Flyers
Samuel Morin, whose first NHL goal broke a 1-1 tie with 4:27 left in regulation, is cheered by adoring and socially distant Flyers fans during a post-game interview. (Zach Hill/Flyers PR)

SAMMY BOY! The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 2-1, in regulation, over the New York Rangers. A late game-winner from the most unlikely source snaps Philly’s four-game losing skid. Though just keeping the Rangers from scoring another touchdown of goals is just as relieving.

You expect a team to respond after losing by five goals, and the Flyers did just that to start this matinee contest. Philadelphia took seven of the game’s first eight shots and had an early 4-0 edge in scoring chances. The Flyers didn’t produce a ton of A+ looks to my eyes, but they were definitely moving the puck well and out-skating the Rangers in the early going. A nice refresher after Thursday’s beatdown loss, to say the least.

Yet everyone knew it wasn’t going to matter. The Flyers would mess it up and fall apart yet again. Sure enough, a bad roughing penalty by Travis Konecny on Mika Zibanejad gave New York’s red-hot PP a look. Zibanejad made TK and the Flyers pay by burying a slam-dunk backdoor feed from Ryan Strome. A bad penalty combined with awful net-front coverage from an ice-cold PK (72.4%, 25th in the NHL since March 10) gives the Rangers another easy goal.

Philadelphia certainly sagged a little after the goal, with New York generating the next six scoring chances. For once, the Flyers got some saves. Brian Elliott denied Colin Blackwell on a cross-ice 1T, then squeezed a dangerous snapshot from Zibanejad. The Flyers eventually rediscovered their legs, ending the period with seventeen shots. Igor Shesterkin was even better than Elliott, making some nice saves through traffic and keeping rebounds to a minimum.

After a pretty even start to the second, the Rangers handed the Flyers a gift. Consecutive tripping penalties gave the Flyers a 77-second 5-on-3 power-play. It didn’t go very well. Philadelphia looked like they were trying to pass the puck into the net, generating just a couple of chances, none of which got by Igor Shesterkin. In the most Flyers thing ever, Philly couldn’t capitalize on the two-man advantage, but with three seconds left at the end of the second penalty, they struck. Shayne Gostisbehere fought back against the pass-first plague, ripping a Ghost Bomb (TM) that Nolan Patrick tipped to the back of the net.

For a while, the third period played out a lot like the start of the second. Straightforward and simple hockey for both teams, neither of whom wanted to make a costly mistake. There were chances, of course. Shesterkin robbed Scott Laughton’s high-glove backhander on a breakaway. Laughton then hauled down Panarin to save a surefire goal, giving the Rangers a power-play.

Heartbeats increased as we reached the final six minutes. The Flyers had a couple of icings which made things dicey, especially because Samuel Morin got stuck on the ice for a while. The 6’6” Morin, who had a solid first game back on defense Thursday, was gassed by the end of a nearly two-minute shift. Eventually, Elliott froze the puck, allowing Morin to get off for some much-needed rest.

As Morin hopped over the boards for his next shift, the Flyers fourth line was doing some nice work in the offensive zone. The trio of Michael Raffl, Laughton, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel had an “everything but the finish” shift earlier in the game that drew a penalty. But this time, they were determined to finish things off. Raffl’s centering pass was cut off, but NAK kept the play alive with a pass to the point. The big man got it right in the wheelhouse. He did not miss.

While this Flyers season has been far more tragedy than triumph so far, this is one of the coolest goals you’ll ever see. Not just because it was a rocket from Morin (though that part was pretty cool, too). But because of what it took for Morin to get there. Almost nothing has come easy to 13th pick in the 2013 draft. Morin was a legitimate candidate to play a significant role in the 2017-18 season, but suffered just about every injury in the book, culminating in a torn ACL during the Calder Cup (AHL) Playoffs. That sidelined him for almost the entire 2018-19 season. Just over a month into the 2019-20 season, tragedy struck again. Morin tore the same ACL for the second time in less than twenty minutes. It could’ve been the end of his hockey career right there.

But Morin never gave up. He went through the grueling rehab to be ready for the start of this season. He was willing to play forward, a position he’d never played, just to get a shot. Due to injuries in the AHL, Morin got another shot at playing defense. Today, he made the most of it. And for all of the frustrating collapses they’ve endured this season, there was no way the Flyers were going to let Morin down. That’s right folks, the Flyers… win? Yep! In regulation, too.

