Flyers Plus/Minus: Everything goes right in win over Winnipeg

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Photo by Amanda Kurtz

By, Anthony Maiorana(@Philly_Sauce)

It wasn’t too long ago that Flyers fans were left feeling empty and frustrated after Flyers games. The goaltending was mystifyingly bad, and the defense couldn’t hold off opposing teams at all. The Flyers constantly wasted performances by the offense that should have won games. A few days ago, the Flyers lost Michal Neuvirth and the goaltending situation seemed to be falling down a steep hill.

It was statistically impossible for both goaltenders to remain as bad as they were, but the bounceback didn’t seem close. Add to that a number of questionable personnel decisions by the head coach, and Flyers fans were ripping their hair out. That said, the Flyers 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets may have been the turnaround point in the season. If not, it still gives us a decent idea of what the Flyers could be.

The whole spectrum of emotional reactions was reached tonight, here’s the good and the absolutely maddening.

Plus:

Steve Mason: In Tuesday night’s loss to the Ottawa Senators, Steve Mason looked to be improving. A weak wrap-around goal late in the game was his only discrepancy. Against Winnipeg, Mason stood out on multiple occasions as the reason the Flyers were able to hold a lead. He stopped 30 of the 32 shots that he faced for a .938 save percentage.

Mason managed to hold off the Winnipeg offense loaded with Patrick Laine and Mark Schiefle the NHL’s top goal scorer and point producer respectively. It was only the fourth time this season that the Flyers managed to hold a team to under three goals.

 Goals, Goals, Goals: The Flyers offense has been strong to start this season. They’re currently 2nd overall in scoring with 60 goals in 18 games, behind only the New YorkRangers (72 goals). Thursday’s game was no different, though it was the only game in which the Flyers didn’t lose a lead or have to stage a comeback.

The 1st period was all Philly. Schiefle went down in the corner losing the puck to Sean Couturier who turned and put it right over Connor Hellebuyck’s shoulder. It was the Flyers first shot on net, at 9 minutes into the 1st period. It wasn’t the best period, but the Flyers took advantage of chances. The second goal was the Flyers second shot on goal. Matt Read made a diving play, poking the puck ahead to an open Michael Raffl whose quick shot beat Hellebuyck blocker side.

A Mark Streit point shot tipped off of Hellebuyck’s glove to keep the Flyers ahead. In the 3rd, Wayne Simmonds gave the Flyers another two-goal lead that would last the rest of the game, with Brandon Manning putting on the finishing touch with an empty net goal.

Minus:

Personnel decisions: Early Thursday, Shayne Gostisbehere, one of the Flyers important younger players, was named the Philadelphia Pro Athlete of the Year by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association. This is obviously a huge nod to his talent and the impact he had on the team, mostly last season. Hours later, it was mentioned by the Courier-Post’s Dave Isaac that Ghost would be scratched in favor of Andrew MacDonald.

Crossing Broad’s Dan Klausner eloquently breaks down Philadelphia’s problem with Andrew MacDonald

The decision to swap Gostisbehere for MacDonald sent fans into an uproar. Admittedly, Ghost has had a few struggles in the Flyers defensive zone lately, which was part of the reasoning Dave Hakstol gave for sitting the top-pair defenseman.

“It’s an opportunity for him to address some things within his game, an opportunity to watch the game from above, which can help a young player. Beyond that, he’s got to work day to day, go do the work and be ready to play two days from now.” Hakstol told reporters after the morning skate. Fine, let him learn, whatever, adding Andrew MacDonald to the lineup, to this point, was basically asking for a difficult game.

Hakstol also scratched defenseman Nick Schultz, and Roman Lyubimov, a young forward who has been excellent in a bottom six role. Hakstol is following a trend of benching decent or talented players for having off nights while letting players like Andrew MacDonald, Chris VandeVelde, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare continue to play without any “accountability”.

Intangibles:

Flyers twitter is a madhouse this week. In the loss to the Senators, Hakstol kept rookie Travis Konecny from playing in the overtime. That choice and his reasoning broke the camel’s back. Tensions are building with fans and the city is split between those who have already had enough of Hakstol’s “accountability” system that feels too much like Craig Berube’s “accountability” system, and those who are trying to be patient, even if they are confused.

 

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