player in Flyers history to score in his first two games. He joins some pretty good company on that list, including Eric Lindros, Mel Bridgman, Andre Lacroix and Bill Sutherland. The fifth member of that list was the most recent Flyers to score in his first two games. In the early part of the 2009-10 season, David Laliberte scored goals in his first two games, the only two goals of his brief NHL career. You can actually re-live these two goals with the powers of YouTube -- his first and second career goals. You can also see both of Lindros’ goals through YouTube as well. No Flyer has ever scored in the first three games of his NHL career, so history is on the line for Frost in Saturday’s game against the Flames.
The more impressive play to me was Frost’s assist on Giroux’s second goal. Travis Konecny does a lot of work on this play, retrieving the puck behind the net and drawing the attention of two Carolina players, who eventually collide and fall to the ice. Frost comes in behind the net to take Konecny’s pass and slowly works to the side of the net, drawing attention. He then feathers a perfect little pass across the crease to Giroux, who finishes to give the Flyers the lead.
Frost’s energy level has been excellent and his skill has been on display, but his two-way play has remained steady and the stage does not appear to be too big for him. My thought when Frost was called up on Monday was that he had maybe two or three games before the Flyers were going to be faced with a decision to either send him back down or send somebody else so that Scott Laughton could be activated off long-term IR. Laughton was cleared for Saturday’s game against Calgary and will return, so a move has to be made. Frost’s performance in the last two games will definitely keep him around despite Laughton’s return.
The Flyers captain was honestly due for a game like this. In Florida, he had a couple of good scoring chances where he was unable to finish. But the chances were coming and you could see there was opportunity available with Giroux on a line with Frost and Konecny.
The line collectively earned nine points in Thursday’s win with Giroux leading the way with four points. He scored the first goal for the Flyers off a brilliant drop pass from Konency, then cashed in off the great play from Konecny and Frost for the game-winning goal.
Giroux’s play is not just about putting up points. While that is certainly a measure of success, when Giroux is really on his game, you see all of the elements come together. That was the kind of game Giroux played on Thursday, showcasing good speed and awareness on the back-check, being heavily involved in the team’s first four goals and making his presence felt.
More Ice Time for Vets
Giroux was one of the many veterans that really needed to pick things up, though Giroux’s underlying numbers and overall statistics were fine and you got the sense that his linemates would not allow for the numbers to be poor for long.
The Flyers are trying to find any way to spark other veterans like Jake Voracek, Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk. Out of the three, van Riemsdyk probably had the best game on Thursday, albeit in more limited time than other vets. Hayes was solid defensively, but not much of a presence offensively outside of an empty-net goal in the final five seconds of the game. Voracek had a frustrating night, taking two penalties -- one that led to a Carolina goal and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that nullified a Flyers power play.
Alain Vigneault chose to use a lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen, with his reasoning being to get some of the veterans struggling to put up points more ice time. It didn’t have an immediate impact -- the Giroux-Frost-Konecny line was easily the best line in the game -- but van Riemsdyk continued to see quality chances and Hayes snapped a 12-game goalless drought, so it’s a start.
Simply put, Brian Elliott deserves a lot of credit for this win. The Hurricanes had just seven shots in the first period and the two goals Elliott allowed were not good. Sebastian Aho got the puck off a turnover and in a high-danger area, but the shot that leaks through the five-hole should be a save. Teuvo Teravainen’s goal on the power play moments later was a good shot, but another that Elliott should be able to stop.
The Flyers were out-shot in the second period, 10-4, and again in the third, 10-8. Aside from a rebound goal for Lucas Wallmark that was impossible for Elliott to save, he was very sharp, especially down the stretch. He made a huge pad save, extending the left pad to rob Nino Niederreiter, and then stood his ground on a scramble at the side of the net with under 90 seconds to play with Carolina charging to find the tying goal.
It turned out to be a great performance for Elliott after a shaky start where he did not look sharp.
It’s been refreshing that the Flyers have been scoring the game’s first goal more often this season. Last season, the Flyers faced a 2-0 deficit in a game 32 times. Carolina’s quick 2-0 start on Thursday was just the third time that has happened this season.
Still, that is no way to start a game, and with the Flyers trying to snap a four-game losing streak, it forced them to climb out of a hole early. They quickly got on the board to cut the lead to one and got the tying goal before the first period was over.
A team mired in a losing streak that gives up two goals before the game is five minutes old may take that as a sign of things to come and let the events snowball into an insurmountable deficit. The Flyers instantly took charge and controlled a majority of the period from there. That approach helped them not only snap their losing streak, but end a four-game winning streak for a hot Hurricanes team.