The Flyers secured at minimum the second seed in the Eastern Conference yesterday, in a compelling performance against the Washington Capitals. In a game the Flyers needed if they wanted to keep pace with the Tampa Bay Lightning, they continued their unbeaten record since returning to play.
The intensity of the two teams was evident early with a large scrum occurring less than five minutes into the first period. Penalties were dealt out to Sean Couturier and the Capitals’ Michal Kempny, there would be a total of six penalties in the first period alone.
Along with penalties being a constant factor in this one, the play of Philadelphia’s second line of Travis Konecny, Kevin Hayes and Scott Laughton continued to really impress as they left their imprint on this game.
With around 6:50 left in the first period, Hayes applied great pressure to force a turnover in the corner and then backhanded a pass to Konecny, who then deftly passed it backwards around his body to a wide open Laughton who had an empty net, 1-0.
I mentioned Travis Sanheim’s offensive instincts in my last piece, and he flashed it again after a great play from Hayes. Hayes possessed the puck on the boards and then shielded it, changed directions and took it inside near the top of the slot and floated a perfect pass through the Capital defense to a cutting Sanheim. He then pulled the puck back and went over Braden Holtby’s blocker for a skilled finish.
In the third period, Hayes would earn himself yet another point with another great feed to the front of the net. The emerging presence of Laughton being a key role player continues to grow as he cut to the net and scored his second of the evening. That would make the game 3-0, an accurate depiction of how the contest went. The Capitals would get one goal back, and the game ended 3-1 with the second seed secured.
There were a few takeaways from this one, with a large one being the eight points earned by the Flyers second line. Hayes’ playmaking ability was on full display yesterday, and I think it’s fair to say that his offensive potential is better than what was discussed during last year’s free agency. His ability to win tough battles on the boards and utilize his body to his advantage could be very key in these playoffs when it comes time for a series.
James van Riemsdyk was scratched for this one, as Connor Bunnaman was inserted into the lineup and then took Michael Raffl’s fourth line spot. Joel Farabee also played and took JVR’s usual third line wing position. It could have been Alain Vigneault trying to send a message to motivate him, as no injuries were announced.
Stat of the Day: Alex Ovechkin has been held to zero (0) points in his last five games against the Flyers.
The Flyers play their final round robin game tomorrow against the Lightning, the time has yet to be announced. I am personally looking for the first line to show a little more in the offensive zone. They have not been playing bad by any means, but their second line and bottom six have been playing so well, you wonder how this team could look with their big guns rolling and contributing to the scoring.
We have had problems scoring on Tampa goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy in the past, so it would be reassuring to see a strong offensive game and have players like Steven Stamkos hemmed in their own zone. I would give Carter Hart the start, try to keep him sharp against yet another high-powered offensive team.
This Flyers team has got to be the most exciting thing going in Philly Sports right now.
First seed is on the line tomorrow, stay tuned!
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