(Photo: Kate Frese)
It's finally over. After eight games of pure misery, the Flyers returned to the win column on Thursday night with a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars.
While this was far from perfect for the Flyers and their play still showed some of the familiar flaws that had them on a lengthy losing streak to begin with, this was also a game where the Flyers got some bounces, played to their strengths in the game and got some help from the guy in goal.
More in our Postgame Review.
- Carter Hart - Sometime soon enough, Carter Hart will have his first shutout at the NHL level. He 6:44 short of it in Florida. On Thursday, he was 2:51 away. It's going to happen soon enough.
But playing in the NHL isn't all about shutouts, it's about earning your team wins. Hart did his part on Thursday, making 37 saves, a new career high in his eighth appearance.
It was not the number as much as the way he did it though. Hart has played in eight games now. He won his first two, then lost his next five, including a clunker in Carolina. But look at the other losses. Hart was on the wrong end of a 4-3 decision against Columbus, one where he made several great saves and didn't have the protection from teammates he did in his first two starts. He was on the hook for a hard-luck loss in Florida, 2-1, where both goals were virtually impossible to stop. He was on his way to another win against Calgary before his teammates let him down on two plays, one late in the third and the other in overtime, to turn that into a loss. Against St. Louis on Monday, he made 34 saves and allowed only two goals, but got no support at all.
So far, Hart hasn't been the problem in seven of the eight games he's played in, but the Flyers have just three wins. For once, goaltending isn't the area where the Flyers are getting hurt.
In this game, you can see why. Hart is very stable and sound. He's calm and composed the whole way through. If he's square to the shooter, chances are he will stop the shot. For a change, you aren't seeing the opposition score goals that a goalie needs to stop. They are scoring on plays where the goalie has no chance because the defense blew the coverage or something of the sort.
It's been a question whether Hart should remain here because the team isn't going to miraculously become something special in the next week and reverse this stretch of poor play. But Hart is not failing at this level, so why send him back when he has easily been the most stable and consistent option the team has seen in goal so far. At 20 years old, that's saying something.
- Travis Konecny - I'll say this for Travis Konecny. He's one of the few players that looks like he cares with the way he plays on the ice, night in and night out. There's not an energy problem with him.
Konecny scored the first goal of the game early in the second period, a just reward for the level of play he's displayed in recent games. When you watch him play, you still see the player who has the ability to get under the skin of the opponent.
If the Flyers have changes coming to the playing roster, Konecny will not even be a thought. He's got too much potential to be part of any rebuild, especially for how early it is in his career.
- James van Riemsdyk - This is the type of game the Flyers have been looking for out of JVR. Just look at his second period and you see why the Flyers felt they could get some added offense out of him.
On Konecny's goal, van Riemsdyk did the hard work, corralling a rebound from a Radko Gudas shot and turning a backhand pass to the front of the net. All Konecny had to do was put his stick on the ice.
van Riemsdyk also ended up with the game-winning goal, getting a deflection at the side of the net that hit a skate and bounced in, a little puck luck for the Flyers in this game. But that's supposed to be JVR's office and with the Flyers on a delayed penalty call and set up like a power play, JVR was right where he needs to be.
- The Third Period - For as well as Hart played, you have to give the rest of the Flyers credit for their hard work in the defensive zone, taking away a lot of quality chances from the Stars and keeping them out of the danger areas for most of the period.
In total, the Flyers blocked 18 shots, seven alone by Christian Folin. It seemed like every time Dallas tried to get set up or into a rhythm, a Flyer got in the way, disrupted a pass or tried to attack the puck carrier and never allowed time to set.
That's the kind of defensive commitment that wins games. It's a good lesson for a lot of players, that when you play for the team and put the team's best interests first and give everything you have to not only protect a lead, but not completely sit back, you can succeed. That's been missing far too often from the Flyers this season.
- Step in the Right Direction - A win is a win, and after going nearly three weeks without one, the Flyers will take this one.
But again, it comes down to the approach. It wasn't the best game by the Flyers. The first period was sloppy as a whole. In the second period, the Flyers were clearly the better team. In the third, there was a commitment to finishing the job.
For the better part of 50 minutes or so, it looked like Dallas was playing down to the Flyers. Something was just not right about their game, not for a team that had won five of seven entering this game and coming to face a very vulnerable team. But you have to take whatever is there in front of you. In this case, the Flyers had an opportunity to catch a Dallas team that has been fairly decent this season on an off night.
So this is a step in the right direction for the Flyers. Perhaps this is the start of some sustained success, or maybe this was just a night where everything worked in the Flyers favor. That will be up to them the next time they take the ice.
By the Numbers
This was a pretty lopsided numbers battle. The Stars had a 61.36 CF% for the game at 5-on-5, including a 65 CF% in the second period and 67.65 CF% in the third. The Stars also had eight high-danger scoring chances to six for the Flyers for the game.
Stat of the Game
It hasn't been common this season, but the Flyers came out on the losing end of the face-off battle. Dallas had a 52.5 percent success rate on face-offs.