A snip, a rip, and a tip! And a WIN of course for the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3 in OT over the New York Islanders. A much better process yields the same result as Saturday’s mostly unimpressive showing (dramatic OT winner notwithstanding). It also serves as a welcome step forward for a suddenly red-hot Flyers team that has now won four straight.
New York came out strong in the first five or so minutes of the period, setting in a sense of dread among Flyers fans everywhere. It’s no secret the team hasn’t been playing the best hockey out there, to say the least. The team has been dodging bullets like James Bond the entire season. But if they don’t improve, it’s only a matter of time before they take some serious damage.
But here’s the crazy thing. After that initial push by the Islanders, the Flyers did improve. New York took an early penalty of their own, and though Ilya Sorokin robbed Jake Voracek early on, another call gave Philly an early 5-on-3. While the Flyers didn’t score, it felt like a turning point in the game, as once the Islanders returned to full strength, Philadelphia started gradually improving.
The Flyers nearly scored the first goal of the game down a man, with Kevin Hayes catching the crossbar on a short-handed breakaway. The Flyers made up for that near miss with a surprising make. Joel Farabee snapped a shot from the high slot that Ilya Sorokin never picked up, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 1:18 left in the opening frame.
The gradual improvements would lead to full on dominance in the second period. Well, not at first. The Islanders capitalized on an early power-play, with Nick Leddy sneaking a wrist shot through traffic 38 seconds into the period. But the Flyers responded in a huge way, playing arguably their best period of the year. The Flyers outshot New York 12-9 in the period and generated 64.32% of the expected goals at 5-on-5 (0.37-0.2).
And what do you know, a sound process was rewarded with a pair of goals. The first was a beautiful give-and-go between James van Riemsdyk and Farabee, who potted his second of the night with a blistering one-timer from the left circle. Philadelphia came dangerously close to blowing the game open, with Hayes and Konecny catching iron. The latter would secure revenge late in the period, firing a snap shot from the high slot that found twine. Replay showed the puck deflecting in off the shin pad of… Joel Farabee! Hat-trick hero for the Beezer, his first in the NHL, and the Flyers ended the second period in the driver’s seat.
Unfortunately, the giant step forward the Flyers took in the second period set them up to take a step back in the third. The tough part is the Flyers didn’t even play that badly. Philadelphia registered 58.06% of the shot share and 64.76% of the expected goals in the final 20 minutes of 5-on-5. This wasn’t a case of the team turtling like they did in Boston earlier in the year.
The Flyers problems were just simply some bad puck luck and one truly awful breakdown. The former struck 63 seconds into the frame, as Josh Bailey tipped home a Ryan Pulock point shot. Unfortunate, but it happens. However, the Flyers made a glaring mistake a few minutes later that cost them big time: they gave Robert Hagg the puck.
Look, I’m far from the world’s biggest Robert Hagg fan. I respect his grittiness, physicality, and his willingness to block shots. He does solid work on the penalty kill. But he often seems to think the puck is a grenade, because whenever it lands of his stick, he just seems to fling it to the first spot his eyes land on. It usually isn’t the best play. And this time, it had dire consequences.
In this case, Hagg missed the net from the left face-off circle so far the puck went all the way around the boards, zipping past Justin Braun at the right point. That allowed the charging Anders Lee to easily win the race, retrieving the puck at the Flyers goal-line. Hagg was still caught deep, and while Jake Voracek was covering for him, he’s not exactly the league’s best defensive player. That part isn’t on Hagg, of course, but playing the blame game doesn’t change the result. Which was Lee picking the puck and instantly feeding a wide open Mat Barzal for the game-tying goal. Ouch.
The Islanders went to the power-play midway through the period with a chance to take the lead, because why call stuff like this when you can give the Flyers ticky-tack holding penalties?
That unpenalized hit coming from the same wrecking ball that got away with this hit barely 24 hours ago:
Thankfully the hockey gods believe in at least some type of justice, because the Flyers PK shut the door in relatively convincing fashion. Philadelphia almost took this one in regulation, but Sorokin robbed Claude Giroux on a gorgeous passing play eerily similar to the ones that Voracek and Hayes finished off last night. So, for the 11th time in their last 27 meetings, the Flyers and Islanders head to overtime.
For the third time in as many overtimes this season, the Flyers outshot and out-chanced their opposition. Both teams had a couple of close calls; Hayes was denied on a 2-on-1, but nearly swatted the rebound in from his chest. Elliott stoned Josh Bailey on a dangerous one-timer. Then the officials, who up to this point had called six penalties against Philly to three on the Islanders,
cleaned off their glasses, nope, decided to even things up, ok, called a penalty against New York. Mat Barzal took a seat in the penalty box for the second time Sunday with 1:20 left in OT for high-sticking noted Islanders-killer Scott Laughton.
