For 45 minutes of game action, everything was bad.
The Flyers looked flat-out horrid against an Arizona Coyotes team that entered Monday with an 0-10-1 record. They just couldn’t do anything right.
Then, about five minutes into the third period, the Flyers remembered how to hockey and began to chip away at the 3-0 hole they dug for themselves. All of sudden, things were sort of good.
A furious comeback push resulted in two goals in the final minute for the orange and black. The team ultimately fell in overtime, 4-3, but they did manage to steal a point in the standings on a night they certainly didn’t deserve to be in a position to do so.
So who led the charge? Who was in the doghouse? Let’s break it down:
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Couturier gave the Flyers a chance to win a game. It’s become a frequent trend this season. The 24-year-old once again opened the scoring for his club and potted the game-tying goal with just 15 seconds remaining. He’s already collected nine markers – six away from tying a career-high – and 15 points through 12 games. Couturier has done an excellent job asserting himself and continues to put himself in the perfect position to finish plays. Just look at his first tally. Given an opportunity to work with the top power-play unit, Couturier got himself into open ice in the slot and quickly roofed an excellent backhanded pass from Claude Giroux over Scott Wedgewood’s shoulder. And the game-tying goal? Couturier slipped back door and did a stellar job placing his stick on the ice and re-directing another pass from Giroux into the cage. The kid is playing some damn good hockey.
Provorov was an absolute machine in the third period. The 20-year-old Russian was the driving force behind all three of the Flyers’ goals. He was rewarded with three assists and now has two goals and eight points in 12 games. Oh, did we mention his ice time? He played an astounding 28 minutes and seven seconds with Shayne Gostisbehere and Andrew MacDonald sidelined with injuries. He has all the talent in the world to take over a game and that’s just what he did on Monday. Shortly after the Flyers made it a two-goal game, Provorov put a pair of quality point shots on Wedgewood. Neither found the back of the net but the shift did sway momentum more towards the Flyers’ favor. And did you see who took the slapper on Jordan Weal’s rebound goal to make it 3-2? Yep, it was Provorov. He put an accurate shot from distance on Wedgewood’s right pad, allowing Weal to just tap it in. The play Provorov made on the game-tying goal was even prettier. He leaped at the blue line and calmly grabbed the puck out of the air. Do you know how much composure that takes in the final minute of a game you’re trying to tie up? Provorov was then able push the puck down low to a waiting Giroux. Unreal poise all around.
There haven’t been many games this season that the fourth line has been weak. Did they have their best performance against the Coyotes? No. But they were still far from a liability out there. Dave Hakstol started Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl at the first puck drop of the second and third periods for a reason: His team needed to amp it up. Laughton, in particular, did his best to provide the Flyers with some much-needed energy. On the first shift of the second period, Laughton won a faceoff and went crashing into a Coyotes defender behind the net on the forecheck. Then, after the play exited the offensive zone, he immediately won the puck back and utilized a chip and chase zone-entry to reclaim possession. It was a simple but effective play. Laughton also kept the Flyers alive on a penalty kill with just seven minutes remaining in regulation. Him and Leier teamed up keep Arizona off the board at a crucial time. The line’s work isn’t going unrecognized.
Not the best night for No. 93. Voracek was actually quite reckless with his stick all night long. He caught Niklas Hjalmarsson up high in front of the Coyotes net after a whistle while fighting for position. Hjalmarsson exited the game and did not return. In the third period, Voracek sat for four minutes after cross-checking former Flyer Luke Schenn in the teeth. It was an unnecessary play and he shouldn’t have had his stick up to begin with, even if he was jockeying for position. Voracek was also whistled for a two-minute hooking minor in overtime. It doesn’t matter that Oliver Ekman-Larsson held onto Voracek’s stick underneath his arm. You don’t want to take that penalty ever, let alone in overtime. The ref won’t call it if your stick is on the ice.
It’s hard to be critical of Simmonds right now because he’s playing banged up. He’s been fighting through a lower-body injury and took another hard shot off his shin in Monday’s tilt. But it’s easy to see that frustration is setting in. He’s running around a little too much looking for a big hit. In the third period, Simmonds also took a stupid penalty at an inopportune time. He checked a Coyote from behind in the corner when there was no need to make contact in the first place. The puck was already dug out and the player had his back to Simmonds. Just let it go. Especially with your team trying to climb back into the game. It doesn’t help that Simmonds has been left off the scoresheet in four consecutive games. He needs to simplify things and get back to what he’s best at. Grind away in front and pick up the trash.
Elliott wasn’t terrible against Arizona but he definitely could have played better. At times, he made some key stops in a few junctures when the game was on the verge of getting out of control. Then again, he appeared to have some real tracking issues and his positioning was off on several plays (i.e. Jordan Martinook’s tally in the first period). When all was said and done, he finished with 30 saves on 34 shots. It was just frustrating to see him turn away the tough attempts but lose sight of the easy ones. The Flyers need Elliott and Michal Neuvirth to be better. It’s that simple.