Flyers
Wade Allison had everything but the finish in his NHL debut, but Carter Hart outdueled Tristan Jarry if Jeff Carter’s Penguins debut en route to a 2-1 Flyers shootout win. (Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review)

Hey, a shootout win! Like self burns, those are rare. Well, at least they are for the Philadelphia Flyers (shootout wins, anyway; self burns have happened a lot this season), who WIN, 2-1, shootout style over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s not much when you compare it to the dumpster fire of March and their last two games. But both in a vacuum and in order to increase their chances of long-term success, this is the type of game the Flyers need to start playing.

This game was all over the map. The Flyers held the Penguins to just three shots in the first. Their first came at 14:33 seconds after an Ivan Provorov holding penalty failed to disrupt basically a Brian Dumoulin breakaway. And then Pittsburgh had four in the first two minutes of the second. Sidney Crosby opened the scoring (go figure), assisted by Kris Letang and Pens equipment manager Jon Taglianetti, who handed Crosby a new stick in-stride after he’d given his twig to Brian Dumoulin in the defensive zone. Both teams got pucks to the goal-line but not across it. It was agonizing but in a somewhat enjoyable way.

Flyers
When plays like this don’t result in a goal, it’s easy to think it won’t be your night. Thankfully, the Flyers persevered.

The Flyers deserved a greasy goal in the second (see above). Jake Voracek got a clean one 84 seconds into the third, stepping into open night and sliding the puck through Tristan Jarry’s five-hole. The officials ignored several blatant Penguins holds; then, Travis Konecny did the same thing with 2:52 left and got called for it. Then they ignored a Joel Farabee stick to the helmet/ear of Evan Rodrigues. No such thing as a make-up call, right? And that leniency was enough to secure a point.

Philadelphia’s penalty kill was great, with chances few and far between. Their power play, even on a 4-on-3 look in overtime, was terrible, with chances few and far between. Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier deked Tristan Jarry out of his pants in the shootout. Carter Hart stopped 30 of 31 in the first 65 minutes. Jake Guentzel opened him up to start the skills contest, but Hart recovered and caught Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang’s bids with his glove for his first shootout win of the season. It’s the Flyers’ first shootout win ever in six tries against the Penguins. And it’s Hart’s first victory since February 28 of any variety. Feels good.

Look, we’ve all know (and most have for a while) that the 2020-21 Flyers aren’t heading to the playoffs. The math just isn’t on their side, and their play has been too poor too often all season. The Flyers will have a chance to make moves in the offseason to get them back into contention. But there’s still a lot of hockey to be played before this season ends. Thirteen games, to be exact. And as tempting as it to just watch the Phillies and 76ers instead, some of us know we can’t help but come back to this team. So, what should we be looking for during the rest of this season? Or, as Alain Vigneault would say, “So what are we asking you to show?”

There are two main things I’m hoping to see from the Flyers the rest of the season. The first is structure, and on the same note, a lack of butt-kickings like the one they took Tuesday night. Even though they were only a decent 2-1-2 in their first five games of April, those contests were very encouraging to my long-term positivity. The team played pretty well at 5-on-5 (56.22% Corsi, 51.8% xG). They outshot their opposition in four of those games and were even or better in xG in three of them at 5-on-5. Were they perfect? Of course not. But they certainly looked a lot closer to the team we thought they would be than the one they were in March.

It helped that they received NHL caliber goaltending, which was notably absent the prior month. Carter Hart (.903 save percentage) delivered solid performances, looking to put his March woes behind him. Other than special teams woes, you couldn’t really complain much about how the Flyers played in those games. And then they delivered five of their worst periods of the year after a strong first against Buffalo. At least they showed they have that “actually good” level still in their systems. Any game they play like those first five is a win for the future in my books, regardless of the outcome in the present.

Speaking of Carter Hart, that leads to my second point: notable individual performances, especially from the young players. Wade Allison made his NHL debut tonight and creating a ton of scoring chances and leading the Flyers with five shots on goal. He looked great, and he and fellow rookie (and fellow 2016 draft pick) Tanner Laczynski should get into a lot of games down the stretch. Cam York might be called up at one point. These games are critical not just for those players, but for Chuck Fletcher to evaluate his players and determine exactly what the team needs to add in the summer. It’s not just the prospects, either. Everyone is playing for their job at this point, or at least they should be. That’s what happens when a promising season tailspin like this.

