In their lone opportunity for some game action before the round-robin game on Sunday against the Bruins, the Flyers came out soaring. After going down 1-0 early in the first period, Philadelphia regained their footing and controlled most of the remainder of the game. The Flyers looked like a team that’s ready to run headfirst into the playoffs, winning a very tough exhibition matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Thanks to Kevin Hayes and Sean Couturier, the orange and black are taking a 3-2 overtime win into playoffs.
Special Teams Looked…. Special
Look, there’s no reason for the Flyers to be taking three penalties in a single game. Both Giroux and Voracek’s calls were just lazy plays, both of which are not typical of those guys. However, if there is a time to get the quirks out, that time was this game. Despite not capitalizing on their lone powerplay attempt, the Flyers killed all three penalties they had, only allowing the Penguins a couple of shots while a man up as well.
Both penalty kill units dominated their roles. Nate Thompson was all over the ice, and Tyler Pitlick generated a forecheck that would be seen on a powerplay. Kevin Hayes continued his short-handed dominance from this season and looks ready to rock and roll. Wait, did someone say Kevin Hayes…?
Kevin Hayes was the player of the game, between both teams. While big names such as Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and James van Riemsdyk were hardly noticeable throughout the game, Hayes made his presence known. On all three powerplays, Hayes may have had just as much control as the Penguins did total. Offensively, he picked up a goal after a botched pass by Evgeni Malkin. Hollywood Hayes was all over the ice, also generating eight shots (five on goal!) in about 16 minutes of ice time.
With Kevin Hayes already in mid-season form, this Flyers win could well be the first of many as the team prepare for the Round-Robin games.
After looking a bit shaky to start the game, Carter Hart settled in nicely. Before being pulled after two periods, Hart made 11 saves on 12 shots. Hart will likely come out a bit shaky on Sunday as well, as this will be the first time in the playoff spotlight for the youngster. Brian Elliott, however, showed his seniority. Elliott stepped into the third period and looked stellar. He made nine straight saves against a heavy Penguins’ push early in the third. Jason Zucker pounded one home after a bouncing puck got the best of Elliott, but that far from defines his performance in this matchup.
Odds and Ends
Shayne Gostisbehere had a huge opportunity to prove his worth in this one. As one of the cusp players in the lineup, Ghost had one of his better games all season. Defensively, Ghost looked sound and actually played tight defense. This, of course, something that we have struggled to see out of him the past couple of years. Mark Friedman, though, looked to have a much more productive game in terms of defense. The rookie shut down many opportunities in his 11 minutes of play.
The top line two lines of the Flyers looked lazy. Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, as mentioned, were hardly seen. Couturier scored in the first period and did a great job containing Crosby all game. Scott Laughton found himself on the second line with Hayes and TK, and the three musketeers played a solid, well-rounded game. Laughton’s OT winner, off a great feed from TK, was a thing of beauty as well.
The younger guys on the Flyers looked like veterans. It could be easy for a player not used to this environment to come out lethargic and nervous, but the youngsters proved otherwise. Provy, for example, played 25:39 and was +2. As for the older guys, the depth on the Flyers’ was stellar. We’ll let the tweet speak for itself:
This game may go down as a Flyers win, but the important thing to note here is that the rust is shaken off as quickly as possible.
What’s next for the Flyers?
Overall, the orange and black came out with a lot of intensity. For the game only being an exhibition game, it’s comforting to see the Flyers taking it serious. Coming out physical, Philadelphia registered 23 hits to Pittsburgh’s 17, and controlled much of the pace of play. The mistakes seen in the game were typical of a team that hasn’t played in 140 days. If the Flyers can clean those up, they could do some damage next week and take a higher seed.
The first game can be seen on NBC Sports Philadelphia at 3 p.m, as they clash with the Bruins in a Sunday matinee match up. Can the Flyers win their first postseason matchup since April 2018? Only time will tell.
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre