Sunday afternoon used to be for football. Welcome to March, it’s for hockey now. The Flyers visited New York City to take on the Rangers for the second half of their home-and-home series. The Flyers were victorious Friday night (5-2), and were looking to come away with a win on the road.
The first period was unlike any first period the Flyers have had all season. While the Flyers notched three goals in the opening frame, none of them came 5v5. The first two were powerplay goals, and the third was a beautiful short-handed goal.
1:52 into the opening period saw Provorov fire one on net. Henrik Lundqvist gave up a juicy rebound to his left, but Nic Aube-Kubel only fed it through the crease, but Matt Niskanen was there to hammer it home.
Almost 10 minutes later, the Flyers went on their second powerplay of the event. In the Rangers’ zone, Travis Konecny found Jakub Voracek with a beautiful pass. Voracek’s shot glanced off of Lundqvist’s right pad, and Couturier was there to capitalize. Two powerplays, two goals, and the Flyers had a two-goal lead.
With almost two minutes remaining in the opening frame, the Flyers added one more, this time while on the penalty kill. Ryan Strome went to chip the puck back to the blueline, only to be pummeled by Michael Raffl. Derek Grant hopped on the loose puck as Raffl joined the rush. Grant sauced one to Raffl to went backhand and slid the third goal of the period past Lundqvist. The Flyers took a 3-0 lead into the intermission.
The second period saw three goals, two of them from the Flyers. The Rangers scored in between Flyers goals, and each team had a goal on the man advantage.
The first goal of the period came from the stick of Derek Grant. Tyler Pitlick was skating the puck up along the boards when Brett Howden checked him into the boards. Grant hopped on the loose puck while Ryan Lindgren let him walk in and backhand one past Hank, putting the Flyers up 4-0 early in the second.
The Rangers struck back about 11 minutes later on the powerplay. A Nate Thompson high sticking penalty led to Mika Zibanejad re-directing one past Hart off of a shot from Artemi Panarin. The Rangers were finally on the board and showing life, something the Flyers would respond to three minutes later.
Ryan Strome went off for slashing, giving the Flyers another powerplay opportunity on the afternoon. Five seconds in, and Travis Konecny re-directs a shot from Voracek under Lundqvist’s glove for a 5-1 edge. That was the Flyers’ third powerplay goal of the afternoon.
The Rangers scored twice on the powerplay in the third, making fans nervous about a Flyers collapse they’ve seen all-too-often in the past. However, the Flyers would shut the door, holding down the fort for the last two minutes and change while the Rangers attacked with six skaters.
The Flyers held on for a 5-3 victory, taking their third of three meetings so far on the season against the Rangers. The Flyers had five goals in each of their wins against the Rangers, winning 5-1, 5-2, and now 5-3.
Carter Hart on the Road
While Hart’s performance on the road wasn’t the greatest we’ve ever seen, it was a step in the right direction. His numbers won’t jump off the page, but he got the win. Saving 23 of 26 shots was good for a .885 save percentage, which is well above his road save percentage on the season (.855).
The Flyers now have 8 remaining games on the road, and Hart should see a decent bit of work down the stretch. If the Flyers are going to be looking to contend come playoff time, they’re going to need to know that Hart can hold up on the road. What better way of testing that out than doing it right now, when the Flyers could really use those road wins?
Penalty Kill-ing Me Smalls
Coming into Sunday afternoon’s showdown, the Flyers’ penalty kill was starting to hit its groove. In the five games prior to Sunday, the Flyers had killed off 11 of 13 penalties, good for 84.62%, about 2.5% better than their season’s average. In their last 10 games, they had killed off 26 of 29 penalties, good for 89.66%. Their last five on the road? 13 of 14 for a 92.86% efficiency rating.
Sunday afternoon, the Flyers allowed three powerplay goals on six penalty kills. Sunday’s outing dropped the Flyers’ penalty killing percentage a whole point. While sitting in seventh entering Sunday’s contest, they now will likely drop out of the top-10 in the NHL’s penalty kill stats.
It’s likely a blip on the radar, considering the Rangers have a very good powerplay unit. Let’s hope it’s not indicative of things to come. This penalty kill has come a long way from last season, and things are finally starting to click.
Powerplay Clicking at the Right Time
The Flyers powerplay unit entered the afternoon as middle-of-the-pack unit. By the end of the night Sunday night, the Flyers unit on the man advantage may be a top-10 unit. Their play during the last 10 games has been nothing short of fantastic, especially considering how they suffered early on.
Over their last 10 games, the Flyers powerplay has converted on nine of 30 opportunities, good for 30%. In just their last five games, they’ve converted on four of their 10 chances, obviously good for 40%. Both of those markers are well above their season average of 21.6%.
On the road this season, the Flyers man-advantage has converted 19.39% of the time. After today, that number is at 21.36%. In their last five road games, the Flyers have converted six of their 16 chances, good for 37.5%. Overall, the Flyers jumped just about a whole percentage point on their powerplay today, from 20.67% to 21.6%.
On the Slate
The Flyers now sit in sole possession of second place in the Metropolitan Division. Their Wednesday night showdown against the first-place Washington Capitals will be one where points are at a premium. The Flyers are closing in on first place with six straight wins, while the Capitals have dropped seven of their last 10 games.
The game is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. EST and will be broadcast on NBCSN from Capital One Arena in Washington D.C.
Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports