Though the Philadelphia Flyers ultimately lost two of three games, it was certainly an exciting week. Against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the offence couldn’t seem to get anything going, allowing the Leafs to shut them out. The team dropped Saturday’s game to the Dallas Stars as well. But on Friday, when the Flyers faced the league-leading Carolina Hurricanes, their defence and goaltending bought the forwards enough time to score two late goals, handing the Hurricanes just their second loss of the season. As usual, certain players shone in this week’s triumphs. Yet other parts of the Flyers’ game were more hindering than helpful.
Each week, we’ll take a look at Philadelphia Flyers players (or units) who are on a hot or cold streak. This week, we’ll examine Carter Hart and the Flyers power play.
Be sure to check out last week’s streaks as well.
Hot and Cold Streaks, Including Carter Hart
Hot Streak: Carter Hart
Very rarely does a player get the hot streak designation twice in a row, but Carter Hart has certainly earned it. Just like last week, he kept the Flyers in games where they were vastly outplayed. In two starts against the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes, Hart made 69 of 73 saves for a .945 save percentage.
The final score of the Toronto game belied how well Hart played. Of the Maple Leafs’ three goals, one was a flukey deflection off of William Nylander’s skate, and two were quick point-blank shots that Hart simply did not have time to prepare for. During the rest of the game, he made stop after stop, including a diving save in the third period to prevent Nylander from completing a hat trick. Though the team did lose in the end, Hart did everything he could to give them a chance.
Then came Friday’s game against the Hurricanes. Going in, few expected the Flyers to win. Yet Hart seemed determined to pull the team through, fending off dangerous chances left and right to buy just enough time for Joel Farabee and Zack MacEwen to find the back of the net. He saved a breakaway chance by Jordan Staal, and then a second try as Staal circled back. He dove across the crease to block a shot from Andrei Svechnikov. And somehow, he managed to stop a wildly bouncing puck during a third-period Carolina power play. In all, Hart saved 39 of 40 shots.
Hart only seems to be getting stronger as the season goes on. If he continues to play as confidently as he has, the Flyers will be in a very good spot.
Honorable Mention: Justin Braun
Despite not getting much recognition, Justin Braun has been quietly excellent for weeks. Based on last season’s sample of Braun on the first line, no one expected him to be able to fill that role again when Ryan Ellis went out with an injury. But, from then to now, he has seamlessly transitioned to playing alongside Ivan Provorov.
In his own end of the ice this week, Braun made intelligent defensive moves on a nightly basis. He broke up numerous dangerous plays, including blocking off a perfect centering pass for Sebastian Aho with his stick. He also landed heavy hits when necessary and was effective in keeping opposing forwards to the perimeter. With an average of a little less 20 minutes on ice per game this week, Braun has been shouldering a much heavier workload than he did on the third pairing—but he’s handled it remarkably well.
Interestingly, Braun has also developed a greater offensive upside. He joins the rush often, and it has paid dividends. Against Carolina, Braun recorded a primary assist on MacEwen’s game-winning goal, adding to his seven points on the season. He now has a goal and seven assists, already surpassing his point total from last year.
As Ryan Ellis reenters the lineup, having Braun to hold down the fort will be a huge asset for the Flyers. And even when Braun moves back to his original role, he’ll hopefully continue to play as solidly as he has on the top pairing.
Cold Streak: The Power Play
The Flyers power play has been struggling for a while now, but this week things really started to fall apart. Though they went on the man advantage 11 times—including one two-man advantage—they failed to score on all but one of them. For the most part, the Flyers were held to the perimeter, getting very few shots on goal. There seemed to be little of the movement that had facilitated some of their early-season success on the power play.
Against Carolina, the man advantage was even worse—not just ineffective, but a liability. At the tail end of a long first-period power play, Jordan Staal jumped out of the box and got a step on Keith Yandle, resulting in two point-blank chances. Then in the final five minutes of the game, a lost faceoff and whiffed pass led to a shorthanded two-on-one that had the potential to tie the game at two. Luckily, Hart was looking sharp. But he should rarely, if ever, have to make saves like that when the team is on the power play.
Fortunately, there is hope. The Flyers’ most recent power play was a successful one, with Provorov scoring on a blast from the point. Furthermore, the returns of Kevin Hayes and Ryan Ellis will provide a much-needed boost on the man advantage. Ideally, the Flyers power play will improve from here on out. But if it doesn’t, generating enough offence to win games will be an even greater challenge.