Flyers takeaways: Top line dominates, Lyon’s career night, a good reminder, and more
The Philadelphia Flyers played their best game in quite some time on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were rolling four lines, won all three periods, and kept the Penguins off the board at even strength. It all added up to a dominant 7-2 win against their biggest rival.
It wasn’t the most timely performance as the Flyers could’ve used a kick into gear a few weeks (or months) ago, but the Wells Fargo Center was buzzing on Monday night thanks to a great game all around.
Flyers play with pride in fun and dominant win against Penguins on Pride Night
Alex Lyon made 35 saves to earn first star honors, with 11 different Flyers recording points in the game –– including five multi-point nights.
Here are five takeaways from the Flyers’ dominant win over the Penguins:
Top line dominates against Crosby, Penguins
Alain Vigneault‘s only change to the Flyers’ skater combinations came in the top six. He swapped Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek on the right side.
Voracek had been playing with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, but he dropped down to play with Joel Farabee and Kevin Hayes on Monday night.
The move paid off for Vigneault as both lines played well in the win. The top line, though, was especially dominant.
Giroux recorded two goals and an assist, Couturier picked up an assist, and Konecny had two primary assists.
Konecny’s two assists came on good plays along the wall. Vigneault took notice of the forward’s good game.
“He’s moving his feet. Winning some battles along the wall and in the corners,” Vigneault said of Konecny. “When he moves his feet, wins puck battles, and is first on pucks, he’s a very effective player.”
It wasn’t just their point totals that stood out, however.
The top line did not yield a shot attempt against them while they were on the ice in the first two periods. They helped generate 22 shot attempts for the Flyers while the Penguins did not have a single shot attempt. Pittsburgh ended up picking up a shot on goal in the third period to not be completely shut down by the top line.
Individually, Konecny had eight shot attempts (six on goal, six scoring chances), Couturier had five shot atempts (three shots on goal, four scoring chances), and Giroux picked up the lone goal on just two shot attempts.
Konecny had seven of the Flyers’ season-high 45 shots on goal.
“I think every night your goal is to go out there and get as many pucks to the net as you can. I just think the way we played the first two periods, just being above and creating turnovers kind of gave us opportunities to get all of those shots. “It’s definitely a plus,” Konecny said. “I’ve been saying it all year –– we know we can play the right way it’s just a matter of us doing it.
In 12:15 at 5-on-5 in the game with the entire top line on the ice, the Flyers absolutely dominated the Penguins: 22-1 shot attempts (95.65% CF), 13-1 shots on goal (92.86% SF), and 12-1 scoring chances (92.31% SCF) for a 91.33% xGF (0.96 – 0.09).
It’s not like Vigneault was chasing easy matchups for the top line either. Couturier played 9:37 of his 12:25 at 5-on-5 against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins’ top line. It was an impressive night for the trio against some tough competition.
Alex Lyon finally “felt like a hockey player” in career game
Alex Lyon had been off this season coming into Monday night’s game. He allowed four or more goals in all three of his starts with three losses and a .841 SV%.
However, he had a career night on Monday. Lyon made 35 saves (the second-most in his career) on 37 shots for a .946 SV%, the highest single-game mark of his career.
Lyon’s night was highlighted by a desperation save in the first period. The puck was just inches from crossing the line as Lyon reached back to save a goal. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.
This was arguably the best start for Lyon in his NHL career and his team was thankful for it.
“Everyone was extremely happy with his battle level, his compete level. He really gave us a chance,” Vigneault said of Lyon. “What we did tonight was we made the other team pay for their early mistakes and Alex made some big saves. They had some real good looks. No doubt he was a big part of tonight’s win.”
Lyon has had his own battles this season with staying fresh on the Taxi Squad. He’s been thrown into a backup role with Carter Hart out for the season after not playing much this season. It looked like he finally found his game on Monday night.
“Obviously last year was different circumstances, given the fact that I was playing on a consistent basis with Lehigh there, kind of found a rhythm. I think tonight was really the first game that I felt like a hockey player,” Lyon said. “I felt good. It takes a little bit of time to find that rhythm and find that groove. I felt tonight I found a really good recipe for success. Even more than the win, I’m just personally happy. You just go through some negative thoughts like ‘am I ever going to win a game again?’ and stuff like that. It’s really nice. I’ve been just trying to trust myself and trust my game. Tonight I felt like everything really came together. Just happy to move forward with that in mind.”
