On an emotional night at the Wells Fargo Center, Kevin Hayes and his former Boston College teammate Cam Atkinson lifted the Flyers to revenge over the Flames. (Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 14: CGY 1, PHI 2 (OT) – Higher

It’s called the City of Brotherly Love for a reason. The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 2-1, in overtime, over the Calgary Flames. Don’t let the scoreboard fool you, though; this was one of the most exciting, evenly played games of the Flyers season to date. After looking utterly spent in their first game of the year against the Flames — a 4-0 loss on the final game of a 3 games in 4 nights Western Canadian road trip  — the teams went back and forth for most of the night, with seemingly endless scoring chances met by even better goaltending, with the exception of two lucky bounces and one heady play.

Sports are and always will mostly be a “what have you done for me lately” business. But that fact should make us appreciate the few moments when it isn’t. The theme of tonight’s game was honoring the past, as Paul Holmgren and Rick Tocchet became the newest members of the Flyers Hall of Fame in a pre-game ceremony.

The former has done just about every job in the Flyers organization. Holmgren tallied 309 points and 1600 penalty minutes in exactly 500 games as a player. He coached well over 200 games for the team, taking them to the 1989 Western Conference Finals (not a typo) in his first year behind the bench. As GM, his massive overhaul of the team in the 2007 off-season paved the way for an Eastern Conference Final run the next season a trip to the Stanley Cup Final two years later. And he’s dutifully served the team over the last eight years since leaving that post as president and later senior advisor to Dave Scott.

The latter played the first 547 games and 8-plus seasons of his outstanding career in Orange and Black. That doesn’t even include the 60 playoff points he scored as a Flyer, either. From 1988-89 to 1990-91, Tocchet ranked 12th in the NHL with 122 goals. Nine of the eleven players above him are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. In his prime, he was a quintessential power forward at a time built for that type of player. He even returned to Philadelphia for the final two years of his career, with a pretty productive 2000-01 season at age 36. Both are at the center of so many legendary moments in Flyers history and are well deserved of having their names fly in the Wells Fargo Center rafters.

On a different night, maybe that’s where Kevin Hayes would have pointed after cashing in on a fortuitous bounce to tie the game 1-1 in the second period. But Hayes’ point extended well beyond the ceiling, well beyond the chilly night sky beyond the roof, as high as it would take to ensure his brother Jimmy saw it. Before making his season debut on Saturday, Hayes spoke to the challenges of playing his first hockey game since his brother and former NHLer Jimmy passed away at the far too young age of 31 over the summer. Both brothers have scored incredible goals over their combined 841 games. None means more than the one Kevin scored tonight. “I’m happy it happened sooner rather than later, honestly,” Hayes said. “I’m gonna give it to Jimmy’s son Beau. It’ll be one I remember.”

Looking back at looking up were the main takeaways tonight, and rightfully so. But in their first game after learning Ryan Ellis’ return Saturday was short-lived; he’s week-to-week and speaking to doctors to determine if surgery may be needed — the Flyers built on the emotions of the night. After a rough opening period, the Flyers held 61.2% Corsi and 64.7% Expected Goals rates over the final 40 minutes. Their defense was about as noticeable as it’s been all season on offense; just about every defender except Nick Seeler had a moment or two where they joined the rush with a purpose. In fact, Hayes’ goal was made possible by an excellent play by Rasmus Ristolainen to thwart a potential Flames exit.

When Calgary was able to move out of their zone, there was little they could throw at Carter Hart to phase the Flyers netminder. Hart’s had so many stellar performances this season it’s hard to elevate one above the rest. But this was one of his very best. If the Flyers are going to survive, let alone thrive, Hart will have to carry more of the load than usual. But he can’t do it all; no goaltender can (just ask Carey Price or/and Connor Hellebuyck).

Putting up 41 shots against one of the league’s stingiest defenses is one way to do that. The last two of which, of course, came in the first minute of overtime. Sean Couturier put his 2-on-1 shot off the perfect spot on Jacob Markström’s right pad. And Cam Atkinson — a college teammate of Hayes at Boston College — put the rebound in the perfect spot, too; that being anywhere in the back of the net. It snapped an eight-game goalless streak for Atkinson and served as the perfect capper to an emotional, uplifting evening.

With Ellis out until at least December 8 (as a result of being placed on LTIR), the immediate future once again looks incredibly daunting for the Flyers. Their next four opponents are a combined 47-15-9; two home games against the Lightning and Bruins, then an all-Florida back-to-back, followed by a rematch against Carolina in their annual Black Friday matinee. What maybe seemed like a bit of reprieve at the start of the year — a game in New Jersey on Sunday and then a back-to-back vs. the Islanders and at the Rangers — has turned into another formidable stretch.

