Flyers-Maple Leafs Observations: Role Reversal
The Flyers took the loss to Toronto just seven days ago via an 11-round shootout, so it was fair to think deja vu when the two teams reached the skills competition once again this Saturday.
With goals from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, the Flyers managed to secure their second shootout win in eight days, this time beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in the shootout and 3-2 in the game.
While the goals by Giroux and Couturier were outstanding and there were other standout players, the story of this game was in net.
Here are some observations from the Flyers shootout win over the Maple Leafs.
It's the typical rotation you would expect the Flyers to use as the season progresses. Carter Hart got starts earlier in the week against Carolina and Montreal. With a weekend back-to-back between two tough opponents, the Flyers held their top netminder for the better of the two teams so far this season. So with Hart going in Boston on Sunday, Brian Elliott drew Saturday night's rematch against the Leafs.
Elliott was stellar. The Flyers were the better team in the first period, but then dealt with an onslaught of shots early in the second and again in the third as Toronto pressed. What was really impressive with Elliott was how well he tracked the puck throughout the game, especially in a crowded crease at times. But where Elliott really shined was in the overtime.
The Flyers were outshot 8-1 in the extra five minutes and if not for Elliott, the Flyers would never have a chance to win the game, even if decided by a shootout. Twice, Toronto had dangerous odd-man rushes in overtime where the puck came in on Elliott low and in the crease. He remained calm and cleared the puck both times. With Toronto on a power play for the final seven seconds of overtime, he had to make two more saves on John Tavares and William Nylander right at the buzzer. Nylander's chance would have counted if it had gone in.
Hart has been solid all week, but he's not going to be able to go every night, especially in back-to-backs. Elliott got both starts against Toronto as part of back-to-backs in the last two weeks and was very good in both, giving the Flyers a chance to win. Elliott may clearly be behind Hart on the depth chart, but he's providing stable goaltending.
Once again, Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom teamed up on a goal. It's happened several times this year as part of a line that is simply inseparable at the moment.
Lindblom and Konecny have combined for 15 goals and 30 points on the season so far and have been the most consistent forwards on the team.
On this goal, it was the great vision and deception of Konecny and the skillful hands of Lindblom going to work. Konecny gets the puck at the top of the right circle and essentially looks toward both the net and Couturier, playing in the slot. Lindblom creeps behind the defense and to the side of the net. At the last moment, Konecny doesn't shoot or try to hit Couturier for a deflection, but goes to the side of the net for Lindblom, who tips it perfectly to the left and over the glove of Frederik Andersen.
For the second straight game, Phil Myers scored the opening goal for the Flyers, and while it was an impressive shot that exited the net as quickly as it entered, that's not the talking point for Myers in this game.
In the first couple of games after his call-up, Myers had some good moments and some rough ones too. His game has steadied since and not just with his ability to be an offensive threat. His reads have been better. His coverage has been solid. He's able to use his skating ability to escape some pressure and make the smart play.
It's very telling how much trust Alain Vigneault already has in Myers. The pairing of Myers and Travis Sanheim got the second-highest ice time. Myers played 19:54 and Sanheim played 22:38. That only trails Ivan Provorov's 25:32 and Matt Niskanen's 20:13. For perspective, Justin Braun got 17:11 and Shayne Gostisbehere got 15:57.
Myers is not only getting regular ice time, he's getting ice time in key situations and helping his team succeed in those spots.
It was not the best night for Provorov. Despite carrying the bulk of the workload defensively, as per usual, Provorov was on the ice for both Toronto goals -- making a bad pinch on the first and poor coverage on the second -- but also struggled with breakouts and turned the puck over several times.
It's easy to forget that Provorov is only 22 and will still have some nights where things just don't seem to go his way. For what it's worth, in the two games leading up to this, Provorov was one of the Flyers best defensemen and the pairing with Niskanen was very steady. On Saturday, both just had an off night. It happens. They have to shake that off and move on to Sunday.
Strong Fourth Line Play
The addition of Andy Andreoff to the fourth line appeared to be a welcome one. The trio of Andreoff, Michael Raffl and Tyler Pitlick played a really strong game.
The fourth line is not expected to be some offensive machine, so you take the scoring chances and goals they are able to provide. What the fourth-line role is more or less about is keeping the other team off the board with good hard checking. You may not generate much yourself, but you didn't give up anything. In that department, this trio was very successful.
Andreoff was especially a presence, getting a couple of great scoring chances in the game. A veteran forward who was supposed to be in the competition for a roster spot, his training camp and preseason were underwhelming and he didn't really stand out at all. With this game, he not only stood out, but should get another chance in that fourth-line role.