Last night had all the makings of a close game. Reading the tea leaves, neither of these teams are scoring in droves.
Somewhere between the new and improved spicy brown mustard at the Wells Fargo Center press box with a soft pretzel, I believed the Philadelphia Flyers were going to bring the early heat. It was likely the stingy burn of my clogged sinuses, but all the same. If my sinuses were going to be on fire, then Travis Konecny was going to be too.
And he was, cashing in on the player prop bet of an anytime point, earning the assist on a goal by Justin Braun with 15:16 remaining in the first period.
Oskar Lindblom had the game-winner on his stick with 0:50 remaining in the first period. All of the Flyers’ scoring took place in the first 19:10. For the next 40:50, Philadelphia had to tighten up on defense. Carter Hart stole the show after Braun set the tone.
In all reality, the Vegas Golden Knights were the better team last night. They paced the game offensively, putting the Flyers on their heels. The Golden Knights had the only powerplay goal by Evgenii Dadonov with 13:34 remaining in the second period, then finished 4/4 on the penalty kill. Hart preserved the victory, with or without a stick, in 5v4 or 6v4 scenarios. Here are a few more observations from Philadelphia’s 2-1 win versus Vegas:
Konecny vs. Vegas (+)
Technically, Konecny won against Vegas twice last night.
He averages a point per game throughout his career versus the Vegas Golden Knights. An assist on Braun’s opening marker kept his average all the same on the way to a stubborn victory.
Last night, Konecny was the best forward on the ice. He facilitated offense, advancing the puck through the neutral to the offensive zone multiple times. Though his only point came from an assist, Konecny shared the team lead in shots on goal. Defensively, he blocked a shot and forced a takeaway, too.
As the roster becomes healthier, the Philadelphia Flyers suddenly don’t seem like the tragedy they were all season. Konecny remains valuable ahead of the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. The decision to bench Konecny last season by Alain Vigneault left the desired lasting impression. He may be snake bitten in the goal column, but Konecny has evolved. Of the Flyers’ roster, only Claude Giroux is better than Konecny in even-strength scenarios in 2021-2022.
Braun and Powerful (+)
After blocking a hard shot and showing signs of discomfort, Braun beat Robin Lehner with a wrist shot from the blue line. That sort of sums up Braun’s 2021-2022 campaign. Against the Minnesota Wild, he battled the flu. Then, he recovered for a victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. Last night, he was a key contributor.
Braun scored his fifth goal, matching his career-high and tying the team lead amongst defensemen with Ivan Provorov. His value is undeniable ahead of the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Braun won’t be anyone’s first choice, but he’ll be one of the most valuable insurance policies for any contending playoff team. If the return isn’t better than a 2021 fourth-round pick, he’ll offer more short-term value to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2022-2023.
“We lean on Brauner in pretty much every situation except the powerplay right now; which we should consider that.”Mike Yeo; 3/8/2022
Clearly, Braun is a bottom-pair defenseman at this stage in his career. However, for anywhere between $1.5mil-$2mil, the Flyers need an insurance policy at RD. Extending for another season isn’t a bad idea.
Hart Stopper (+)
Allow me to provide context to the season Hart is having despite the implosion of this season:
Hardly anyone can go toe-to-toe with the Vegas Golden Knights without a stick and come out unscathed. He stared back at all of the usual scoring suspects on the Golden Knights powerplay, including Jack Eichel, and denied them all. It was just one of a few extraordinary plays Hart made en route to his career-best performance.
“He was a competitor, a battler. That’s a shot volume team, they throw a lot of pucks at the net and it creates a lot of scrambles when they do that. The way he was tracking the puck, keeping himself in position, ready to make the next play after that; it was a well deserved win for him tonight, no question.”Mike Yeo; 3/8/2022
In total, Hart made 47 saves. The entire NHL seemed to crash the crease, but Hart remained cool, making the saves. Hart was the backbone of the defensive stand from the Philadelphia Flyers in the second and third periods. He fit the jacket back in the locker room after securing the 2-1 victory.
A grueling season like this following a struggle in 2020-2021 could be a blessing in disguise for Hart. It’s just unfortunate that his performance in 2021-2022 is attached to the fifth most losses of any goaltender.
Special Teams (-)
Everyone asks the same questions: when will Travis Sanheim jump to the powerplay? The best defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers should get a chance. He was very dynamic on the powerplay in his former years with the Calgary Hitmen.
We’re aware that the Flyers are ineffective on special teams, but these are the numbers since 2/1/2022:
On the powerplay, Philadelphia is down from their 2021-2022 average. On the penalty kill, they drop by two and a half percent. The Flyers rank 30th on the powerplay and 21st on the penalty kill before the drop of percentages. They already weren’t doing well, and lately, it’s worse.
“You’re going to have nights where you’re not going to have five great powerplays, most likely. You can have a bad powerplay, but the next one can’t be a bad one again, then the next one after that. You certainly can’t carry over some frustration from that powerplay into your five-on-five play. We were probably guilty of that tonight.”Mike Yeo; 3/8/2022
Cam York received a recall to the NHL today. Perhaps Fletcher and Mike Yeo want to prime York as the go-to powerplay defenseman for next season, properly replacing Provorov.
(Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)