Every time you think the Flyers are on the precipice of complete self-destruction – they do this.

They don’t just win a game. They don’t just give you a peek through the window of Higbee’s department store window on Black Friday. No, they actually play such a good game of hockey that you think they’ve figured it out, that the underachieving talent on the team can finally blend together properly and finally develop into that contender the city has waited for for the past seven years.

And while ultimately the pendulum will very likely swing back the other way at some point, for one day, the Flyers were really good.

I mean, REALLY good.

They dispatched the upstart New York Rangers 4-0 behind a pedal to the metal game plan that was executed to near perfection.

It’s amazing how effort and attitude make a difference in hockey. The Rangers are a very similar team to the Buffalo Sabres, who the Flyers were embarrassed by 36 hours earlier.

They are young, fast as hell, and overachieving so far this season.

Buffalo may have a little more talent than New York, but the Rangers are backstopped by a surefire Hall of Fame goalie in Henrik Lundqvist, so that balances it out.

The difference was the Flyers played against the Sabres – for the opening 20 minutes at least – like they didn’t care to even be on the ice.

They played against the Rangers like a team that was not going to be denied. Frankly, if it weren’t for Lundqvist, this could have been a real blowout. The Flyers dominance may have been the result of a really bad game by a New York team that had been playing good hockey – but even still, I’m not sure that the Rangers playing at or near the top of their game would have found much more success against the Flyers the way they were playing Friday.

1. Playing with an Edge

This is the most understated thing. Something that wasn’t really talked about after the game, but after going back and watching some in-game replay footage I can tell you that the Flyers played a hard, physical game against a smaller, speedier team.

It was really noticeable how the Flyers defensemen specifically were roughing up the Rangers. Every chance they got, they hit New York skaters. The old hockey adage of taking away time and space was working very well.

The Rangers couldn’t generate much in the way of scoring chances and the Flyers dominated possession – in a large part because of how rough and tumble their blue line was.

Radko Gudas had his first open-ice hit in forever:

Robert Hagg was especially bruising. Even Christian Folin timed his hits really well. All of this physical play forced turnovers, resulted in won 50/50 battles and simply wore down a smaller team.

It was also paired with:

2. The best breakouts of the season

Maybe I should have labeled it “the most consistent breakouts of the season” instead. Either way, the Flyers were getting the puck in their own zone and for once didn’t make the puck seem like a hand grenade that would blow up as soon as it hit a teammate’s stick.

There were multiple successive passes. The passes were shorter, crisper. It really looked systematic. Rather than cheating up ice more and hoping a lower percentage pass with a high risk/reward would come through, the Flyers kept it simple. Short, quick passes and move the unit up ice as a five-man wedge rather than try and hit the home run.

It worked. It was effective. And it was obviously different than most games for the Flyers this season.

3. Team defense

It’s more than just the increased physical element. The Flyers were not going to let the Rangers get into good scoring areas. Most of the shots they sent at Calvin Pickard were from distance or outside the slot:

The forwards were committed to helping out the defensemen. I already talked about the physical play of the defensemen who  transitioned smoothly and quickly to start the breakout once they gained possession.

The result was clear dominance of the analytics side of the game:

  • Corsi For% (5-on-5): Flyers 63.5; Rangers 36.5
  • Shots attempted: Flyers 77, Rangers 49
  • Shots on goal: Flyers 46, Rangers 31
  • Scoring chances: Flyers 37, Rangers 16
  • High-Danger chances: Flyers 20, Rangers 5

That last one especially stands out. I’m not a big proponent of “high-danger chances” usually. Everyone knows that a majority of goals in hockey are scored from closer to the net, but just saying a shot originated from an arbitrary area as determined by whatever website is tracking the chances (we are using naturalstattrick.com) doesn’t necessarily indicate much of anything other than, yep shots were taken from here.

Most games, high-danger chances are close, because, after all, every team wants to “get to the net.” And teams have been tracking this data for far longer than the analytics movement has been afoot.

I used to talk with coaches and video coordinators who would share how many chances they had tracked  compared to what broadcasts or statisticians were offering. They always referred to them as “quality scoring chances” and weren’t always just those from a specific area of the ice, but ones where they felt they had a better chance of scoring than not scoring.

So, I always take this data with a grain of salt when analyzing a game.

But when one team has 20 high-danger chances and the other has five, well, that’s definitely worth noting.

20 is on the high end. Five is on the low end. The disparity is telling for both teams. The Flyers are happy at the completeness of their game, the Rangers are highly disappointed in their effort.

It’s also indicative of the total dominance by the Flyers in this contest.