There have been several bumps along the way for Lyon. He had a huge weight off his shoulders after finally feeling like a hockey player during the win. He may not ever be more than an NHL/AHL tweener or a backup, but he’s battling and self-aware. It’s easy to root for the guy and he had a huge hand in Monday night’s win.
Gostisbehere shows off two-way game with save and goal
The first period of Monday night’s game could’ve gone very differently. There were a few pucks in the crease that got knocked out of trouble or covered up as they were heading toward the goal line.
With around 8:02 left in the first period, one of those pucks got behind Alex Lyon.
Zach Aston-Reese‘s rebound try was denied and the puck ricochetted into the crease off of Gostisbehere’s stick. However, Gostisbehere alertly lunged at the puck to clear it out of danger.
Then, just over two minutes later Gostisbehere scored on the power play to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead. He took a pass from Konecny, wound up with Couturier and James van Riemsdyk in front, and found twine through traffic.
If Gostisbehere hadn’t gotten to the puck in the crease, it’s a completely different game with the Flyers allowing a goal shortly after taking the lead. Instead, Gostisbehere was able to add on to the Flyers’ lead just minutes after saving a goal.
Hockey truly is a game of inches.
Parade to the penalty box gives Penguins life
The Flyers led 4-0 after two periods of play, but no lead is ever safe with this team –– especially against the Penguins. It looked like that lead would actually slip away early in the third period.
The Penguins got three consecutive power plays in the third period after already starting the period on the power play. The Flyers killed two of those four penalties off, but it was the Penguins’ second power-play goal that could’ve sent everything downhill.
Farabee was called for goalie interference after Hayes couldn’t convert on a breakaway. Tristan Jarry came out of his crease to bat the puck away and ran into Farabee in the process. However, the referees viewed it as Farabee interfering with the goalie and called a penalty.
It was an egregiously bad penalty call and the Penguins converted on the power play to make it a 4-2 game.
Even with the questionable calls, taking four penalties in a seven-minute span is a recipe for disaster. In a 4-0 game at home, the Flyers need to play with discipline. Three of the four penalties (all except Farabee’s) were stick penalties: Ivan Provorov and Robert Hagg for hooking, and Philippe Myers for slashing.
Luckily, the Flyers bounced back thanks to a big goal by Farabee himself, but that could’ve really shifted the tide.
Flyers remind everyone how good they can be
In a season with quite a few “too little, too late” efforts in single games, this game truly epitomized the “too little, too late” mantra.
The Flyers have been out of the playoff picture for over a month and hadn’t played this well in at least that amount of time. Sure, there were some blips on the radar here and there, but Monday night’s win was true domination. Unfortunately, it comes in a game that is meaningless for the Flyers.
“It was a good feeling to score a few goals in the beginning and kind of kept rolling,” Voracek said after the win. “Yeah, I mean, felt good, but the satisfaction isn’t as high as if we were playing for something.”
And that’s the thing that puts a downer on this game. It would’ve been a great win for the Flyers heading into the home stretch and the playoffs if they were up in the standings, but instead, it’s just a solitary win in a season full of disappointment.
However, that doesn’t mean that Monday’s game should be completely forgotten about. After weeks of up-and-down play, and after three straight putrid performances against the Devils, the Flyers finally showed their potential.
The Flyers got some bounces, but their performance against the Penguins showed that they still have some of the key pieces necessary to become a contender. Couturier, Giroux, and Voracek are all still really good, Konecny can thrive in the right situations, Farabee continues to shine, and the defense isn’t a complete mess –– there’s still some talent there.
That’s not to say that the Flyers shouldn’t make changes this offseason. They have to make changes if they want to compete. It’s just that those changes might not be as drastic as some people have speculated.
There is no doubt that this is going to be a massive offseason for the Flyers. But that not might mean what some people want it to mean.
Chuck Fletcher admitted that the Flyers don’t have the right mix. He’ll have to bolster the defense with a top-four defenseman (or more), shake up the forward group to get the right mix, and possibly look into signing a better backup to split time with Carter Hart.
One game doesn’t erase the past three months, but a win like Monday’s is a reminder that the Flyers have some very talented players, even if they are frustrating to watch at times.