That’s the best way to describe the Flyers’ 2-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
Despite being undermanned because of injuries and sending out a defensive corps half full of AHL-caliber blueliners against one of the best club’s in the NHL on the second half of a back-to-back on the road, the Flyers put together a complete team effort.
This is the sort of win the Flyers need to build on. They showed plenty of character and performed as a cohesive unit. It needs to be used as a turning point for a team that has run into a wall the past couple games.
It was hard to find much wrong with their effort. It was easy, however, to pick out the night’s standout stars. Let’s break it all down:
There aren’t enough words to describe how well Provorov played in St. Louis. To put it simply: He was outstanding. The Russian defender played over 27 minutes (2:28 on the power play, 3:43 while shorthanded), blocked a career-high 10 (ten!) shots, threw five checks and put two shots on target. He was by far the best skater on the ice from either team. During a PK early in the second period, Provorov blocked three shots and was on the ice the entire two minutes. The insane thing? He was stuck on the ice for over three minutes total and is in such great condition that he was ready for his next shift just 45 seconds later. The 20-year-old (yes, he’s only 20 if you haven’t heard), does so many little things well. Late in the second, he blocked a Steen attempt from the slot with his outstretched stick after it looked like the Blues were going to have a clear shot on Neuvirth. Nope. Not with Provorov on the ice. Everything will have to be earned. Bill Meltzer of HockeyBuzz brought up a great point during the game, too. When opponents try to lift Provorov’s stick, they find out the hard way he’s so heavy on the puck that they’re simply unable to knock him off balance. My favorite Provorov moment of the night came in the waning minutes of the game. Tarasenko, an elite goal-scorer in the league, attempted to spin off the boards and Provorov planted him hard into the wall. He cleanly separated him from the puck and the Flyers were able to clear the zone. Tarasenko couldn’t get anything done against Provorov all night long. It was a beautiful sight to behold. After an astounding rookie campaign, Provorov is proving he’s on an even higher level. I didn’t even know that was possible. He’s going to be fun to watch for years to come. The Flyers have a legit stud No. 1 on their hands.
Neuvirth set the tone early. In the first six minutes, he made a big stop on an Alex Pietrangelo blast from the point and flashed the leather with a glove save on Vladimir Tarasenko while the Flyers were shorthanded. His best highlight, however, came in the second period with 12:47 remaining in the frame. Former Flyer Brayden Schenn was bearing down on Neuvirth and fired a quick shot glove side. Neuvirth was up to the task to preserve a one-goal lead for his club. Good thing it wasn’t a power play, otherwise Schenn probably would have buried it. Bottom line: Neuvirth was excellent. He finished the night with 33 saves for his first shutout of the season. The Flyers’ goaltending has been suspect through 14 games and this was a performance they needed. Neuvirth, when healthy, has the ability to take control and steal games. Looks like the Flyers will need him to do that often in 2017-18.
After a rough game against Arizona, Sanheim responded with two outstanding performances in Chicago and St. Louis. He’s really showing flashes of what’s to come. Right now, he’s working on gaining experience and consistency. His composure and resilience says a lot about the type of kid he is. Sanheim just doesn’t let much bother him. When he makes a mistake, he’s quick to correct it. He doesn’t mope, either. In the win over the Blues, he logged 21:02 of ice time and was credited with one hit and a blocked shot. It may not seem like much but he certainly passed the eye test. In the opening frame, he did a nice job stepping up in the neutral zone even though he wasn’t able to take the puck away. He was quick to get back defensively to avoid an odd-man rush, too. That’s calculated, heads-up hockey. On the same shift, he bodied Paul Stastny and Alex Steen in the corner and won a loose puck battle to start a breakout. Later in the game, he made an unreal stretch pass to Travis Konecny on the rush and skated his tail off to insert himself into the play. The puck wound up returning to him at the point and he fired a heavy shot through traffic that Allen had trouble seeing. It’s evident Sanheim is going to eventually be an impact player.
Maybe taking a stupid penalty two minutes into a road game after you just played 24 hours earlier isn’t the best way to kick off the night? Looking at you, Mr. Weise. We know the refs are looking for ticky-tack slashing calls. They were instructed by the league offices to do just that. If you get a whack on the hand, stick, leg or hip, it’s going to result in a penalty. What did Weise do? He chopped Vince Dunn right on the hand. Twice. In a row. C’mon, Dale, that’s just hurting your team right out of the gate. Get your stick down, move your feet and lay the body on him. Oh, and his first shift after sitting in the box for two minutes? Weise carelessly threw a backhanded pass along the boards in the offensive zone to absolutely nobody. His head was down the entire time. It was almost like one of the St. Louis player’s just yelled, “Hey, Dale. Drop it here!” You can’t assume your teammate is just going to be there. Gotta be better than that.
Raffl didn’t play poorly against St. Louis. He was active on the forecheck, made a few nice breakout passes and was credited with one hit. But, offensively, he looks a little lost right now. Maybe even a tad indecisive. Scott Laughton made a brilliant chip pass off the boards in the third period and Raffl showed a great burst of speed to pick the puck up and split the Blues’ defenders. But when he got into the offensive zone, Raffl didn’t even get a shot off. He attempted to wrap around the net instead of firing it from his strong side. His offering got deflected and the puck immediately went the other way. For a guy still searching for his first point of the season, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put the puck on net. Look at Jake Voracek’s first goal of the year. It was an ugly bounce shot off the goalie from behind the net. That certainly got him going. The same could happen for Raffl.
Despite collecting his seventh and eighth assists of the season, Couturier didn’t have his best outing. I may be nit-picking a little but the first-line center was questionable, at best, in his decision-making. At one point in the game, Blues netminder Jake Allen got caught wandering in no-man’s land and Couturier picked up a loose puck behind the net. He took entirely too much time to make a move and the opportunity evaporated. He’s got to try to get the puck to the crease there. Not long after that, Couturier inexcusably turned the puck over in his own zone when he had nothing but time to start a breakout. That’s a big no-no. He had multiple lanes to skate toward or he could’ve dished it to one of three Flyers who were open. Instead, he tried to lift the puck up the middle and it hit St. Louis forward Jaden Schwartz in the slot. The Flyers got pinned on the ensuing pressure but managed to get by unscathed. Couturier owes Neuvirth a thank you.