Welcome to the Pod Street Postgame, where we dissect each game and give you three takeaways from the night’s action. The Flyers came away with a 4-3 victory over their rivals to the north, but it wasn’t an easy one. The back-and-forth was enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, but the feeling that the Flyers would win this game presented a type of solace many haven’t felt yet this season. Despite the efforts of Chris Kreider and Chris Kreider only, the Flyers fended off the Rangers and came away with the W. Let’s kick off the Pod Street Postgame and get to the action.
The action began right off the bat. The Flyers did a great job of keeping up the pressure and making their presence known. They controlled the pace of the game for much of the opening frame. They got their first crack at the powerplay early on in the period, but failed to capitalize. Moments after the man-advantage expired, Erik Gustafsson V.2 found the back of the net off a shot from the point, giving the Flyers the first tally of the game.
Almost two minutes later, Sean Couturier ended up in the penalty box and gave the Rangers their first man-advantage of the game. They wasted little time, with Chris Kreider slamming home a rebound off of a Mika Zibanejad shot tying things up about midway through the period. The exchange of penalties continued almost six minutes later, as Kevin Rooney was called for a slash. Ivan Provorov provided us with the first scare of the game, mishandling a pass and giving way to a breakaway for Zibanejad. To his benefit, Provorov recovered well and contested the shot, bringing play back to the offensive zone eventually.
After getting back to the Rangers zone, the Flyers set up shop. Gustafsson ripped another shot from the point, and Igor Shesterkin made the save. The rebound bounced out to his 10 o’clock, where Shayne Gostisbehere was driving. He slammed home the rebound right in front of Nolan Patrick to put the Flyers back up on top heading into the intermission.
The Flyers ended up with 15 shots in the first period, which was a welcome number to see considering they’re dead last in shots per game by just over three shots per game. It was also nice to see this team control the pace of play for a majority of the period. When you’re constantly used to seeing this team hemmed in their own zone, seeing them in the opposition’s zone is a welcome site.
The second started off with a scare, as Elliott made back-to-back saves on Ryan Strome on a two-on-one. A few minutes later, the Flyers got a chance of their own as Brendan Smith hooked Sean Couturier. Joel Farabee was skating it down along the half-boards and found JvR on the doorstep to slam home his league-leading seventh powerplay goal of the season, and the Flyers second powerplay goal of the evening.
The Flyers found themselves on a five-on-three shortly after, with penalties to Julien Gauthier and Brendan Smith. What should have been another powerplay tally or two ended up being a wasted opportunity. The Rangers turned around and went on the man advantage shortly after Connor Bunnaman was caught interfering with Alexis Lafreniere. The penalty led to a textbook tic-tac-toe with Ryan Strome feeding Mika Zibanejad across the ice, who fed Chris Kreider across the crease for the tap-in, bringing the Rangers to within one.
Joel Farabee passed on a breakaway, wasting a premium chance. WHAT THE *#%$!!!!!
About three quarters of the way through the period, the Flyers found the back of the net for their fourth of the night. Giroux fed Kevin Hayes streaking to the right of Shesterkin. Hayes picked the near-side corner, putting the Flyers up 4-2. Another powerplay opportunity arose when Ryan Lindgren committed the Rangers second delay of game penalty of the night. The Flyers couldn’t capitalize. The Rangers ended the period on the powerplay after Carsen Twarynski took Ryan Lindgren into the boards, drawing the call. Entering the third, there was :29 remaining on the Flyers PK.
The Flyers entering the final frame with a two goal lead. This spells disaster, right? Well, it didn’t start out the way you’d want it to. About three and a half minutes in, Chris Kreider finished off the hat trick, beating Elliott on, you guessed it, another tip in. Colin Blackwell fed the puck across the crease and the Rangers pulled within one. The first five or so minutes were all Rangers, with a dominant performance from the boys from Broadway.