4. Travis Konecny

You want evidence of a guy who had a great game? I give you TK. A goal (albeit a bit lucky), two assists, a fight (his first Gordie Howe hat trick). The guy had an overall bite to his game.

He was active and involved from the jump. He was a bit of an emotional leader, playing bigger than his size and not only providing energy for the team, but really sustaining it as well.

Here’s goal No. 1:

And then after this happened:

Konecny was none too pleased. He slashed Strome across the hands hard, not once, but twice, and that led to this:

It’s the second fight in as many games for the Flyers. They didn’t have any through the first 20 games of the season. They don’t need to fight to win – that’s an asinine assertion – but they do need to play a little more pissed off.

It was obvious against Tampa, once they were down 5-1 they were pissed and scored four goals in six minutes to force overtime and steal a point they certainly didn’t deserve.

It was obvious against Buffalo, after the worst period of hockey in the NHL that saw them behind 4-0, they were pissed, and played a strong 40 minutes thereafter, although they still lost 5-2.

And then the Rangers, they were pissed the whole game. Maybe it was because of all the speculation of breaking up the team. The rumors of high-level management meetings discussing anything and everything from player personnel, to coaches, to the general manager.

Whatever the reason, the Flyers played pissed off against the Rangers, and Konecny may have been the most pissed of anyone – and channeled it for good.

Like this pretty pass to Sean Couturier:

He also got an assist on the fourth goal. It was a great game for TK.

As for his thoughts on his first Gordie Howe Hat trick (goal, assist, fight):

“It was my first and it could be my last! It was pretty cool though.”

Which brings me to great moments in Flyers Broadcasting. (indulge me for a minute).

On the radio broadcast, Tim Saunders and Steve Coates were talking about Gordie Howe hat tricks. Coatesy reminded the listening audience that Gordie Howe actually only performed the feat twice in his career, which led to this quick exchange:

Saunders: I’d rather have a Michael Del Zotto hat trick.

Coatsey: What’s that?

Saunders: A blonde, a brunette and a red head.

You’re not getting that on any other Philadelphia broadcast. Those two are gems.

5. Dale Weise

Imagine the response from Flyers fans when it was announced that Dale Weise was moving into a top six role and playing left wing with Nolan Patrick and Jake Voracek, replacing the ineffective Oskar Lindblom.

And yet, it was a smart decision by coach Dave Hakstol.

Weise didn’t end up on the scoresheet, but he was all over the ice. He made that line tick. And for the first time in what seems like weeks, (but really is only like five or six games) Patrick and Voracek looked alive.

And it was because Weise was the straw that stirred their drink.

 “I thought those two haven’t been at their best the last couple of games, but they’re proud guys, they’re good players,” Dave Hakstol said. “We thought making a change on their left wing with Dale Weise who’s a good veteran, he’s really talkative, he’s a guy that’s always talking on the bench and most importantly he’s playing very well. I thought he stepped in there and he played very well tonight and both Patty and Jake, they were good players tonight.”

Weise relishes this role. And I completely agree with Hakstol – he has earned it.

“Jakey and Patty are so skilled, they need someone to kind of get in there and get gritty and win some battles and get them the puck,” Weise said. “I think I did that tonight and made some plays to speed. And then I think if we continue to play we’re going to continue to grow as a line. … I could’ve had two or three tonight and we had some real good chances.”

Now, a skeptic would say that the big offseason signing James van Riemsdyk should be playing in this top six role instead of on the third line, and that would be a valid argument. But, until JVR gets going, I don’t mind seeing an overachieving Weise play there while he is going well.

As for Lindblom – he’s been invisible lately. He took a penalty against the Rangers but did little else. I can see him slowly drifting out of the starting lineup altogether and maybe even end up back with the Phantoms to try and regain confidence.

Yes, that might mean more Jori Lehtera, but Lindblom just doesn’t seem right at the moment.

6. Calvin Pickard

With the way goaltending has been of late, I’m betting the odds on Pickard – or any Flyers goaltender for that matter, pitching a shutout were Leicester City-like.

But Pickard was solid in this one, and earned his fourth shutout of his career and first since February, 2017.

Most of his saves were not memorable. But there was one:

That kept it 1-0. Pickard got help from the post a little later and the Flyers went the other way and scored, all but ending the game.

You need your goalie to make a big save when it’s needed, and that’s much easier on the goalie when he only has to do it once or twice a game as opposed to being under a constant barrage of quality scoring chances against.

Pickard came through and got the job done against New York and likely earned a start on back-to-back nights against his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Although this bit of news is intriguing:

Not sure why… but we’ll find out tonight.