Yesterday, we had a whole slate of elimination games on deck, including the Flyers, who had a chance to put this one away neatly and punch their ticket to the second round. But, of course, we know the Flyers, and we know that would have been much too easy, so they had to make things interesting. We saw the Flyers make some improvements in some areas, but what really killed them were some mental errors and lapses. It was a pretty deflating 5-3 loss for the Flyers, and now they’re looking to Game 6 on Friday to win one more and advance. We’ll try this again later.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
25—shot attempts on the power play
Probably the biggest story to come out of this one was that the power play finally did something! It looked a little dicey to begin with, as they gave up a shorthanded goal on their first attempt, but the Flyers were really able to bear down after that one, and they had more than an ample opportunity to do so. They had 9:54 on the man-advantage to work with, including a five minute continuous power play, and did they ever work with it. They picked up 25 shot attempts, 17 scoring chances, and seven high danger chances, as they looked really sharp in their ability to maintain possession and generate dangerous chances. The process was sound, and it really paid dividends, to the tune of two goals for Jake Voracek and one for Joel Farabee. In some ways, it felt like they were going zero to 60, after how positively brutal they’ve looked for just about the whole series, but this was an important step. Things are finally clicking for them, and even if we shouldn’t expect for them to put up three on the power play every night, at least we can feel better about their chances of producing something.
.875—save percentage for Carter Hart
One of the other big stories from this one is that it was something of an uncharacteristically shaky game for Hart. We’ve made note already that he’s been pretty stellar through the first four games of this series, and even when the skaters in front were struggling, he was playing well and giving them a chance to stay in the game. But last night we saw him looking more like he was fighting things—his rebound control wasn’t great, and he seemed to be a just a little off on his angles. He did have some defensive breakdowns in front of him making his job a little more difficult, and he did have a heavier workload relative to what he’s seen so far this series—he faced 32 shots, of which he stopped 28—but the fact remains that he just didn’t really seem to be himself in this one. Given his play before, this one, we can feel confident enough that he’ll be able to bounce back for his next start, but this certainly wasn’t his strongest showing.
2—scoring chances against on the penalty kill
The power play is understandably getting the most buzz after this game, but it’s worth noting that the Flyers, overall, also had a strong showing on the penalty kill. They had 9:35 of 4-on-5 time to kill off, and they did well with it. They limited the Canadiens to just seven shot attempts, two scoring chances, and one high danger chance, and also went and recorded four shot attempts, two scoring chances, and two high danger chances of their own, all while shorthanded. They played this one pretty aggressively, and overall, it paid off for them.
Of course, the Flyers did still give up a power play goal, and it was a pretty ugly defensive breakdown in front that left Brendan Gallagher open for that goal, but really outside of that, the Flyers’ penalty kill looked sharp. There was a lot to like about what they brought, even if it wasn’t perfect.
2—goals for Jake Voracek
There’s really no sense beating around the bush with this one—Voracek had a pretty stellar game last night. There was, of course, the fact of the two goals scored, as well as the feed he made to Farabee to set up his goal, and the jump he gave to what had been a struggling power play. But we didn’t just see his effects on the power play, he had a strong showing at 5-on-5, as well. His line continued to do well in their matchup, and Voracek on his own had an adjusted 53.29 CF% (second among skaters) and a 69.80 xGF% (first among skaters), as we saw the Flyers pretty comfortably getting the better of the shot attempt and high danger chance share when Voracek was on the ice. Overall, everything seemed to be clicking for him, and it was a really strong showing, and it’s one that the Flyers really needed.
6—high danger chances for the Flyers
One of the Flyers’ big weaknesses from Game 4 was that they hadn’t really found a way to get to the front of the net and really test Carey Price with any terribly difficult chances. They came out of that one with just one high danger chance at 5-on-5, but we did see them take a step forward in that department in this one. The Flyers totaled six high danger chances at 5-on-5, with none coming in the first period, one in the second, and five in the third, as we saw them making a push late in the game to tie things back up. Six isn’t a stellar total, and we’d still like to see them do even more with this, because as we saw in this one, it’s going to take even more to get to Price at 5-on-5, but this is at least a step in the right direction.
6.34—xGF% for the fourth line
We talked after Tuesday’s game about how bad the fourth line had been, but guess what, folks, it’s gotten even worse. Their underlying numbers in this one, to be blunt, are pretty brutal. On the night, they put up adjusted 24.75 CF%, 14.53 SF%, and 6.34 xGF% at 5-on-5, as we saw them pretty consistently getting caved in just about every time they were on the ice. It just wasn’t working.
And just as much as we don’t like the showing they put up, we have some questions about the decision making behind why we saw them so much and in what situations. The Flyers had just put up some good work to tie the game and pick up some momentum from the Farabee goal, and what do they do? Throw the fourth line and third pair out there, and they immediately get pinned in their own end, break down, and give up the game winner. It’s a situation that, frankly, shouldn’t have happened.
But maybe there is some optimism to be had here—this line clearly isn’t working, and after making the turnover to allow for that goal, we really didn’t see much from Nate Thompson after that. Could this suggest that Vigneault has seen the light, seen that he’s been a detriment to their offensive game all series and is considering a new look, pulling him out of the lineup on Friday? We can’t know for sure, but here’s hoping.