The Flyers finally got things going, with a breakaway from Michael Raffl. While he may not have been able to finish his first and second chances, it showed life and that’s a good thing. A bad thing, on the other hand, was Joel Farabee taking a hooking penalty almost midway through the final frame. Luckily enough, the Flyers killed off the penalty. They even sprun Farabee for a breakaway shortly after coming out of the box, but to no avail.
The Rangers took another penalty almost three quarters through the last period, with Anthony Bitetto getting a hook in on Claude Giroux. Two minutes passed and no pucks entered the Rangers’ net. Igor Shesterkin was pulled with about two minutes remaining in an effort to try and tie things up. Five seconds remaining and the Rangers take one more penalty after trying to sneak one too many players on the ice. The game ends, and the Flyers escape with a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers.
Not-So Special Teams
13 powerplay opportunities. Between the Flyers and the Rangers, there were 13 powerplay opportunities, with the Flyers getting eight of them. Both teams converted twice, putting the Flyers PP rate at 25% for the night. While slightly above their season average of an even 20%, it still isn’t enough. Call me insatiable, but the Flyers powerplay needs to right the ship, and fast. Yes, the Rangers penalty kill was ranked sixth entering the night. It’s great to see the Flyers break through against one of the better penalty killing units in the league. It’s progress, but I need to see more.
The Rangers converted on two of their five powerplay opportunities, both coming from the stick of Chris Kreider. Considering that the Rangers converted on two of their last 24 attempts in the past seven games, it’s not encouraging from the Flyers’ standpoint. The penalty kill has been pretty atrocious as of late, killing off 12 of their last 20 over the past five games. We want to talk about this team contending for a Stanley Cup, but a penalty killing unit like that just won’t cut it.
Know Your Zone
How often have we watched games where we’ve wanted to throw our remotes through the television set because the Flyers can’t get the puck out of their own zone? Sure, there were moments like that tonight but for the most part, the Flyers did a good job of applying pressure and keeping the Rangers from hemming them in their own zone. It’s especially encouraging considering guys like Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, Travis Konecny, and Jakub Voracek are still out on the COVID protocol list.
That type of play resulted in a game in which we saw the Flyers put up 39 shots, almost 16 more than their average per game. It’s encouraging to see a team that is still ailing from missing players on the protocol list still be able to put together a quality performance, albeit against the sixth place Rangers.
Know Your Role, and Play the Goal
Yes, it’s a poor attempt at a play-on-words with a quote from Dwayne Johnson, but it sums up Brian Elliott’s performance tonight, and most nights. We don’t expect perfection from Elliott. His role is well established and we know he’s the backup to Carter Hart. However, he’s been fantastic in that role. Thrice has Elliott come into the next game after Hart played at a sub-par level, and thrice has he won that game. Hart let up six goals to Buffalo in mid-January, Elliott shut them out the next night. Hart let up six more to Boston at the end of January, Elliott beat New Jersey three nights later. Hart laid a stinker against Boston in Lake Tahoe, Elliott gets the Flyers in the win column the very next game.
He isn’t flashy and he isn’t going to put up insane numbers, but Elliott is the steady hand that Alain Vigneault turns to when the Flyers need a bit of a reset. He did just that tonight. It wasn’t easy though. Multiple breakaway attempts, blown coverages, but Elliott stood tall and kept the Flyers in this game. He’s done exactly what he’s been asked to do to this point, and the Flyers were wise to bring him back at an even lesser rate than in years past.
The Flyers are scheduled for a couple afternoon games this weekend against the Buffalo Sabres. Saturday’s contest kicks off at one in the afternoon, while Sunday’s contest sees puck drop at three in the afternoon. With a handful of players potentially being able to come off the COVID protocol list by then, the Flyers will look to keep their momentum going and earn some key points.
Thanks for checking out the latest Pod Street Postgame. Be sure to check back at the website after each game this season for more Pod Street Postgame pieces, detailing everything you might have missed from the previous game’s action. Don’t worry, we have every game covered, so the Pod Street Postgame should be your first option if you missed any of the action from any game.
Photo Credit – Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire