The Captain and His Mates: Takeaways from Flyers 4, Bruins 3

Photo Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Following the Flyers’ thrilling 4-3 victory over Boston on Easter Sunday, I figured we should start with something different. You know, for the kids:

I always loved the Blind Melon version of this song…. which is why I went with this one for your enjoyment.

But back to the Flyers, yes, the magic number for making the playoffs is now three. Any combination of points earned by the Flyers or lost by the Florida Panthers that equals three, and the Flyers are in the postseason.

That could happen as soon as tomorrow night in Brooklyn when the Flyers play their final road game of the season against the New York Islanders.

So, yes, the Flyers are going to the playoffs despite being pretty mediocre (79 games played, 40 wins and 39 losses), but it doesn’t matter how you get there, it matters what you do when you get there.

And there are five teams the Flyers could still face in that first round.

And we’re here, on the first Monday in April, talking about the Flyers as a playoff team because of a huge win Sunday against Boston.

A regulation loss would have left things up in the air. The Flyers needed to play a very good game against an excellent Boston team – and they did.

And although there were a couple moments where you wanted to cringe, or throw your Easter yams at the television screen, the Flyers had some really strong performances from key players at key times to secure the victory.

Let’s break them down:

1. Captain Hart Trophy

Yes, everybody has climbed aboard the bandwagon I’ve been driving for awhile now – Claude Giroux is the MVP of the league. He’s more valuable to his team this season than any other player is to theirs.

Giroux set a career high in points and goals against Boston yesterday. He scored twice – including the game winner – but it was so much more. He was on the ice at every shift 5-on-5 against Patrice Bergeron’s line and was superb in helping to shut them down – which few teams have been able to do.

Yes, Bergeron scored the tying goal with 3.8 seconds to play, but it was the one time he was out there when Giroux and Couturier weren’t.

The thing about Giroux is, not only is he having the best offensive season of his career, but he’s having the best defensive season of his career as well.

He’s been flat out sensational.

And he’s now one goal away from being a 30-goal scorer as well thanks to these two from Sunday:

This one is probably on Khudobin. He should slide over and make a save on a one-timer from that far out – especially since it wasn’t a bomb of a shot like Giroux usually offers. But the credit to Giroux is for the sneakiness of the shot – which probably caught the Boston goalie unawares.

That one gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead. But this one. This one was so filthy… and won the game for the orange and black:

“For the game… ” Doc Emerick as a broadcaster is legendary.

But so is this move. Giroux had the presence of mind to fake like he was going to pull the puck back between his legs for a trick shot – to freeze Khudobin – and then after the puck bounced on him, he was able to quickly gather it onto his backhand and roof it for the game-winner.

That’s some next-level talent right there – in all phases of the play.

And you couple that with his better than 87% expected goal rate playing against Bergeron – who is widely considered the best two-way forward in the league – and you can see why it was a peak performance for the captain.

(expected goal rate is an advanced metric that is considered a better predictor of future outcomes than score adjusted Corsi – which you are probably more familiar with as an advanced stat that has sort of become part of the sport’s lexicon. If you want to read about expected goals, I suggest you go here, but take a couple of ibuprofen beforehand. Just know that having an 87% expected goal rate is insanely good, and then add onto it that it comes against the best defensive forward in the sport – yeah… that’s how well Giroux played Sunday.)

Suddenly, everyone is on the Giroux for Hart train. Questions abounded after the game yesterday. I’m glad it’s finally picking up in the season’s final week.

My one question to everyone though is, “where’ve you been?” Giroux has been playing at this level all season.

The guy deserves the recognition… I hope he gets it.

2. TK dazzles again

This kid is special. He reminds of Danny Briere – but faster. He reminds me of Brad Marchand – minus being a dirty crumb on the ice. He is equal parts speed, grit, pest, energy, and skill – to steal a baseball term, he’s a five-tool player.

And to score a goal like this…

…required all five tools. (And yes, Broad Street Hockey, that is the goal of the year – for the Flyers anyway – and certainly top five n the league this season).

He had his finger on the pulse of the game the entire day. He created chances, drew penalties. Teams can’t figure out how to stop him.

Here are the only things that can stop Konecny right now:

  1. Dave Hakstol (with his “teaching lesson” benchings)
  2. An abundance of turnovers by trying to do too much

That’s it. No defense has been able to contain him, especially with him playing with Giroux and Sean Couturier. He is now third on the team with 24 goals this season – and 18 of then have come in less than half a season.

Konecny on a top line for a full season is a 35-goal scorer, hands down. The Flyers have a real winner here.

3. Methuselah (MATT-thuselah?)

The second-longest tenured Flyer is the often forgotten about Matt Read. No longer a goal scorer or even a reliable offensive player, Read spend most of his season playing in the AHL as the Flyers were riding out the final year of his contract.

But, with the penalty kill scuffling and other players not really filling the void that was left by Read when he and Couturier were the top killing pair of forwards in the NHL some six seasons ago, the Flyers turned back to the veteran forward.

And Read has been superb on the defensive side of the puck.

Whether it’s in a fourth line role or as a top penalty killer, Read has solidified the Flyers defnsive posture so much, that Hakstol has turned to him to play important minutes in the third period when the team is trying to hold a lead.

