The Philadelphia Flyers pulled out a victory despite an overall poor effort on Sunday night against the Devils. After a lackluster 58 minutes or so, Claude Giroux scored twice with the goalie pulled and then again in the shootout in an unlikely 4-3 victory.
The Devils opened the scoring early in the first period, but the Flyers tied it up midway through the frame on a tip-in by Sean Couturier. New Jersey tacked on another goal in the second period and in the first half of the third to take a 3-1 lead.
It looked like the Flyers were heading to another unfortunate ending when Giroux saved the day. He helped force overtime and a shootout, where the Flyers emerged victorious.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ shootout win against the Devils.
The Morin – Myers pair was a mess
Alain Vigneault turned to a new combination on the third pair with Shayne Gostisbehere out. Samuel Morin re-entered the lineup as the left defenseman on the third pair and Philippe Myers stayed on the right side.
The Morin-Myers pair is one of the tallest in recent memory and it was also the worst duo on Sunday night. They were directly at fault for the Devils’ first two goals in the game.
On the Devils’ opening goal, both Morin and Myers made ill-advised decisions to pinch up into the play.
Morin crept up the wall as Michael McLeod closed in on the puck. McLeod got just enough of the puck to tip it to center ice past Morin, who didn’t get a piece of the puck or the body.
In the neutral zone, Myers tried to step up on Miles Wood but also failed to impact the play. McLeod picked up the puck in the neutral zone and played catch with Nathan Bastian on a three-on-one rush with Claude Giroux defending. There wasn’t much that Giroux or Brian Elliott could do as the Devils opened the scoring.
Morin and Myers were caught again on the Devils’ second goal.
New Jersey got the puck up ice quickly on a line change with the Flyers getting their fourth line on the ice. Bastian picked up a long pass at the blue line and skated through Morin into the circle. Myers, recognizing that Morin may need some help, went over and tried to clear the puck from danger. However, Bastian batted the puck to Wood just above the crease, where he had a wide-open net to shoot at.
The Flyers weren’t playing particularly well up to that point, but they could’ve still been tied –– or winning 1-0 –– if Morin and Myers didn’t make major errors on each of those plays.
“Tonight, we had a couple guys in the backend there that had a hard time moving the puck,” Vigneault said after the game. “[Assistant coach Mike Yeo] decided to shorten the bench a little bit.”
Vigneault must have seen what everyone else was seeing with this pair and Morin in particular. Morin played just three more shifts in the second half of the second period and only four shifts for 2:53 in the third period.
Morin played 11:25 in total, all at even strength, including 9:15 with his primary partner in Myers. That’s less than one-fifth of the 5-on-5 game time, but they were on the ice for over one-third of the Devils’ scoring chances (six of 17).
Claude Giroux plays hero and makes history
Not only did Claude Giroux save the Flyers from an embarrassing loss to the Devils, but he also made some pretty significant franchise history in the process.
Giroux entered Sunday night’s game one point behind Brian Propp for third all-time in Flyers history. His first goal tied Propp with 849 points. His second goal tied the game and put Giroux in sole possession of third place all-time in Flyers history with 850 points.
“Brian Propp was a great player here. Just being able to pass him, it’s an honor,” Giroux said after the game. “Being able to win this game, it feels even better.”
Claude Giroux will go down as one of the all-time Flyers greats. He has spent his entire career in Philadelphia and brings it every night.
Alain Vigneault coached against Giroux with the New York Rangers and is now behind the Flyers bench with Captain Claude on his side.
“The one thing that we got from our captain, from G, was his 100% every game. He’s come to play. He’s come to compete,” Vigneault said. “He worked on the areas in the summer that he had to work on or after the bubble, I mean. He’s been a real solid example for our group.”
Sean Couturier has been Giroux’s teammate since coming into the league in 2011. He knows how good of a player and leader Claude Giroux is.
“He’s one of the most competitive human beings out there. Anything he does, he wants to win,” Couturier said. “I think it reflects on everyone on the team. I think you have no choice to follow up. That’s what makes him such a great leader, great captain.”
Giroux has taken over a few games this season and he did it again on Sunday night. But it doesn’t surprise his head coach when he does it.
“One thing that everybody who’s been around G, and you guys have been around him much more than I have, is his desire to win and his desire to compete,” Vigneault said. “That’s what you need from your captain. That’s what you need from your driving force. He’s doing everything he can to steer the ship in the right direction.”
