The Flyers faced their bitter cross-state rival yesterday afternoon, in their only exhibition clash before the seeding games start. Warming up for the real games against your best rival? Can’t ask for much more. They took the win against the Penguins 3-2, but it took OT to get the job done.
It didn’t take long for the Flyers top line to generate a quality scoring chance, with Sean Couturier springing Jakub Voracek with a great pass to send him in on a mini breakaway. Penguins goalie Matt Murray stood tall with a good save, but it was nice to see that sharpness on the offensive rush.
The Pens went up 1-0 six minutes into the first period, but Couturier tied the game up on a one-timer later on in the period. The Flyers were not done though, as Kevin Hayes capitalized on a brutal turnover by Evgeni Malkin right in front of his own net. Hayes made a nice move to the backhand, and with his reach he slid it around Murray to make it 2-1.
No goals were scored in the second period, but the Flyers appeared dangerous at times. They had a powerplay around the halfway mark of the period, and Voracek was highly active and aggressive. The team was working the puck around sharply, and Jake was just letting shots rip. It did not appear as if the team needed the usual motivation provided from the fans to shoot:
Brian Elliot came in for Carter Hart at the beginning of the third period. Hart looked pretty good in this one and appears to be over whatever back tightness he had been experiencing at the end of camp. Elliot himself was really solid in relief, which is good to see in case he needs to be called upon. He made a huge save off of a Hayes turnover in the defensive zone, and when Pittsburgh tied the game at 2-2, he made two or three saves shortly before that goal.
The game went into overtime, with both teams missing chances to end it. Then Scott Laughton found himself on a breakaway after a sweet saucer pass from his own zone by Travis Konecny. He found the top shelf over Tristan Jarry’s shoulder, and that ended the game. Laughton looked really good in this one, and it kind of encompassed the kind of season he was having. He has found some of his offensive game which has lacked at times in the past, while finally settling into a role he knows and excels at.
The Flyers commentating team of Jim Jackson and Keith Jones made a point to mention Shayne Gostisbehere, and how good of a camp he had leading up to the restart. They even said head coach Alain Vigneault has never seen him this good as long as he has been here. That is huge to hear, as Vigneault is not afraid to be honest and hold players accountable. If the Flyers get a revitalized Ghost, it would be adding a dangerous weapon to an already dangerous offensive team.
Blue-liners such as Matt Niskanen and Ivan Provorov were donning some nice playoff beards already and both were very effective at both ends of the ice. Jackson and Jones also talked about Voracek’s regular season, and how he had his best season plus/minus wise with a +14. A lot of high points for this Flyers squad this season.
The first game to determine seeding is this Sunday for the Flyers at 3 p.m. against the Boston Bruins. The worst the Flyers can do seeding-wise is the fourth seed, so hopefully they can start off on the right foot this weekend to improve their position.
I’ll leave this here, it is always so sweet to take down those Penguins.