Flyers
The Flyers faint playoff hopes remain faint instead of practically non-existent thanks to their 3-2 victory over the Bruins Saturday afternoon. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

A regulation win? Against the Bruins? Wow, Miracles DO happen! Yeah, it’s tongue-in-cheek, but only slightly. The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 3-2, not in overtime, not in a shootout, but in sixty minutes, over the Boston Bruins. For the first time since March 27th, the Flyers win a game in regulation, keeping the Bruins from pulling all but out of reach in the standings.

Of course, the Flyers came into this game all but needing a regulation win to avoid falling out of the playoff picture. Yet it was the Bruins who looked like the team playing desperately to start this one. Boston registered the first seven shots of the game and prevented the Flyers from handling the puck very much. It culminated in a handoff by Brian Elliott that handcuffed Shayne Gostisbehere behind the Philadelphia net. Brad Marchand picked his pocket, and Craig Smith set up Patrice Bergeron for his sixteenth of the season, half of which have come at the Flyers’ expense.

Thankfully, the Flyers got a break. A Boston defender snapped their stick trying to make a play at the Philadelphia blue-line gave the Flyers numbers the other way. The only thing they managed on the initial rush was a harmless permitter shot from Travis Konecny. But Jake Voracek kept the play alive and moved it out the point. Jeremy Swayman couldn’t squeeze Robert Hagg’s D-to-D one-timer, and a much more dangerous shot by Konecny ended the play with a red light and a brand-new game.

It’s no secret the Flyers power-play has been struggling lately. In fact, it’s only 21st in the NHL all season. The Flyers have often struggled with setting things up and getting pucks to the net once they got in their formation. But this time, the Flyers changed things up. Instead of slowing it down, they attacked off the rush. A cross-ice feed by James van Riemsdyk gave Konecny, who drew the roughing call on Jeremy Lauzon, all kinds of time and space. TK put it to good use, finding Shayne Gostisbehere at the net-mouth for a slick redirection goal. A period full of momentum swings (seven straight BOS shots, then five consecutive for PHI, then four straight for BOS) ended with the Flyers leading 2-1.

The Flyers kept that lead for a while, even killing off a couple of Boston power-plays. But then Boston’s third line got the Flyers running around, with a rapid-fire (and almost out of control) passing play ending in a Jake DeBrusk one-timer. It was the only goal of a pretty ordinary and unspectacular second period that featured just one 5-on-5 high-danger chance (there were five in the first). Neither Swayman nor Brian Elliott saw much rubber but came up large when they had to.

The third began as an absolute slog, with neither team, especially the Flyers, generating very much offense. Considering that this was not just a must-win game, but also a must-win period, it certainly wasn’t what you’d expect from the Flyers. But in the blink of an eye, the Flyers made some magic happen. With Joel Farabee reunited alongside van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier, the Flyers went to work. JVR made a nice play below-the-goalline, centering to a wide-open Farabee in the slot. Instead of shooting, Farabee deferred to Couturier at the right circle. It bordered on over-passing, especially because the puck jumped Couturier’s stick. But all was forgiven when Coots deposited the puck into the cage, giving the Flyers their first third-period lead in far too long.

Of course, there’s no such thing as an easy third period against the Bruins, even when you’re on top. The Flyers have found that out the hard way countless times this season and over the last several years. Boston’s power-play, which entered the day 10/20 against the Flyers on the year, got two chances in the 3rd to tie the game. The Flyers penalty kill and Elliott held down the fort both times. Philadelphia briefly appeared to have put the game away when a Gostisbehere point shot fluttered past Swayman. But Jake Voracek cleared interfered with the rookie goaltender, and it was correctly called back.

To their credit, the Flyers did a tremendous job pressuring in the offensive zone late, keeping Swayman in his net until Lou Nolan announced there was one minute left in the third. Boston got a few pucks towards the net late, but Brian Elliott never had to make a single 6-on-5 save. And so the Flyers cut the deficit in the standings to Boston down to four points; the same margin it was when the week started.

The good news for the Flyers is they have a winnable game against the actually pretty hot but still bad on paper Sabres. The bad news is the Sabres absolutely destroyed them the last time they played, have held a multi-goal lead at some point in each of their last three head-to-head meetings, and the Flyers haven’t exactly done well with the whole “consistent success” thing over the last two months or so. The worse news is the Bruins haven’t had too much trouble with Buffalo (2-0-0), and they play six of their final eighteen contests against the Sabres. That might change how optimistic you are about the Bruins not taking advantage of their two games in hand.

