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Owen Tippett (No. 74) and Noah Cates (No. 49) both scored in a well-deserved 4-1 victory for the Flyers in Columbus. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 71: PHI 4, CBJ 1 – Camlumbus

Owen Tippett (No. 74) and Noah Cates (No. 49) both scored in a well-deserved 4-1 victory for the Flyers in Columbus. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 71: PHI 4, CBJ 1 – Camlumbus

They earned this one. The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 4-1, over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Cam Atkinson’s first game as a visitor in Nationwide Arena in his 11th NHL season. Two nights after playing well at home but losing, the Flyers traveled to Columbus for a rematch with the Blue Jackets, played another strong game, and this time got a result much more indicative of their level of play.

Winning a game over the middling Blue Jackets this late in a lost season isn’t exactly going to excite many people. The fact that the Flyers significantly drove play at 5-on-5 (62.6% expected goals, 53% or better xG in every period, 4-0 goal differential at 5-on-5). Stats really only excite fans when there’s something to play for, at that ship has sailed for the 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers.

But if Tuesday’s game was the “perfect loss” for the rest of the season, Thursday might’ve been the only type of game fans are ok with the team winning the rest of the way. They didn’t just carry play at 5-on-5. They showed fortitude by not letting a late first-period short-handed goal by Eric Robinson torpedo their game. And all three of the team’s new young players made a positive difference in the outcome.

Owen Tippett and Noah Cates just 3:15 apart in the second period to flip the game on its head. And both tallies felt like the type of goals both could be scoring for the Flyers for many years to come; Tippett beating Elvis Merzlikins with his plus shot from the hash marks, Cates craftily chipping in a loose puck near the side of the net. Additionally, Ronnie Attard delivered his best NHL game to date, finishing with a 64.42% expected goals share.

“I feel my game has gotten a little better each and every game,” said Tippett. “It’s just little details here and there all around the ice that are gonna lead to offense.” About his goal, Cates said, “I didn’t how far that puck was gonna bounce out in front. I didn’t know if I was gonna have to go behind the net or stuff it like I did. But pretty fortitius bounce, it bounced pretty far out, I just kinda chipped it, and it went off his back and in, so, kind of a weird goal, kind of a lucky one, but I’ll take it.” Cates concluded with an ear-to-ear smile, something the Flyers haven’t seen much of over the last three months.

However, the good vibes went beyond the kids in this one. Travis Konecny, who has been so snakebitten this season (his shooting percentage is 4.5% below his career average) snuck a bit of a lucky goal of his own past Merzlikins to put the game away in the third. Also, let’s not forget how the scoring started; noted sniper Kevin Connauton picking Columbus’ pocket and scoring an unassisted(!) goal off the rush, his first in the Orange and Black. Even the most adamant pro-tank fan couldn’t help but crack a smile at how implausible of an outcome that was.

You can debate whether or not it’s a good thing the Flyers won tonight. But if the Flyers are going to win any of their remaining eleven games, this is how to do it. First, make sure you control play throughout the game, legitimately earning the two points you receive. Then make sure the kids are the heart of the attack. Get the guys the Flyers either need to bounce-back next year or to increase their trade value in on the action. And maybe mix in a “so crazy it’s funny” moment like the Connauton goal if you’re up for it. Tonight was the type of win any team, even one as pitiful as this year’s Flyers, can enjoy.

Lindies

Beginning with some non-NHL news, Bobby Brink’s Denver Pioneers beat Michigan 3-2 in the Frozen Four semifinals, with Brink setting up Carter Savoie for the OT winner. The Broncos will play the winner of Minnesota-Minnesota St. on Saturday for all the marbles. It will likely be Brink’s final collegiate game before signing with the Flyers.

The Flyers were sort of beaten by one of their own on the game’s first goal. Robinson is a Bellmawr, N.J. product who went to Glocuster Catholic High School. That’s the same school as his brother Buddy (a forward for Anaheim). And also someone you may have heard of — Calgary superstar Johnny Gaudreau.

Connauton’s goal snapped a 57-game drought dating back to Feb. 4, 2019, back when he was a member of the Arizona Coyotes.

Believe this was the second straight night we made it well past the halfway mark of the first period before the first TV timeout. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. But it is a thing. And that’s honestly where the bar is right now for this section right now.

Then, after the second TV timeout, Cam Atkinson received a wonderful video tribute and an even better standing ovation from the Columbus crowd. Atkinson, of course, played his first 10 seasons and over 600 games for the Blue Jackets. Not only was he a fan favorite, but Atkinson is at or near the top of many franchise offensive leaderboards. Great to see him get the recognition he deserves on Thursday.

This was the first time all season Atkinson wore an “A” with all of Scott Laughton, Ivan Provorov, and Kevin Hayes playing. Wonder if that was just a gesture for his homecoming to Columbus, or if he’ll be a permanent alternate captain (or part of a permanent rotation). Laughton was the odd-man-out of the “official” leadership group on Thursday.

POG Starter Jacket Standings Update!

Starter, Joner – 3

Unknown, Honey Badger, G, Hollywood – 2

Sander/Sanner/Sandra/Sanny, Gobs, Risto, Coots, Mayhewooligans, Sergeant, Big Mac, Hodgeson, Connauton – 1

See where our Alex Grossman thinks the Phillies will finish in the deep NL East… and keep your eyes open tomorrow morning for a Phillies article from yours truly.

Finally, a happy Opening Day to all of you (especially if you’re a Phillies fan). My weekly-to-biweekly “7th-Day Stretch” series covering the Phillies will return this season. The first edition will hopefully be this weekend; I tried to run them every Sunday or Monday last season. It may be a little later due to a hectic week of school. Looking forward to a great baseball season in Philadelphia that hopefully is much better than the hockey one here, to say the least.

3 Stars

3rd: Martin Jones (PHI) – .963 SV% (26 Saves/27 Shots), 1 GA on 1.39 Expected Goals Against (All Situations)

2nd: Noah Cates (PHI) – Goal (2), 3 Shots

1st: Owen Tippett (PHI) – Goal (8)

Next

PHI: 4/9, 7 PM vs. ANA (28-32-12, L2)

CBJ: 4/9, 7 PM @ DET (28-34-9, W2)

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

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