Flyers can now look down on Metro foes

Flyers can now look down on Metro foes


MONTREAL — The Flyers extended their point streak to 12 games and claimed first place in the Metropolitan Division with a 1-0 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre Monday night.

The Washington Capitals’ 5-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets opened the door for the Flyers to take over the top spot in the Metro (see standings).

Petr Mrazek stopped 28 shots for his first shutout since joining the Flyers. He’s now won his first three starts since the Flyers acquired him last Monday from Detroit. 

Sean Couturier scored the game-winning goal in the sixth round of the shootout.

The Flyers became just the second team in franchise history to win 10 games in the month of February, joining the 1975-76 club that went 10-0-4 mark during the month.

The Flyers won their first 1-0 game after dropping two 1-0 decisions this season: Oct. 19 vs. Nashville and Nov. 11 vs. Minnesota.

• Shayne Gostisbehere has become Travis Konecny’s personal bodyguard out on the ice. Eight days ago in New York, Gostisbehere dropped the gloves with Pavel Buchenevich after Konecny took a hard check. 

On Monday night during the opening shift, Ghostisbehere took exception when Max Pacioretty tripped up Konecny and nearly engaged once again. Both “Ghost” and Pacioretty earned matching roughing penalties. 

• Konecny told me after the morning skate that his foot is 100 percent, and it certainly looked to be the case late in the first period when he sped into the Canadiens’ zone with the puck and then dropped a pass off behind his back to Couturier, who had an open look in the slot.

• The shots were 10-3 in the Flyers’ favor during the first period, but both teams had the equal number of scoring chances. The line of Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek was probably the best in the opening 20 minutes. All three players present a challenge for an opposing defense with how quick they close and how tough they are on pucks.

• Canadiens goaltender Charlie Lindgren has the makings of a good, solid NHL goaltender. He led the NCAA with 30 wins in 2015-16 at St. Cloud State, the same season Alex Lyon had an All-American season at Yale. 

The Flyers tried to rattle him by crashing the net. Voracek almost connected with Lindblom early in the second period, but the Flyers didn’t make Lindgren’s job too terribly tough early on.

• Mrazek did a tremendous job of locking in and tracking the puck, and didn’t play himself out of position once over the first two periods. His best save came on Paul Byron, who came across the crease. Mrazek followed and extended his stick to keep the puck out and keep the game scoreless. Mrazek was the difference-maker in the second period. The Canadiens were the better possession team in the second and had seven high-danger chances to the Flyers’ four.

• Couturier was a force in his return home with four shots on goal and a pair of hits through two periods. Patrick was the only other Flyer who had more than one shot on net after two periods of action.

• The Flyers reversed course and came out strong in the third period as the Canadiens tried to slow them down through the neutral zone with a 1-2-2 formation. The passing lanes opened up and the Flyers had some uncontested looks on Lindgren, but they couldn’t break through.

• Dave Hakstol rolled four lines rather consistently but then favored the Valtteri Filppula, Jori Lehtera, Dale Weise trio over the Scott Laughton line in the third period of a close game. It’s trust factor with Hakstol. He felt confident the Filppula line wouldn’t cough up the puck and make a costly play that led to a goal.

• Mrazek was spectacular with several dazzling glove saves in overtime. 

Why this year's Flyers team has been an analytics nightmare

Why this year's Flyers team has been an analytics nightmare

WASHINGTON — At least the Flyers spared us from the throwaway cliché of “If we play like this, we’ll win a lot of games this season” following their 3-1 loss to the Capitals on Sunday afternoon (see observations). 

It’a an all-too overused line that is thrown out there when a team dominates in possession time and by outshooting their opponent by a significant margin, only to be on the short end of the final score — much like the Flyers were in Washington.

It’s hardly believable on a number of levels. 

First, only the elite teams in the league dominate possession consistently over the course of an 82-game season enough to actually believe that, and secondly, the Flyers have proven when they do play like that, they simply don’t win. 

The Flyers have been an analytics nightmare this season when it comes to the metrics of shot totals.

The “Corsi For Percentage” at even strength metric is an easy computation of the team that attempts more shots (shots on goal, blocked shots and missed shots) than its opponent. Over the course of an 82-game season, the conventional wisdom is that the better Corsi teams will win a higher percentage of games.

Quite simply, more volume equates to more victories. 

For the most part, this season has played out like the proponents of advanced metrics would have hoped for. The top ten teams in the CF% metric are currently occupying a playoff spot, while eight of the bottom 10 teams are currently outside the playoff picture. 