“G’s a smart, young man. He knows he only has so many ‘kicks at the can’ left. I think what he’s going to do is continue what he is doing now. Stay in the present and give the best of himself. In my estimation, that’s going to have an impact on all the players, especially the young players coming into this league and only a couple years in. At some point, for all his effort, he’s going to get rewarded. I’m confident of that.”
Wade Allison keeps energy going in first taste of NHL
Wade Allison has been one of the best overall Flyers players since making his NHL debut. That continued on Sunday night.
Allison made several strong plays with the puck as well as plays away from the puck. He is known mostly for his scoring and his shot, but the winger is quickly showing why he is rated so highly.
While Allison didn’t have any shots on goal of his own against the Devils, he created a few dangerous scoring chances throughout the game. In fact, he was on the ice for seven scoring chances ( most among Flyers forwards) and three high-danger chances (tied with James van Riemsdyk) at 5-on-5 in the game. Considering the fact that the Flyers only had 16 scoring chances and those three high-danger chances in 52:30 of 5-on-5 play, it was a fantastic night for Allison.
One of the Flyers’ best scoring chances in the game was the result of a nifty play by Allison. It wasn’t anything extraordinary, but he maneuvered the puck to create a lane and sauced a great pass to Jackson Cates for a breakaway in close. Cates was denied, but it showed the skill of Allison.
Allison had a 75% corsi for in the game as the Flyers out-attempted the Devils 24-8 with the rookie on the ice. Only Couturier (77.78%) and Voracek (76.47%) were better than Allison in that aspect of the game. He was able to help create high-quality shots as well, with a 72.14% expected goals for in the game. Only van Riemsdyk (74.32%) bested Allison in that category.
The 23-year-old rookie continues to impress and be noticeable in every game. He works hard every shift and seems to make a positive contribution (or three) every time that he’s on the ice.
Brian Elliott shining in starter’s role
The Flyers are playing it safe with Carter Hart‘s mild knee sprain, which means that Brian Elliott has been thrust into the No. 1 role for the Flyers. Elliott looked a bit washed up in March, as did most of the team, but he’s bounced back in a big way in recent weeks.
Elliott kept the Flyers in the game in his last start against the Rangers and did the same thing against the Devils. He wasn’t tested a ton, but he made a few key saves throughout the game.
The 36-year-old goalie played a key role in Sunday night’s win.
“He’s a great goalie, he’s a fighter. He’s fought for the net pretty much for his whole career. Kind of the same thing this year,” Couturier said after the win. “He never quits. He battles hard. Tonight he made some big saves early and late in the game. It just kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win the game. That’s what you want from your goalie. That’s what makes him such a great veteran goalie in this league.”
In April, Elliott is now 4-1-1 with a .915 save percentage and 2.60 goals-against average. That’s a huge improvement from his 4-4-1 record with a .847 SV% and 3.74 GAA in March.
An embarrassing effort against a bad Devils team
Up until Claude Giroux’s heroics in the final minutes, Sunday night’s game was shaping up to be an embarrassing loss to the Devils. New Jersey had lost nine straight games in regulation –– a streak they snapped –– and 13 of their last 14 games overall, with the one win coming against Buffalo.
Sunday night’s game was the first of four straight against the Devils. It was a chance for the Flyers to actually finish the season strong, if that’s what they want to do, against a team that’s spiralling even worse than them. On top of that, the Devils played in Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. They didn’t take advantage of a fatigued Devils team to kick the week off right.
Sure, in the end they won the game thanks to Claude Giroux, but they were inches away from yet another bad loss. The win doesn’t take away the feeling –– or lack thereof –– of the first two-plus periods. The crowd was silent, the two teams were just going back and forth, and the Flyers were playing uninspired hockey once again.
The Flyers have been in a downward spiral since late February. They’ve come to terms with their fate, but they still have something to play for. After the trade deadline –– which effectively ended their playoff hopes ––, Chuck Fletcher said that the players have a chance to leave an impression heading into the offseason. And this is an offseason that could see some big changes for the Flyers.
Outside of the select few veterans with no-trade clauses, no player seems to be off the table. The Flyers are going to need to make some changes and they’ll likely need to move some salary to do that.
These final weeks of the season aren’t a chance for the veterans to collect their paycheck and go home. They need to show some effort and prove that they should stay here. It’s been an up-and-down few weeks since the deadline and Sunday night’s game was another down.
Photo: Heather Barry Images
Stats via Natural Stat Trick