Special Teams Propel Flyers To 3-2 Overtime Win

Photo by Frank Fimmano/ Fimmano Photography

Photo by Frank Fimmano/ Fimmano Photography

The Flyers appeared to be cruising to their first victory in four games. A dominant special teams performance in the second gave them a two goal lead with just 20 minutes to play. Then, the third period happened. As the Flyers retreated into their turtle shells, the Canes tied things up late and sent it to an extra stanza. Luckily, special teams play would get another chance to strike for Philadelphia. A power play laser from Shayne Gostisbehere gave the Flyers an overtime win and their first victory in over a week.

When Dave Hakstol rearranged the Flyers’ lineup for tonight’s game, he did so with the hopes of creating a balanced attack and ultimately finding the back of the net. The Flyers were only able to do one of those things in the first period, and unfortunately it wasn’t the one that counts. Philadelphia controlled a good portion of the first period, especially over the first 10 minutes. As the period went on, we did, however, see them revert back to taking mostly benign shots from the outside. Both of their best chances came off the stick of Brayden Schenn. The newfound first liner nearly scored on a backhander early on before being stopped on a penalty shot that you just knew wasn’t going in.

For a team that expected to be able to lean on special teams heavily at times, the Flyers have not gotten the results they need from either special teams unit so far. We’ve known for a while that it wasn’t going to stay like that forever. The second period finally saw things take a step back in the right direction. After a great power play shift by the second unit earlier in the period, Brayden Schenn finally found the back of the net with the man advantage to end their goalless streak. After a couple high quality penalty kill chances early on, Claude Giroux rammed home Sean Couturier’s rebound for a shorthanded goal. This special teams dominance only continued, as Claude Giroux quickly negated a late Canes power play by creating a chance drawing a penalty of his own.

Nursing a two goal lead in the third period, the Flyers became a bit too passive. They’d end up paying for it, as Carolina quickly got within one on a Victor Rask goal. In a turn of events that surprised absolutely nobody given the way things were playing out, Brett Pesce finally knotted things up for Carolina with less than four minutes to play.

Luckily, the Flyers would get another chance to assert their special teams dominance. After Sean Couturier very quickly drew a penalty to start the 3 on 3 overtime, Shayne Gostisbehere very quickly ended things on the power play. Not a pretty win given that the Flyers let a two goal lead slip away in regulation, but it’s not one we’ll complain about getting.

-Just to build on how overdue the special teams results tonight were: The Flyers entered tonight’s game holding the worst PP Shooting Percentage and the second worst SH Save Percentage in hockey. Their power play has scored less frequently than any unit in the NHL despite generating shots more efficiently than all but two of them. This was long overdue, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

-Charlie O’Connor of Broad Street Hockey recently cited the need for Sean Couturier to be more assertive in the offensive zone. There were a couple noticeable instances in the first where some aggression would have been nice from the struggling young center. He is at his best offensively when he uses his size to make strong moves to the net, and he passed up a couple decent opportunities to do so.

-Brayden Schenn made a smart play right before his power play goal. He had a reasonably high quality shot opportunity, but passed it up so that Wayne Simmonds could grab a new stick from the bench and allow the Flyers to keep possession. He’d score just seconds later. It was a heads up decision and it was good to see it get rewarded.

-Say what you want about the merits of Brayden Schenn being on the top line, but it’s tough to argue that it isn’t making the Flyers a more balanced team. Schenn has proven several times to be a guy who can’t necessarily carry his own line as the number one threat. He is also proving that he can compliment skilled players pretty well. After starting the season very poorly, Schenn has put together a few nice games up on Claude Giroux’s wing.

-On that note, Hakstol’s changes worked out well tonight. The Flyers controlled possession well through the first two periods, and the trio of Jakub Voracek, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris Vandevelde were all amongst the Flyers’ possession leaders. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar lineup on Wednesday night.

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