Flyers
Brian Elliott baffled Artemi Panarin and the Rangers all night long, stopping 33 of 35 in a 3-2 Flyers victory. (Elsa/Pool Photo via AP)

At least we won’t be singing the Blue(shirt)s tonight! The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 3-2, over the New York Rangers in their first game at MSG since… that one. They’ve actually won six of their last seven in the Garden dating back to February 2018. And even though they’ve won all of their games against the Rangers this season by just one goal, at least they’ve now won four of seven.

The Flyers came out of the gates as flat as a pancake tonight. Philadelphia gave up 12 scoring chances, posting a poor 35.48% Corsi and even worse 21.87% xG (5-on-5, score & venue adjusted). And their terrible play eventually cost them on the scoreboard. Just seconds after a very strong penalty kill, Brendan Smith beat Brian Elliott with a slap shot through an excellent screen by Brett Howden. Even when they had opportunities to score, like a great second-line cycle or a power-play, they floundered. In fact, that PP produced one great chance (Wade Allison was robbed backdoor), but gave up two 2-on-1s, taking a penalty on the second one. If not for a tremendous performance by Brian Elliott, the Flyers would’ve easily been out of the game before the first intermission.

The second period was more meh than anything else, and not just because nobody lit the lamp. The Flyers power-play looked even more putrid in the second period than the first, barely making the Rangers sweat. For the first fifteen minutes of the second, the shot margin was closer, but in terms of chances, the Rangers still dominated at 5-on-5. If it wasn’t for Brian Elliott making some more solid saves and a save of the year candidate on Artemi Panarin, the Flyers would’ve been out of this game.

Elliott’s good work wouldn’t go in vain forever. But as is typical with the Flyers, even when things are good, they are bad; the Flyers scored on their fourth PP of the game, but it came on a shot by Travis Konecny that plunked in off James van Riemsdyk’s face. The goal definitely gave the Flyers life; they had quite a few good chances the rest of the period, none better than a late Joel Farabee penalty shot that Shesterkin smothered on the backhand. Their last five minutes were so good, they flipped the period in their favor by possession (56.67% Corsi, 53.84% xG). But it wasn’t enough to flip the score in their favor before the end of the second.

Thankfully, van Riemsdyk returned to the bench (now with a full face-shield) early in the third. And it’s a good thing he did. A high-sticking double-minor on K’Andre Miller (who deflected the TK shot that briefly sidelined JVR) gave the Flyers a golden opportunity to erase their sluggish start to the period and take their first lead of the game. The front half went by with a couple of shots and one highlight-reel glove save by Shesterkin on a tip by Sean Couturier. But Shesterkin couldn’t stop a more traditional deflection by James van Returnsdyk, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead. They kept pressuring, too, and before the Rangers could seriously threaten again, Jake Voracek beat Shesterkin high-glove on a 2-on-1 to double the lead.

New York’s three best players cut the lead in half with two minutes left; face-off win Mika Zibanejad, set up by Adam Fox, one-timer ripped past Elliott by Panarin. But the Rangers weren’t able to pump home the equalizer, sealing the same type of devastating blow to their playoff hopes the 2021 Flyers are all too used to. Nice to be on the winning side of one of those games, or any game for that matter.

A big part of the reason why the Flyers won this game is what they did in the days leading up to it: nothing. Ok, that’s not entirely true; they had a couple of practices, of course. But for the first time since their COVID-outbreak in mid-February, the Flyers had three consecutive days off. I was kind of expecting the inverse of tonight’s game as a result — start really strong, tapper off a little towards the end. But the Flyers looked like the more energetic team down the stretch, which is saying something considering how desperate the Rangers are for points right now.

The back half of this game is exactly what I want to see from the Flyers down the stretch. A solid defensive structure, a balance between discipline and aggressiveness, energy from their young players (Wade Allison looked tremendous once again tonight), and the veterans not packing it in. Of course, firing on all cylinders for the last ten games (eleven counting tonight) probably isn’t going to happen. All I’m asking for is progress. The Flyers certainly delivered that tonight, and also pulled out two points as a bonus.

Lindies

JVR now has three goals in as many games to snap his 17-game goalless drought in style.

Shayne Gostisbehere has passed Behn Wilson for the fifth most points ever by a Flyers defenseman with 215.

Nolan Patrick and Phil Myers jumped back into the Flyers lineup tonight, replacing Carsen Twarynski and Robert Hagg, respectively. Patrick was mostly unnoticeable, but I thought Myers made some pretty nice reads late in the game, though he did take a slashing call in the first.

A tremendous performance tonight for Brian Elliott. I highlighted that incredible save on Panarin early, but Elliott was outstanding all night long. If Colin Blackwell scores on his first-minute breakaway, there’s a decent chance the Flyers get trounced. But Moose held down the fort all night long, specifically making me look pretty stupid for my criticism of his lateral movement last week with some excellent post-to-post saves on cross-ice one-timers.

Some mildly disappointing prospect news: forward Noah Cates seems poised to return to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for his senior season. That’s the brother of Jackson Cates, who just signed his ELC with the Flyers last week.

There’s always a mild concern when a prospect as good as Noah Cates returns to school for their senior year; he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. And with the Flyers losing defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk (who has 3 goals and 5 points in 12 games by the way!) as a college UFA to the Blackhawks just this last offseason, that concern is amplified for the fans. But I don’t see any reason why Cates wouldn’t want to sign with the Flyers; there’s still a pretty good chance he puts on the orange and black next season.

Artemi Panarin is underrated as far as being a Flyers-killer goes. Panarin averaged 1.35 points per game against the Flyers; only Sidney Crosby (1.48) has a higher average against the Flyers among active players. He’s also the all-time leader in most points in his first 100 games with the Rangers (138, one ahead of Mark Messier). And he led the league in scoring in April. What a player.

Don’t know if it really matters, but Philadelphia made some changes to their taxi squad Wednesday.

Jordan Hall also noted this interesting stat about everyone’s favorite young goal-scorer. For the record, Farabee has two goals against the Rangers this season.

Philadelphia’s second PP of the evening ended on a Travis Konecny hooking penalty on Brendan Smith. No defender has drawn more penalties this season than Smith’s 21; although he did take two minors in this game, including one for hooking on Konecny himself. Surprisingly, it’s not the most penalties he’s ever taken against the Flyers.

Here’s a cool thing the Flyers are doing: the club has started the “Take Your Shot” campaign to encourage and help people take the COVID-19 vaccine. Ironic considering how many shooting opportunities fans in the 200 level think they pass up? Sure. But a good initiative nonetheless.

3 Stars

3rd: Ivan Provorov (PHI) – 2 Assists (16, 17), 5 Shots, 22:18 TOI

2nd: James van Riemsdyk (PHI) – 2 Goals (15, 16), 5 Shots

1st: Brian Elliott (PHI) – 33 Saves/35 Shots, 2 GA on 3 xGA

Next

4/23, 7 PM – PHI @ NYR

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