So, find your structure and see who stands out. Got that? Great. Last piece of advice, and it’s for you — yes, you — don’t look at the standings. Just don’t. As tempting as it is to scoreboard watch and galaxy brain that one of the league’s most frustrating if not outright worst teams could win 12 of their last 13 or whatever it would take to sneak in, you’re better off enjoying these last games for what they are.

I think most Flyers fans are ready for this season to end, but the second it does, we’re all going to miss watching them play (just not watching them lose) and anticipate the fall. Hopefully, by then we’ll have a 20,000 person crowd ready to cheer on a vastly improved Flyers team ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup. But there’s value to be found from the days before then. Don’t waste it.

If you somehow want more hockey content from me, check out my appearance on the latest episode of The Tanndemonium Sports Show.

Lindies

Forgot to mention this Tuesday — the Flyers signed undrafted free agent Jackson Cates to a two-year, entry-level contract. He’s the brother of Flyers prospect Noah Cates, who may also sign his ELC in the coming days (or decide to return to school for another year). Jackson and Noah showed some nice chemistry at the Flyers’ 2019 rookie camp. Jackson, a 23-year old center, had 27 points in 28 games for the University of Minnesota-Duluth this past year.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel sat for Allison, which felt likely given his poor performance Tuesday. One thing that surprised me about Allison’s debut: he was placed on the second power-play unit. Maybe that shouldn’t have been such a shock, seeing as AV did the same with Farabee and Morgan Frost in their NHL debuts last season. In fact, he nearly scored his first NHL goal on the PP at the net-front, but was robbed by a combination of a bouncing puck and Tristan Jarry’s right pad.

Not only did Allison have more shots than every player not named Jared McCann and Sidney Crosby tonight, but he won a ton of battles along the boards, made some crafty plays like a neutral zone stick-lift and a backhander when the pass was covered on a semi 2-on-1 off the wall. Allison certainly looked like he belonged in the NHL. And when you have a game like that, hydration is important. VERY important.

After Jim Jackson remarked Allison was double-fisting the Gatorade bottles, Keith Jones quipped, “You learn that at Western Michigan.”

Phil Myers also replaced Sam Morin on the third pair tonight, but don’t fret, Morin fans. This isn’t a performance-related scratch. Though I’d like to see Robert Hagg, not Myers (again) take a seat Saturday, although Phil had an up-and-down game that could land him back in the press box.

Sidney Crosby now has 111 points against the Flyers; he’s just six away from tying Brian Trottier for third-most against Philadelphia.

It doesn’t affect me very much since I didn’t start watching the Flyers until 2014, but no doubt there are a lot of older Flyers fans cringing at the sight of Jeff Carter in a Penguins sweater. He was absolutely buzzing, generating some of Pittsburgh’s best chances of the game, especially in the first 30 minutes or so. Like Allison, it was an everything but the finish game for Carter. Our Carter was just a bit better tonight.

Really rough game for Justin Braun in this one. The 34-year old was burnt badly twice; once by Carter leading to a breakaway, and then later by Zach Aston-Reese, creating a 2-on-1. Braun’s been arguably Philly’s best defenseman since they returned from their COVID stoppage, but this was not his night.

A monster performance tonight for Carter Hart. He was absolutely phenomenal from start to finish. Whether it was denying one of Jeff Carter’s seventy-seven scoring chances, or robbing Guentzel, Crosby, and Rodrigues on three separate 2-on-1s, or making five saves in OT (two of which were on high-danger chances), Hart did it all tonight. He deservingly snaps an 0-5-2 winless drought as a result.

A scary moment just after the Voracek goal when a Myers point shot hit Nolan Patrick square in the side of the helmet. Patrick went down in a heap, and eventually gingerly made his way off the ice. He didn’t return to the game, but the prognosis seems positive. Thank goodness.

3 Stars

3rd: Sidney Crosby (PIT) – Goal (17), 5 Shots, 21:29 TOI

2nd: Jakub Voracek (PHI) – Goal (8)

1st: Carter Hart (PHI) – .969 SV% (30 Saves/31 Shots), 1 GA on 2.33 xGA, 2/3 in Shootout

Next

PHI – 4/17, 12:30 PM vs. WSH (28-12-4, L1)

PIT – 4/17, 3 PM @ BUF (11-25-7, W1)

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Advanced Stats via Natural Stat Trick