Claude Giroux is back (has been), Michael Raffl is fuego, and Ivan Provorov is perfect.
O Captain! My Captain!
Previous reports of Claude Giroux’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Wednesday night Giroux displayed everything you’d want and dream of a man wearing the “C.” Giroux’s compete level was on full display, winning tough puck battles along the wall and throwing his weight around in those scrums.
It was the Dale Weise goal that really stood out in Giroux’s game last night. The captain was already late into a shift and instead of cruising to the bench, hustled to beat a pair of Oilers to a loose and then dropped the puck to Weise for the goal.
If anyone was concerned with leadership during this tough stretch, Wednesday was a good reminder that Claude Giroux leads by example and still has lots of great hockey ahead of him. His no-look pass across to Voracek on the Weal power play goal was underrated, but his work on the Weise goal was exceptional.
Mo’ Raffl Mo’ problems
Michael Raffl’s hot stretch continued on Wednesday night, finishing off a breakaway and a great stretch pass from Jake Voracek to stretch the Flyers’ lead to 3-1 early in the third. Raffl showed confidence in shooting the puck from well out on the play and beating Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit easily on the blocker side.
Raffl got loose on another breakaway later that he couldn’t get by Brossoit’s blocker, but again wasn’t shy about shooting the puck and showing the confidence that has spawned for the forward over the last seven games (4G, 2A) after going scoreless in 21 games to start the year.
It’s been no secret that the Flyers have struggled to get secondary scoring outside of the Giroux/Couturier/Voracek trio, and getting production from Raffl on the score sheet gives coach Dave Hakstol a versatile player that can be moved throughout the lineup.
Penalty kill comes up huge late
Scott Laughton took a disastrous holding call with less than four minutes left and the Flyers clinging to a 3-2 lead following a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goal. Laughton chipped the puck in past Kris Russell but got his left hand on the shoulder of the Oilers defenseman as he tried to get past him and get to the puck.
It was an avoidable penalty, but the ensuing penalty kill from the NHL’s 26th-ranked unit was enough to seal the win against a dangerous Oilers power play. Brian Elliott was calm in his crease and stood his ground as the Oilers fired pucks into his crease to no avail.
Though social media was in an uproar and expecting another blown two-goal lead after the Laughton penalty, the penalty kill was up to the task and likely saved a point in this one.
Break up the top line!
Game two without the Giroux/Couturier/Voracek trio again yielded good results for coach Dave Hakstol and the Flyers. Simmonds swapping with Voracek hasn’t crashed the first line ship as they produced five points on the night after having a similarly productive outing in Calgary.
As for Voracek, he setup Weal on the power play and worked well with Raffl and Valterri Filppula even if the metics don’t show it. The line finished with a 44% Corsi For on the night, but had a few chances to shoot the puck (Looking at you, Filppula) that could have easily made those numbers seem much better.
You have to figure these combinations will stay the same for a bit as Voracek and Raffl have clicked, and the former is on a tear, providing badly needed secondary scoring. And at this point you could probably put me on that line of Giroux and Couturier and still get production.
Flyers limit time/space for Oilers and their stars
The Flyers did a great job limiting the time and space for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on Wednesday night. There would be long stretches where you would forget McDavid was even out there – and that is impressive.
McDavid saw a ton of Ivan Provorov, and the Flyers second-year defenseman proved to be the perfect solution to slow McDavid. Provorov’s skating ability and positioning kept McDavid from getting loose and burning the Flyers.
The power play had an uneven night
Going in to Wednesday you figured the Flyers would be able to take advantage of the Oilers’ league-worst penalty kill. While that wasn’t necessarily the case in the box score, there was more to it than that.
In the end the Flyers went 1-for-4 on the man-advantage, but also surrendered a shorthanded goal to Leon Draisaitl to start the scoring. On that power play that Draisaitl notched the shorty, the puck movement was great from the Flyers and they nearly took advantage of a very passive Oilers penalty kill.
Wayne Simmonds got a pair of chances in front and the Flyers moved the puck around well but were doomed by a Sean Couturier turnover and a less than ideal play by Shayne Gostisbehere on the ensuing two-on-one against Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.
The Flyers got quality chances against a bad penalty kill, but were only able to pot one goal on the tic-tac-toe passing sequence with Jordan Weal finishing it off in front. The shorthanded goal was disappointing, but the power play overall did some good things and could very well have rewarded more.
Slow start in third was very Flyers
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who later scored, hit the cross bar behind Brian Elliott less than 30 seconds in as the Flyers came out sleepy protecting a two-goal lead to start the third. Andrew MacDonald iced the puck right after and gave glimpses of the recent struggles this team has had while protecting leads.
They were able to withstand the Oilers’ early push and weren’t really threatened until Nugent-Hopkins’ goal with 6:40 left, but showed the nerves playing with leads that plagued them recently but not on this night.
Inside the Flyers’ shot selection
We’ve talked a lot about the Flyers’ tendency to take a ton of shots from the outside, but that wasn’t the case against the Oilers. The broadcast team was all about getting the puck on net from anywhere, but the Flyers did a nice job working around the dots to generate quality chances over quantity of chances.
Weal gets in on the act
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not hard to figure out why the Oilers have the worst penalty kill in the league. They’re far too passive on the kill and almost invited the Flyers to control the puck and generate chances on goal. They’re clearances were also terrible all night.
Anyways, the Oilers penalty kill left both Nolan Patrick and Jordan Weal wide open on top of the crease at different points during the night. The pass to Patrick was tipped away but Voracek’s pass to Weal found his tape and then the back of the net. Credit Weal for finding the soft spot in the defense and keeping his stick on the ice and giving Voracek a perfect target for the pass.
If it looked easy it’s because it was, and it’s good to see Weal getting rewarded with the goal following up another strong performance from the diminutive forward in Calgary.
Bonus: The Rogers Place organist is phenomenal
So not only does the Oilers’ new home look like a spaceship (it does), but the organist inside the arena was just the best last night. The rendition of MGMT’s Kids —a personal favorite of mine— was awesome, and make no mistake there were others too.