It would’ve been easy for the Flyers to get frustrated with how incredible Shesterkin played. It would’ve been easy for Morin to have done the same. This game is a perfect example of why you never give up, in sports or in life. Hard work doesn’t always lead to good results, but good results rarely come from anything but hard work. Some sketchy referring could’ve done the Flyers in. The bounces easily could’ve gone against them as they have so many times this season. But this time, the Flyers fought back in the face of adversity. The net result? Two huge points for the team and one huge point for Sam Morin.

ICYMI: I talked about the Flyers’ struggles (and other NHL things) in the latest episode of That’s Some Cheese.

Lindies

In a post-game interview with the Flyers broadcast, Morin said, “It was probably the best moment of my lifetime. I worked so hard to play hockey again. It’s crazy.” Congrats again, Sam!

How it started.
How it’s going.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle of Sam Morin’s celebration is just how well the Flyers played today. Philadelphia finished with 58.5% of 5-on-5 expected goals (score and venue adjusted), their fifth highest share of the season. Their 57.54% Corsi was their eighth-best mark. Today was also the fourth game this year the Flyers didn’t allow a 5-on-5 goal. The previous three occasions were all shutouts.

In a month and season of terrible goaltending, Brian Elliott delivered a very strong performance today. He single-handedly pulled the Flyers through New York’s second PP and was very sharp all afternoon, especially in the aftermath of Zibanejad’s goal. Both Mika and Colin Blackwell had great chances to double the lead and potentially send the Flyers snowballing. But Elliott held down the fort, allowing just one goal on 2.19 expected.

Forgot to mention this on Thursday – congrats to Flyers prospect Max Willman on signing his entry-level contract. It’s probably a stretch to call the 26-year old a true “prospect,” in fairness. But he parlayed an opportunity in the ECHL to an AHL-only deal, where’s he been playing well (9 points in 13 games). His two-year, $750K contract begins at the start of next season.

Speaking of Phantoms well, prospect Tanner Laczynski finished off a hat-trick Friday with a short-handed through the legs OT winner. Not kidding. Laczynski, a 6th round pick who performed very well in the last four years at Ohio State, is definitely a candidate to get a look in the NHL later this year.

While the Flyers certainly did a great job of getting shots on goal, especially in the first period, they didn’t do a ton to truly test Shesterkin at times. Ten of the seventeen shots came from defensemen, as the Flyers relied heavily on low-percentage point shots turning into dangerous deflections and rebounds. I know I complained about them overpassing on the 5-on-3 PP, but A) that’s a different scenario and B) there’s a balance. But as Morin proved, you get enough pucks to the net, eventually, some go in.

Travis Konecny was robbed of revenge for his bad penalty (and for being punched in the face by Brendan Smith, which wasn’t called). Adam Fox made two incredible empty net saves; one of TK, another on Laughton. And then Pavel Buchnevich denied Konecny again seconds later. A great effort by the Rangers, though thankfully for the Flyers it wound up being for naught.

Nolan Patrick’s goal snapped a seven-game goalless drought. It’s his first since March 13 against Washington. Crazy that the Flyers’ goal scorers today combined to play just 12:32 at the NHL level in 2019-20.

Sam Morin was fined $3,017.24 (the maximum allowable under the CBA, of course) for unsportsmanlike connect on New York’s Brendan Lemieux during Thursday’s game. The Flyers broadcast mentioned they believe Morin got this for pulling Brendan Lemieux’s hair during their fight Thursday.

Mika Zibanejad’s goal was his fifteenth point against the Flyers, tying Jaromir Jagr in 2005-06 for the most in a season for a Ranger against Philadelphia. Thirteen of those points have come in their last three meetings. Not a bad 300th game for the Blueshirts for Zibanejad, who almost tied the game seconds after Morin’s GWG.

Worth noting the Flyers are 2-0-0 against the Rangers when wearing their Reverse Retro jerseys, and 0-2-1 when not. Something for the Flyers locker room staff (or whoever decides what jerseys they wear) to keep in mind when the teams meet again on April 22. (Yes, I’m aware the alternate jersey schedule has already been announced, but a worthwhile change or three couldn’t hurt).

*Sniffles* They grow up so fast!

From left to right (top picture): Robert Hagg, Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, and Morin. On the bottom: Morin, Sanheim, Gostisbehere, Hagg, and Ivan Provorov.

3 Stars

3rd: Igor Shesterkin (NYR) – .947 SV% (35 Saves/37 Shots), 2 GA on 2.26 xGA

2nd: Nolan Patrick (PHI) – Goal (4), 3 Shots

1st: Samuel Morin (PHI) – Goal (1)

Next

NYR – 3/28, 12 PM @ WSH (22-7-4, W2)

PHI – 3/29, 7 PM @ BUF (6-23-6, L9)

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Advanced Stats via Natural Stat Trick