And Read has answered the bell.

He’s probably not going to be a Flyer beyond this month, but the way he’s played has not gone unnoticed, and it’s a good bet he will latch on somewhere as a free agent in the offseason because he can, in fact, play this fourth line/penalty killing role better than most.

The Flyers have killed 17 of the past 20 shorthanded situations, and Read has been reunited with Couturier as the top killing pair for most of them. That 85% clip is far better than the 75% pace they were killing at through the first 70 games of the season.

Here’s Read after the game:

The best your legs have felt in a few years?

“Yeah, I think that’s game 40 for me this year so I’m still pretty fresh. I just got to keep moving my feet, keep creating opportunities for my linemates. We’ve had a good opportunities the last couple games. Hopefully, they continue. Hopefully, we start scoring on them.”

People talk about the rhythm on the powerplay, is penalty killing also rhythm as well?

“It is. It’s a lot of talk out there. If you get a good vibe, a good feel out there, I think things kind of go your way. I think in the second period, we had a couple of bad clears and kind of caught up to us in the third period. A bad clear and the next thing, you know it’s in the back of our net. We learn from that. Go forward. Keep doing the little things out there. Keep talking. Make sure we clear that puck.​”

And I asked Hakstol about Read and Couturier and the penalty kill during his press conference and he addressed it as well:

“That tandem has been really good together, but really it’s been everyone involved. It’s a game of inches and our PK has built some momentum. The guys up front are doing a good job… It’s a whole bunch of little things. [Assistant coach Ian Laperriere] and the players have really dialed in on some systematic things and as you have a little success, you go from just working hard and trying to working hard and having confidence, and that makes a big difference.”

Matt Read has quietly been a big addition to this Flyers team in the past month – and it makes me wonder if he should have been in place all season long.

4. The Good Petr

Peter Mrazek had an excellent game for the Flyers. He made 36 saves, and they weren’t all easy:

The biggest knock on Mrazek was that he wouldn’t make the big save when the team needed him to do so. Yesterday, he did. Several times. The one above was the best of them all.

He never had a chance on two of the three goals. The third was a Boston power play tally that nicked off of Andrew MacDonald’s skate, but it didn’t change direction, and still floated by him because his left side broke down as he was making himself smaller to control a potential rebound (as he is wont to do sometimes), but aside from that one, Mrazek was sharp – and the Flyers needed that.

If Brian Elliott can get back into the lineup this week, I still think Elliott is the playoff goalie. But if Mrazek can step up and play like that in big games – and the one against Boston was certainly big, then that could be a benefit for the Flyers.

5. The Snake speaks

Jake Voracek may not have jumped off your screen yesterday, but he had two huge assists. First, an outlet pass to Oskar Lindblom that set up the third goal of a game, a pretty score by Nolan Patrick, and then springing Giroux on a breakaway in overtime.

But the biggest impact Sunday by Voracek went unnoticed by almost everyone in attendance.

After the Bruins tied it in the final seconds of regulation. During the timeout before overtime, Voracek skated up and down the bench giving the team a pep talk to try and prevent them from letting that tying goal break them.

Everyone gave Voracek credit afterwards. Hakstol, Konecny, MacDonald, Giroux… it shows just how much of a leader Jake can be without wearing a letter on his sweater.

6. Miscellany 

  • Marchand is a rat:

I asked MacDonald about this after the game, but he didn’t really want to talk about it – and I don’t blame him. You don’t want to egg on a loose cannon like Marchand. The one thing MacDonald did say though, “It’s a good thing I was wearing a visor.”

  • This can’t happen:

Wayne Simmonds absolutely has to get that puck out at the blue line. Flip it out. Send it down the ice. You don’t need overtime if you do.

I think Simmonds is on his last legs in Philly, too. Yes, he’s signed for another year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a guy the Flyers looked to move in the offseason much like they did Brayden Schenn a year ago.

We talk about this on our new Flyers Podcast here on the Crossing Broad Network called “Snow the Goalie.” (Listen here. Subscribe. Give us five stars. Comment. Yay!)

  • Manning and Gudas continue to be brutal.

The Flyers need to do something here. I know everyone is telling you that Robert Hagg is a healthy scratch right now, but it’s been indicated to me that’s not necessarily completely true. Hagg suffered a heel injury while blocking a shot last month. He came back, played two games, and came back out of the lineup. I’m told it’s still bothering him. He can play if needed, but he’s not quite 100%, which is why he’s been a healthy scratch.

I think the Flyers would serve themselves well to get him back on the ice as soon as he’s comfortable, because he can’t be as bad as Maning and Gudas have been. Even Hakstol addressed Gudas’ play and propensity to turnover the puck:

“He wasn’t clean enough with the puck. His effort and his physicality and his will is always excellent. But games comes down to small plays and how efficient you are with the puck especially when you play against good players. There’s a couple of those tonight where he had second effort and it helped clean it up. But there are a couple of others he needs to be cleaner on.”

 

 

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5 Responses

  1. Wow, 4 posts so far and only 3 comments. Kyle, please take off the filters and let the comments flow again, it is a snoozefest around here anymore.

  2. That Simmons play was one of the most baffling I’ve ever seen. You can see him make a conscious decision to take the puck inside when the wall was right there.

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