That last paragraph shows you just how deep of a hole the Flyers have dug themselves into. This past week provided them a golden opportunity to dig out of it, but they weren’t able to take advantage, with the Flyers outgaining the Bruins by a good but not good enough 4-3 margin in their three meetings this week. Boston stays four points up because they beat the Capitals Thursday, while the Flyers lost to the Islanders in a five-round shootout.

Today’s victory keeps the media and maybe the organization itself from waving the white towel. Nothing more, nothing less. Tomorrow provides another opportunity to gain ground. The Flyers have done a very poor job of taking advantage of opportunities over the last month-and-a-half. And they’d need help from the Capitals to trim that deficit any further. Of course, what Washington does simply doesn’t matter if the Flyers don’t keep their act together tomorrow. Who knows what will happen tomorrow afternoon in Philly. At least it will be meaningful. Maybe.

In case you haven’t already, check out our latest edition of NHL monthly power rankings.

Lindies

Tanner Laczynski was sent down to the Phantoms after being healthy scratched Thursday. I thought he looked decent in his two-game call-up, and I’d expect him to see more ice-time down the stretch. But better for him to play with the Phantoms than to just sit on the taxi squad.

Marchand had another short-handed game-winner in Boston’s very next game after he did the same in their last meeting with the Flyers. No active player has more shorties than Marchand’s thirty.

Alain Vigneault made a very early line change in this one, replacing Oskar Lindblom with Michael Raffl on the top-line less than ten minutes in. Flyers announcer Jim Jackson mentioned the coaching staff can tell pretty quickly which games he does and doesn’t have all his energy; after all, it’s only been about nine months since he finished cancer treatment. Though I thought Oskar gave a pretty good effort even after being demoted, especially on the PK, where he finished with the fourth-most ice-time of any Flyers forward (2:56).

Marchand and Bergeron are tied for first in the NHL with six goals in April. Right behind them? A usual suspect in Nathan MacKinnon and a surprise — Ottawa’s Connor Brown — with five.

This game certainly wasn’t for the faint of heart. Ivan Provorov was in serious pain from a first-minute shot block, but fought through it and didn’t miss a shift. Pretty standard for Provobot. However, the Bruins didn’t get so lucky; Matt Grzelyck didn’t return from the locker room after the first period. If he’s out long-term, the Bruins all but have to make a move at the deadline for defensive help. Boston forward Anton Blidh also went down the tunnel after a shot-block but returned after a few minutes.

With Matt Grzelyck injured, Boston went with a five-forward look (Bergeron, Marchand, David Pastrnak, Craig Smith, and Nick Ritchie) on the power-play. They created some dangerous moments, but overall, an A+ performance for a Flyers PK that’s been torn apart by Boston all season.

Happy belated birthday to Brian Elliott! The Flyers goaltender celebrated his 36th birthday Friday. He was a rock all game, keeping the Bruins at bay during some of their first-period barrages and a strong start to the third.

JVR’s assist snaps a nine-game scoring drought. He’s still the streaky scorer we know and love him as. Hopefully, that helper gets him back on a hot streak.

For the record, the title of last game’s FFR is ShootOUT. The all caps headlines on our website can kinda lose those subliminal messages in translation sometimes.

Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar’s NHL careers are no doubt off to impressive starts. But anyone saying that they’ve earned the starter’s role even when Tuukka Rask returns is ridiculous. Rask has been a borderline Vezina candidate for about a decade and has about 69 times more games played than that duo combined. Putting one of Bergeron and Marchand’s last Cup runs as elite players into such an inexperienced tandem makes zero sense. I’ve never understood why so many Bruins fans and media members seemingly don’t fully appreciate what Rask has done for their organization.

The Bruins are the first team the Flyers have wrapped up their regular-season series against. Philadelphia just finishes 2-4-2; Boston comes out a much stronger 6-1-1. Until our paths cross again, B’s. You’re a pain to play against, which is the greatest compliment you can give an opponent.

3 Stars

3rd: Sean Couturier (PHI) – Goal (12), 3 Blocks

2nd: Brian Elliott (PHI) – .938 SV% (30 Saves/32 Shots), 2 GA on 2.49 xGA

1st: Travis Konecny (PHI) – Goal (9), Assist (19), 4 Shots

Next

BOS – 4/11 vs. WSH (26-11-4, W1)

PHI – 4/11 vs. BUF (9-25-6, L2)

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