At first, it seemed like Barzal was playing a game of 4D chess so crazy it just might work. The Flyers power-play looked as effective as the one that went 0-for-13 in their playoff series against New York. In fact, Elliott had to deny Scott Mayfield on a very dangerous chance only 15 seconds in. However, the Flyers found a way to set things up with time still remaining.
Kevin Hayes started the chaos with a wrist shot on net. Sorokin made the save, but James van digging-away-sdyk kept the Islanders defense occupied. Claude Giroux swooped to the rebound, but elected to pass up an A+ chance. It’s the type of pass that would get him booed relentlessly if fans were allowed to attend. Except those fans wouldn’t have had any time to boo him, nor a reason too. Because Kevin Hayes fired a one-timer off said pass, and the man who started the chaos ended the game in epic fashion!
For just the second time this season, the Flyers had the majority of the shot share at 5-on-5. For just the third time this season, the Flyers out-chanced their opponents at 5-on-5. But for the first time all year, they did both in the same game. It’s so refreshing and invigorating to see the Flyers slowly but surely returning towards peak form, or at least being actually good.
Travis Konecny’s teammates (specifically Claude Giroux) said they were expecting TK to “have one of his best games” tonight after being healthy scratched Saturday. Konecny posted ok but not outright horrid underlying numbers (44.44% Corsi, 48.16% xGF) that exceeded his season averages in both coming into tonight. He looked dangerous at times in the offensive zone, hitting the post on a chance off the rush. And he didn’t make any glaring turnovers or egregious defensive mistakes. All in all, I’d call it a temporary success.
Including the playoffs, Philadelphia has won five straight OT decisions against the Islanders. New York’s last OT win against Philly came back on November 24, 2017.
Phil Myers has looked really good in the last two games since returning from injury. He probably still isn’t even 100%, but his incredible recovery ability was on full display tonight. And he showed some nice offensive instincts, especially on the Farabee goal. Myers had a lot of trouble getting shots through early in his career, but that weakness seems to be improving.
Last year, the Flyers defense was pretty stable. Provorov and Niskanen clicked instantly. It took only some minor shuffling before finding the right mix for the bottom two pairs. Finding the right group this year has certainly been a trial, as NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jordan Hall points out.
A solid showing tonight from Brian Elliott as well. Moose made a few big stops, albeit ones that didn’t have as much flash as some of Sorokin’s. Elliott stopped 33 of 36 shots (.917 save percentage), improving to 3-0-0 on the year.
Joel Farabee knows how to score in bunches, apparently. Despite being held off the scoresheet in seven of ten games, he’s tied for second on the team with 10 points.
Ladies and gentlemen, your current leading scorer on the Philadelphia Flyers, with 5 goals and 7 assists for 12 points… James van Riemsdyk! Reemer has certainly put behind last year’s ok regular season and disappointing playoff performance, recording an assist on every Farabee tally.
The Flyers already have two hat-tricks this season, the most they’ve had in a season since 2018-19 (three – one for Coots, two for JVR).
Gritty not throwing his oversized hat on the ice in the middle of play after Farabee’s hat-trick is a travesty. Then again, Michael Raffl wearing it while skating off the ice after the Hayes winner might’ve been worth the wait.
Finally, let’s get excited about the future. Gloucester Catholic High School (located 13 minutes from the Wells Fargo Center) alumnus Johnny Gaudreau has been quietly linked to a potential re-union with the Flyers for a while. But that link just got a bit stronger. According to senior columnist and Calgary Flames Sportsnet analyst Eric Francis, Gaudreau is “destined for Philadelphia” and very unlikely to re-sign with the Flames when his deal expires in 2022.
Obviously, that’s a long time from now, and considering the team’s depth at forward and lack thereof on the blue-line, I’d be stunned to see Johnny Hockey in orange and black this season. Just something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Keep an eye out on Vendetta tomorrow for the first installment of NHL Power Rankings with myself and two fellow Vendetta writers; probably giddy (and deservingly so) Avalanche fan Gavin Daly, and (for tonight) disappointed Islanders fan Emma Brown.
3rd: Kevin Hayes – Goal (5), 4 Shots
2nd: James van Riemsdyk – 3 Assists (5, 6, 7)
1st: Joel Farabee – 3 Goals (3, 4, 5)
NYI – 2/2, 6 PM vs. BUF (4-4-2)
PHI – 2/3, 8 PM vs. BOS (5-1-2)
Advanced Stats via Natural Stat Trick