(Photo: Kate Frese)
By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
The Flyers won three games on the road trip, and you would be hard-pressed to find one that was complete and without some adversity. The Flyers still have their flaws. The only difference is they have been winning.
Those flaws showed up again on Thursday night and nearly cost the Flyers two points. Instead, a frantic rally and another game-winner in overtime from Ghost earned two points in a wild win over the Arizona Coyotes.
Let's break it down in our Postgame Review.
The penalty kill problems are no secret though. It may be more alarming watching the Flyers power play struggle as much as it is. The Flyers had four power-play chances in the game. On three of them, they were lucky to get set up. On the other, they not only didn't generate anything, they surrendered two shorthanded goals to a team that has been racking them up at a record pace on the young season.
It's easy to see where the Flyers penalty kill falls short. The effort anymore is to win the opening face-off, clear the puck immediately and hope the other team never sees the attacking zone again. If they do manage to get set up, the Flyers become too passive and the puck ends up in the net shortly after, unless their goalie manages to bail them out.
But the power play's problem doesn't appear to be systematic. A lot of it is in the execution, and players are trying way too hard to be the hero when a simple approach would likely do the trick. Now, of course, part of that is coaching. If something isn't working from an execution standpoint, a coaching staff needs to reenforce the strategy. It doesn't appear that the Flyers do much adjusting at all. That might be the power play's biggest problem.
Either way, the Flyers penalty kill was already a known problem and now the power play is joining it.
Laughton has really emerged into the perfect role player. Even on a terrible penalty kill, he's been solid. He's already scored six goals on the season, so his career mark will certainly be reachable. He's brought an energy to games that has been lacking.
Perhaps the biggest shame is that he only sees the ice in small amounts. Laughton was the Flyers best player in Thursday's game and played just 9:14. It did seem like as the third period wore on, the Flyers were getting him more involved and his fourth-line mates — Jori Lehtera and Nicolas Aube-Kubel — had their time cut.
Either way, the Flyers may need to find a way to get Laughton out there more, because he's been very effective at driving play.
When the Coyotes scored shorthanded for the first time, I would have left Cal Pickard in like Hakstol did, but I also would have taken a timeout, settled the troops and given them a breather to regroup, almost a reminder to not let something that can easily frustrate a team grow into something bigger.
Just 24 seconds later, another shorthanded goal had been scored. It was time for Hakstol to unleash the full artillery of moves a coach can make to wake his team up. Pickard was out and a timeout was called.
The timing was right on the goalie change, but the goalie change and the second shorthanded goal may have been prevented if Hakstol slows the game down there instead of letting the frustration take control, even for just 24 seconds.
Laughton's goal was purely hard work. It was honestly shocking that Dale Weise didn't score there. Oskar Lindblom was digging away in the crease. And Laughton came through as the late man and found the loose puck before anybody else could.
Move forward to the halfway point of the period. The Coyotes didn't get a ton of quality chances in the third period, but Dylan Strome had a glorious chance in front and Brian Elliott snagged it out of the air. That save was key to the Flyers comeback, even if it didn't seem like it at the time. And Elliott deserves a lot of credit for coming on in relief — in a game the Flyers probably would have liked for him to remain on the bench — and shutting out the Coyotes from there.
Now on to the tying goal. This was one of the first times the Coyotes had been buzzing in the offensive zone. It was a great play by Shayne Gostisbehere to read the potential pass and then spring Weise.
Weise is not the fastest player, obviously, so he didn't really get the edge on the breakaway that you like to see. He actually nearly lost the puck on the shot attempt, but recovered and lifted it perfectly over the shoulder of Darcy Kuemper to tie the game. It came at a great time too. With nine minutes left in regulation, play had stopped and there wasn't another stoppage before that goal, nearly seven minutes of uninterrupted play.
As for the overtime goal, call this the Flyers usual top three redeeming themselves for a terrible 13 seconds on Saturday. Jake Voracek's work on the puck was excellent, and as he has been so many times before in his young career, Gostisbehere put himself in the right spot to let one go. It didn't come without a little luck. The shot didn't appear to be completely on target, but hit the stick of Michael Grabner and deflected in.
In the end, it's a comeback win for the Flyers that gives them another two points and, believe it or not, moves them within a point of the Metropolitan Division lead in a three-way tie for second. Seriously.
Just like on the road trip, the Flyers scored first, the fifth straight game that's happened. They didn't stop there and Laughton scored his first of the night at 5:47. That quickly, it was a 2-0 game and the Flyers had all the momentum. It was exactly the kind of start the home fans want to see.
The first penalty, which of course led to a power-play goal for Arizona, killed that momentum. The Flyers were dominating the first seven minutes of the game, and that quickly, let it slip away and didn't recover it until the third period.
The start was nearly perfect, but the next 30 minutes were a nightmare. That's what the Flyers need to clean up on the rest of the homestand.
"We would rather take the lead and keep the lead all game, but it shows character and our team did a great job coming back and staying true to ourselves and playing our game." – Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov
"Bottom line is, I said it a couple weeks ago, sometimes you just have to sack up and get a character win and that’s what tonight was. Coming off of a long west coast trip, playing a couple of days later, whatever it is, you know there’s going to be some tough moments and some sloppy play. We showed that. We had some uncharacteristic play and turnovers from some guys, especially in the first half of the hockey game and that put us in a bad spot. Yet, guys had the resiliency, the push, the drive and togetherness to turn it around and push back the other direction. We’re going to take a ton of positives out of it and look at the ugly stuff tomorrow." – Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol
By the Numbers
The Flyers had eight high-danger scoring chances in the third period, and that's evidence by the heat map below. The Flyers have done a much better job of late getting chances from the slot and there were plenty of them in this game. The Flyers had a 66.67 CF% in the third period (26-13 in shot attempts).
Stat of the Game
Oskar Lindblom picked up an assist on Laughton's second goal. That's a five-game points streak for him. He also played 16:03 of the game.