Except in the case of the 2018-19 Flyers, who are a completely flawed team in the analytics department.  

Sunday’s game was yet another example of the Flyers dominating possession and shot totals only to lose, and the most puzzling part is that this has been the case all season long.

When outshooting their opponents, the Flyers are a dismal 10-20-2, but when they’ve been outshot, they’re a head scratching 23-12-6. You’d expect those records to be flipped.

Under interim head coach Scott Gordon, those lopsided shot totals are even more tilted. The Flyers' CF% is 43.7 percent in the team’s wins under Gordon and nearly even at 50.5 percent in their losses.

By comparison, the Ottawa Senators, as you might expect, own the worst Corsi For Percentage in the NHL at 45.1 percent, as they’ve played the majority of their games in the defensive zone this season.
But how does one explain the Flyers? 

During their eight-game winning streak in January, the team's CF% was a miserable 41.4 percent when rookie Carter Hart was bailing them out on a nightly basis. Throughout their eight-game winless stretch in December and January, it was a very respectable 52.3 percent.   

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story. 

With the Flyers this season, they seem to be telling us a lie. 

They needed to win the majority of games in which they outplayed the opposition, and to win a handful of games when they didn’t. 

Jakub Voracek may have summarized it best Sunday: “I don’t want to take anything out of this season, to be honest. I had way higher expectations. I think everybody did. It’s really disappointing. It sucks.”

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Capitals 3, Flyers 1: Swept by defending champs as 2018-19 run nearing end

Capitals 3, Flyers 1: Swept by defending champs as 2018-19 run nearing end


WASHINGTON — The Capitals completed a four-game season sweep of the Flyers for the first time since the 2006-07 season following a 3-1 win Sunday at Capital One Arena.

Back-to-back losses to the Islanders and Capitals will almost ensure the Flyers won’t qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The highest point total the Flyers can finish with is 92, if they can run the table over their final six games.

Here are my observations from Capital One Arena:

• The Flyers entered this game having surrendered an average of 42 shots per game over their last five games — the most they’ve allowed in any five-game stretch this season. Against the Capitals, though, they were clearly the better team, controlling play as they dominated in shot attempts by an overwhelming 44-10 margin in the second period alone, but couldn’t generate the game-tying goal. You have to wonder where that energy level was Saturday against the Islanders.

• The Flyers need a Tom Wilson-type player for next season. Wayne Simmonds was that kind of player in his prime, but no longer. The closest they had was Scott Hartnell, who played a similar style.

Wilson was a first-round pick because of his skill level combined with the edge he brings to the ice. The Caps simply don’t win the Stanley Cup without his feisty and chippy play, which was a difference maker in the Cup Final. With his 1-0 goal in this game, Wilson now has a career-high 22 goals this season, four of those against the Flyers.

• Sean Couturier will be my vote for the Bobby Clarke award as the Flyers' MVP this season with his all-around, two-way play, and a second straight 30-goal season.

However, I don’t think Couturier has had a Selke-worthy season like he showed in 2017-18 when he finished second to Anze Kopitar. Couturier was nearly flawless last season in his defensive positioning and his puck management in his end of the ice, but not quite as good this season. He had one of those miscues that led to the Caps' second goal of the game.

• The defensive pairing of Robert Hagg and Radko Gudas had apparently run its course. After the Hagg-Gudas pair looked awful in the game against the Islanders, it wasn't much better in the opening 10 minutes of this game.

The Flyers played much better defensively once interim head coach Scott Gordon paired Hagg with Philippe Myers and Gudas with Shayne Gostisbehere. However, the Flyers were exploited with the fourth line on the ice and Hagg pinching deep with no recognition from the forwards, which led to Jakub Vrana’s breakaway goal.

• Jakub Voracek scored a power-play goal, giving him 20 goals for the season and the sixth time in his last seven seasons in Philadelphia. While Voracek will never be considered a pure goal scorer, this puts him near exclusive company. Only 20 current players have six 20-goal seasons over the last seven seasons.

• Did you catch the delay before the opening faceoff? Phil Varone’s name was on the lineup card submitted to the official scorer, but Varone was a healthy scratch in favor of Justin Bailey. Had the change not been made prior to the faceoff, Bailey would have been ruled ineligible, according to rule 5.2 in the NHL rulebook, and the Flyers would have been forced to play with 11 forwards (which they’ve done a handful of times over the past month).

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