A Passing Grade: Flyers Get Past Maple Leafs 3-2, but Bigger Tests Loom

Sean Couturier Shootout Win
Photo credit: © Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

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The first test has been passed.

In all honesty, the Flyers were moving on to the second, much more difficult test in Boston tonight regardless of what happened with the first test in Toronto, but the fact is they aced it.

And they aced it because they got really good goaltending once again – this time by Brian Elliott – they limited their own mistakes against a highly skilled team, which is important, they won the special teams battle, and they got two of the most diverse-looking shootout goals from a couple of team leaders to defeat the Maple Leafs 3-2.

That makes the Flyers 4-0-1 in their last five games and 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Those consecutive disastrous losses to the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins seem like a distant memory at this point.

That’s because the Flyers are 9-5-2 with 20 points through 16 games and currently sit in the top Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.

Yes, with three quarters of the season to go, a lot can happen. But, let’s look at where the Flyers were since the last time they had 20 points 16 games into the season:

SeasonRecordPointsEastern Conference Standing
2018-198-7-1178th place
2017-188-6-2187th place
2016-177-7-21611th place
2015-165-8-31314th place
2014-157-7-21612th place
2013-145-10-11113th place
2012-136-9-11311th place
2011-129-4-3214th place

And while it’s easy to say, yeah, they were in the same standings position two years ago, so what’s the big deal, the difference is this team is better both talent-wise and coaching-wise. This team still has a game or two in hand on most of the conference because they started the season in Europe. This team is rolling, which it wasn’t doing two years ago. And, with an upset win over the Bruins tonight, they would leapfrog all the way to 4th place in the conference, which would be a first this late in the season since the last time they won a playoff series.

Yes, this is a big deal.

Don’t get me wrong. It can easily go sideways as the Flyers are playing arguably the two best teams in the NHL in their next two games, because after playing in Boston tonight they come home to host the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, but the fact that the Flyers have themselves in this position, is not something fans have grown accustomed to in recent years.

And they’ve gotten there because of the growth and continued growth of some of their young players.

Let’s dive in….

Phil Myers

Russ wrote a real nice piece on Myers (once you get past all the WWE references) following his goal against Montreal on Thursday.

Myers followed that up with another goal against Toronto Saturday:

Great shot by Myers. Smart to jump up into the play because there was room. Credit really goes to Joel Farabee for driving the play up the boards and a nifty drop pass from James van Riemsdyk to Myers knowing he was clearing out space for the young defenseman to get off a high percentage chance.

But it’s not just the fact that Myers scored again.

That’s great and all, but it’s his defensive game against Toronto that is worth noting. Actually, all four of the Flyers defensemen -who were shaky in recent games- were better against the Leafs, despite Elliott facing 40 shots in the game. It was the top pair of Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen, who have been excellent since being paired together, who struggled in Toronto.

But, Myers had a nice all-around game. The Flyers, as a team, only had six giveaways. Myers had none. He showed some good poise with the puck and made a lot of smart choices.

He’s still got to work on some decision-making stuff with the puck, and there might be some moments in future games where you’re like, “Phil, what the hell are you doing?” But, he’s definitely on the right track now after he sort of took training camp for granted since it was assumed by many that he would make the team.

The message was sent by sending him down to start the season. It looked like Myers heard the message loud and clear and is now playing like he doesn’t ever want to go back to the AHL.

That’s a good thing for the Flyers.

Oskar Lindblom

This is one of the great success stories of the season so far for the Flyers. Actually, Lindblom was already a success story.

When you get to the fifth round of the NHL Draft, you are looking for lottery tickets. Players who might have one or two things they do really well but maybe have some flaws that will prevent them from being an NHLer.

It’s the scouts’ responsibility to identify if a teenager will be able to overcome his deficiencies and put the good skills to use to make it to the NHL.

There aren’t a lot of fifth rounders who make it.

Only eight of the 30 guys drafted in the 2014 draft in the fifth round have even played one game in the NHL. Of those eight, only four have played at least half a season. Of those four, only two have played 100 games.

Lindblom is easily the most productive player of them all.

And it’s because he has a knack for getting to scoring areas and being able to deliver from them.

Here’s last night’s goal:

That was his eighth goal of the season already. For those of you doing math at home, he’s on pace for 41.

OK, that’s probably not going to happen, bu 30 goals is certainly very realistic at this point – and who ever thought Lindblom could be a 30-goal scorer?

Well, there has been evidence to that over the course of the last two seasons, but we probably weren’t savvy enough to notice it:

Not only that, he’s a 200-foot player. He’s defensively responsible and his line with Couturier and Travis Konecny, who also had another excellent game in Toronto, has been one of the best all-around lines in hockey this season.

Travis Sanheim

I don’t have any video for you. Nor do I have any real specifics to share from the game because Sanheim’s game flew so far under-the-radar.

But it was an excellent game from the much-maligned (this season anyway) young Flyers defenseman.

The Flyers could see it from the bench, too. Sanheim had a good bite in this game. He stayed on his feet. He was good on breakouts. He was able to utilize his speed to match Toronto’s elite team quickness.

All you need to know is Sanheim was second on the team in minutes played, both overall and 5-on-5, and took more shifts than all but one of his teammates. Provorov led in both categories.

No turnovers by Sanheim. No mistakes. Just solid, responsible, important hockey.

Sanheim has been working overtime in practice to fix some flaws in his game. When he sees good results, he gains confidence. Sanheim is a player who breeds off confidence. If he’s a confident player, he’s an excellent player. Last night was a nice step for him in an otherwise uneven season so far.

Brian Elliott

OK, he’s not a young player. Neither are Giroux or Couturier, who I’m going to highlight shortly, but Alain Vigneault said it last week: if the veterans lead with good play, the kids will follow. And that’s what’s happening.

Elliott made 38 saves and then stopped two of the three shootout attempts to earn the win.

He has a 2.88 goals against average and a .909 save percentage so far this season, which are decent numbers for a backup goalie.

But, his numbers are skewed by the Pittsburgh debacle where his team left him all alone on an island for 40 minutes.

Take that one out of the mix and you know what Elliott’s numbers are?

2.30 GAA and a .926 SvPct.

Pretty darn good, eh?

With Carter Hart having seemingly re-found his game in the past week or so and Elliott providing this kind of reliable goaltending when called upon, the Flyers are going to be in most games. And if they’re in most games, they just might have enough talent to win more than they lose.

Having 20 points at this point in the season is just the first indicator of that.

Here’s Giroux’s shootout goal

Really, just a throwback to a bygone era. Slapshots on breakaways used to be a thing. No more. But, for an old head like me, this was nice to see and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it:


Just awesome.

Oh, and Don’t forget Couturier…

He scored a shootout goal last week, had the overtime winner against Montreal, and now the game-winner against Toronto. The guy is just clutch. Plain and simple:

Now… can they keep it rolling in Boston? Odds are, no. But we talk a lot about betting on this site these days and right now, I wouldn’t bet against the Flyers. That’s not a prediction of victory, just saying don’t bet against them.

(Yes, it’s a hedge. It’s what I do best.)

For more Flyers coverage, check out Snow The Goalie Radio Mondays from 5-6PM on 610 ESPN Philadelphia and subscribe to Snow The Goalie: A Flyers Podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, GooglePlay, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and wherever else you get your podcasts. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony and Russ live stream during pregame and the first and second intermission breaks of every Flyers home game live from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page and Twitter.



6 Responses

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