The Flyers do have three days off after that last game (which doubles as their first in December). What do they have to look forward to after their rest? A home back-to-back against the Lightning and Avalanche; arguably the NHL’s two best teams. Oh, and then a three-game road trip that starts against the surprising Devils and healing Golden Knights.

It’s a stretch that leaves no rest for the weary; not quite as intimidating from a rest standpoint from the season-spiraling March 2021 the Flyers would love to forget, but close enough to cause goosebumps. It’s why earning the extra point tonight is so crucial. The Flyers ceiling may once again be out of reach with Ellis on the shelf. But the good news is there’s still room for improvement within the Flyers that are skating. Their defense could be still be tightened up, especially near the net. The power-play has to get better eventually because it’s hard to believe it could be this bad forever.

If Philadelphia can make those gains — and there were some encouraging signs on that front Tuesday — Ellis’ second return could seem like less of a saving grace and more of a jetpack. After Carter Hart’s nightmare season last year was the epitome of Philadelphia’s failures in 2020-21, the Flyers don’t want their season to be defined by one player once again. Make those improvements, and that won’t be the case.

Lindies

Rarely does the Flyers fanbase come to a consensus on anything. But dare I say Oskar Lindblom’s “reset” scratch is an exception. It’s not the end of the world; Lindblom of course has just one assist all season to his credit. But after praising Lindblom’s play when he wasn’t scoring, and deservingly so, considering his strong underlying numbers (51.06% Corsi, 53.46% Expected Goals), it was weird to see Lindblom on the fourth line on Saturday after a one-game promotion to the top six on Friday. No offense to Nate Thompson and Zack MacEwen, but they aren’t likely to help Lindblom find the scoresheet. I think the reset could help Lindblom, but the circumstances around it were a bit strange. From what I saw on Flyers Twitter, most people seemed to agree.

Speaking of Thompson, he played in his 824th NHL game on Saturday, the second most of any Alaskan-born NHLer. Scott Gomez holds the record at 1,079.

A couple of Flyers dealt with injury scares on Tuesday. Travis Konecny took a brutal hit into the end boards from Mikael Backlund that could have been a major. Ultimately, he was called for just a minor, and Konecny popped back up for the ensuing power-play. And shortly after scoring, Hayes awkwardly twisted himself around reaching for a loose puck, and gingerly glided to the bench before heading directly down the tunnel. Fortunately, he returned for the third. Patrick Brown wasn’t as lucky, however; he didn’t play at all in the final two periods with what we now know is a dislocated thumb. He’s week-to-week, per Vigneault.

Philadelphia has now earned a point in nine straight home games against the Flames, dating back to the 2008-09 season. Incredibly, this was just the fourth of those games they’ve actually won (4-0-5).

Don’t look now, folks, but Rasmus Ristolainen is in the midst of an excellent stretch of play. He recorded an assist on the Hayes goal and is playing excellent hockey overall. Did Chuck Fletcher know more than everyone (myself included) doubting the trade? Maybe! It will take more than two strong weeks to turn a trend into a conclusion, though

The Flyers shot barrage, on the other hand, was a total team effort. Philadelphia peppered Jacob Markström with 43 shots, including at least one from every skater. Couturier and Giroux led the way with four apiece.

Though all of the three goals that did go in were “dirty but good,” as Jim Jackson likes to say, there were still some highlight reel attempts. Giroux nearly scored the goal of the year by turning Erik Gudbranson inside out with a through the legs move off the rush, only for Jacob Markström to shut down his five-hole. And Matthew Tkachuk tried his hand at the lacrosse move, which Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov famously pulled off against the Flames two years ago.

Take some time to read about one of the Flyers’ divisional rival’s stars. Though for my money, Barzal is still one of the most dazzling players in the game.

Of the Flames’ 34 shots on goal, a whopping 18 came from Johnny Gaudreau (10) and Elias Lindholm (8). Gaudreau’s 10 represent a career-high and a tie for most by any player in a game this season, as he was buzzing right from the puck drop. Be it a glove side chance of the rush, a seeing high point shot through traffic, or even a “blink and you’ll miss it” wrap-around attempt, Gaudreau threw everything but the kitchen sink at Hart. If this was the South Jersey native’s final game against the Flyers as a Flame (Gaudreau is a UFA in the offseason), he certainly saved his best effort for last.

No doubt about tonight’s POG Starter Jacket winner.

Starter – 2

Hollywood, Risto, Coots, Jones, Honey Badger, Unknown – 1

3 Stars

3rd: Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) – Assist (12), 10 Shots

2nd: Carter Hart (PHI) – .971 SV% (33 Saves/34 Shots), 1 GA on 3.06 Expected Goals Against

1st: Kevin Hayes (PHI) – Goal (1), 3 Shots, 3 Hits, 67% Faceoffs

Next

CGY: 11/18, 7 PM @ BUF (7-6-2, W1)

PHI: 11/18, 7 PM vs. TB (8-3-3, W2)

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