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No matter what (or who) Vegas threw at Carter Hart, the Flyers netminder had all the answers, delivering one of the best performances of his career to lift the Flyers to victory. (Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 56: VGK 1, PHI 2 – Hart Stopper

No matter what (or who) Vegas threw at Carter Hart, the Flyers netminder had all the answers, delivering one of the best performances of his career to lift the Flyers to victory. (Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 56: VGK 1, PHI 2 – Hart Stopper

Orange is the new Braun! The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 2-1, over the Vegas Golden Knights. Although every hockey win is a team win, the Flyers were undoubtedly carried to victory by an incredible performance from Carter Hart, who recorded a career-high 47 shots to carry the Flyers to consecutive victories for the second time in 2022. A performance like that certainly earns you more than your fair share of the credit.

“He was a competitor, he was a battler,” praised head coach Mike Yeo. “The way that he was tracking the puck, keeping himself in position, ready to make that next play after that.”

Generally, after a game where the play was as one-sided as it was Tuesday, there really isn’t any praise to go around beyond the goaltender. The Flyers didn’t have more than 36% of the expected goals in any period at 5-on-5 and were below 30% in all situations during every frame. In fact, they progressively got worse as the game went on in both departments. Philadelphia took five penalties in the game, including a terribly timed delay of game call on Ivan Provorov with 1:46 left in regulation and a too-many-men penalty in the second that Yeo said “really put things in (Vegas’) favor.”

So was it all luck (and Hart) that carried the Flyers to victory? Not in Yeo’s eyes; the Flyers’ head coach saw the game as more of a mixed bag. “Our start was pretty good to be honest,” said Yeo. “Most of the parts of our defensive game were pretty good. The work ethic was there. We were blocking shots. Our structure was pretty sound for the most part.”

“Our start was pretty good to be honest. Started to get away from our game a little bit towards the end of the first. That too many men on the ice penalty really put things in their favor. We lost the momentum with our power-play. When you play against these good teams, you have to stay strong. The details in our game weren’t very sharp. We weren’t able to get to the offensive zone a lot.” Scott Laughton added, “”We started going east-west with the puck, started turning it over.”

Of course, the Flyers were only able to play show off that structure because they were frequently caught in their own zone. “Just too many turnovers,” Yeo bluntly surmised after learning stating the game “started to get away from our game a little bit towards the end of the first. That too many men on the ice penalty really put things in their favor. We lost the momentum with our power-play. When you play against these good teams, you have to stay strong. The details in our game weren’t very sharp. We weren’t able to get to the offensive zone a lot.”

In truth, the numbers tend to support Yeo’s second piece of analysis much more than the first. Vegas racked up a whopping 6.24 expected goals in all situations, easily their highest total this season and Philadelphia’s highest total against. Sure, some of that came purely as a result of the sheer volume of shots Vegas threw in Hart’s direction. But the Golden Knights weren’t exactly lacking quality looks.

This heat map is for all situations, but the 5-on-5 map is very similar.

Yet despite all of that, there was a notable shift in the mood of just about every player and Yeo in their post-game interviews. Yeo joked about using Justin Braun on the power-play after he started the scoring tonight with a long-distance wrist shot; Braun, in turn, smiled when asked if he thinks he can pass his career high of five goals, which he tied Tuesday. Oskar Lindblom, who stayed hot with a late first-period wrap-around goal that held up as the game-winner emphasized the Flyers need to look better than they did tonight. But he was also quick to point out the importance, if not sheer relief, of picking up two points yet again. And rather than focus on the barrage Vegas sent his way, Hart spent plenty of time discussing the importance of Philadelphia’s 23 blocked shots.

Yes, most if not all of these are rather obvious points than any team, good or bad, would discuss in the wake of a win like this. But being able to discuss any win, even one with as many qualifiers as this one, is such a marked improvement for this Flyers team. After lots of games where their hard work and increased competitiveness went unrewarded, the Flyers are slowly starting to see their improvements bear some fruit. They did not deserve to win Saturday. But there have been quite a few games this season where the Flyers played well enough to win but didn’t have the luck, talent, or both to do so. Those games tend to somewhat even out over an 82-game season. Right now, that’s good enough for the Flyers to feel good about themselves.

Lindies

Yeah, this was no ordinary “good” performance from Hart; he was downright dominant.

Incredibly, this was barely Hart’s best performance against Vegas this season. Hart stopped 41 of 44 shots in a 4-3 win at Vegas on Dec. 10, snapping the Flyers’ first ten-game losing streak of the season. He’ll finish the year with 88 saves on 92 shots (.956 SV%) against the Golden Knights.

Forgot to mention this on Saturday, but the Chicago game was the first game Claude Giroux played wing since Dec. 5, the last game of the Alain Vigneault era. That he’s been so effective this year while spending about 60% at center (no longer his natural, preferred position) is a testament to just how good Giroux is.

We have a new leader in the POG Starter Jacket Standings!

Starter – 3

Jones, Unknown, Honey Badger – 2

Sander/Sanner/Sandra/Sanny, Gobs, G, Hollywood, Risto, Coots, Jones, Mayhew, Sergeant, Big Mac – 1

Let’s get into some more deadline rumblings. In the latest episode of the 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman said he heard the Flyers are looking to extend Rasmus Ristolainen at a “number somewhere between $4 and $4.75 (million).” Friedman didn’t specify the term associated with that cap hit. Obviously, it’s a much smaller deal that the 6 x $6.3 million offer Crossing Broad’s Anthony SanFilippo previously reported.

Here’s some Ristolainen analysis at Vendetta from — surprisingly — not me.

But Ristolainen isn’t the only right-handed defenseman the team has to make a decision on. Inside AHL Hockey’s Tony Androckitis reported that the Florida Panthers are “more focused” on trading for Justin Braun than Claude Giroux. If there’s one weakness in Florida’s game, it’s their defensive depth; and if there’s one strength in Braun’s game, it’s his defense. Florida’s right-side does seem a little bit crowded, though Brandon Montour has experience playing on his off-side. Braun will have a chance to make a good impression of a potential suitor when the Flyers play in Florida on Thursday. I’ll be sure to put in a good word for him; I’ll be there, attending my first Flyers road game.

3 Stars

3rd: Oskar Lindblom (PHI) – Goal (10)

2nd: Justin Braun (PHI) – Goal (5), 21:10 TOI

1st: Carter Hart (PHI) – .979 SV% (47 Saves/48 Shots), 1 GA on 6.24 Expected Goals Against (All Situations)

Next

VGK: 3/10, 7 PM @ BUF (18-32-8, L2)

PHI: 3/10, 7 PM @ FLA (38-13-5, W3)

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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick

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