There was something a little bit different about the Flyers last night as they won consecutive games for only the second time all season.
They continued the notion of secondary scoring being key, as they got four more goals from guys not named Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek – a trio that had scored 45.7% of the teams’ goals prior to the last two games.
Well, the rest of the team has now scored nine straight goals for the Flyers – all of them by forwards no less – and unsurprisingly, the Flyers have won two straight.
But that’s not what was different specific to last night. Dave Hakstol finally broke up his top line in Calgary and kept it that way in Edmonton. And yes, it helps spread the offense around, as we’ve been talking about on this blog for about a month.
But that’s not it.
Brian Elliott played another strong game in net for the Flyers – something that has become almost expected. After a slow start in his first half-dozen games, Elliott has been the guy keeping the Flyers in games on most nights with his workman-like approach to goaltending – not flashy, just getting the job done.
But it wasn’t Elliott either.
Nope. It was the Flyers trying to play like the New Jersey Devils, circa 1995.
It was a flashback to a bygone era in the NHL. An era where boring, stifling hockey would put you to sleep on a nightly basis. But, those Devils would beat you with their style that everyone else in the league hated – except them.
The Flyers were at it last night.
One game after beating Calgary but allowing the Flames to take a whopping 80 shot attempts, the Flyers decided to hunker down defensively and really try to frustrate the Edmonton Oilers and their supposedly high-flying offense.
The Oilers only attempted 51 shots. Only 26 actually got on goal. After some of the save performances Elliott’s had to put in recently, he had to feel like this game was merely a part-time shift.
And the Oilers were greatly limited as compared to the Flames because the Flyers decided to change their system a bit last night and bottle up the neutral zone. It made for a much more even game, puck possession-wise, and the Flyers were opportunistic, scoring on their best chances. It was an old-fashioned hockey formula that caught the Oilers by surprise and worked for the Flyers for one game.
Can it work long-term? Maybe. However, it requires a lot of patience and commitment to the defensive game as well as a more conservative approach – things that don’t normally seem attractive as options to today’s younger players.
But if Hakstol is smart, he’ll see if he can get the players to buy into it for a little while anyway to see if it instills confidence in a team who, despite winning two straight games, is still a fragile group when things go awry.
To the takeaways: