Koutroumpis: Hurricanes-Flyers – A view from the other side

How looking away momentarily can provide more focus

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Peter Koutroumpis

editor@trianglesportsnet.com

RALEIGH, N.C. – You wonder if what you see from your personal lens is truly what it is.

Or is it simply an assimilation of a repeated and constructed set of views that eventually skews your judgement towards a specific mindset.

In the case of the Carolina Hurricanes, currently sitting at 30-30-11 and a very-distant 11 points out of an NHL Eastern Conference wildcard spot following a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, I watched and covered the game from a different perspective.

Perched in my usual spot along press row at PNC Arena, I paid attention to the Flyers’ play and not that of the Hurricanes.

The reason was two-fold – one to work in the capacity of a visiting team online publication and help them in their road coverage, and two to view how an opposing team plays and reacts against the Hurricanes.

Also, since each team had hit an identical recent rough patch, having lost two in a row and winning just once in its last five games, and going 3-6-1 in their last ten, it was an even-up, coincidental comparison to work from.

How would the Flyers, a team formerly in a secure playoff spot but fading fast, react against a team like the Hurricanes, a team needing a win while chasing an elusive playoff spot?

Here are five observations from my venturing to the other side and watching how the Flyers reacted to Carolina’s play.

Over the dots and in the corners

Though eventually topping the Flyers by a 52-48 percentage margin in faceoffs, a stat that Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters espouses to gain and maintain puck possession, the Flyers led in that area for two periods, particularly in the first, winning 14-of-22 puck drops.

At one point, Philadelphia outshot Carolina by a 9-6 margin, but couldn’t get the first goal they needed, thanks to Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward and his defense clamping down around the crease.

It was frustrating, particularly for Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds who had three shots on goal and two blocked in the period.

Defensive breakdowns

While not dominating the opening period, Carolina took advantage of a Flyers defensive breakdown that allowed Jordan Staal time and space to tip-in Jaacob Slavin’s point shot.

Playing too deep in the corner for a loose puck in a crowd of players, Philadelphia defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was caught out of position and his reaching to front for the puck came too little and too late.

While being tagged with five giveaways in the opening period, Philadelphia only gave up the puck five more times for the remainder of the game.

Though getting worn down by an increasingly impactful Carolina forecheck during the second and third periods, the Flyers defense managed to move the puck up for the offense to eventually produce results at the other end.

Even while evening the score near the midpoint of the third, Philadelphia trailed once again.

Though blocking an initial shot from Slavin, the Flyers’ Michael Raffl was caught a stride behind and couldn’t defend the D-man’s rush to the net to front a wrist shot that found the short side over goaltender Alex Lyon’s shoulder.

Special teams

Special teams play made the biggest difference in this one.

For the Flyers, the penalty-kill following a four-minute high-sticking penalty to defenseman Andrew MacDonald late in the second was a turning point, leaving them still only trailing by a goal.

Neither team scored on the power play – Philadelphia went 0-for-2 while Carolina finished 0-for-3 with the man-advantage.

Turnovers

The Flyers didn’t take full advantage of Carolina turnovers in the second, despite earning 10 takeaways.

However, the Flyers evened the score 1-1 with 11:41 remaining in the third.

Defenseman Travis Sanheim, with help from Simmonds, got the puck from Carolina’s Justin Williams along the boards, and put a shot on net that Konecny, under heavy coverage from Noah Hanifin, redirected past Ward.

After recording no shots in the first and frustrated in not connecting on three in the second, Jakub Voracek took advantage of the time and space he had being left all alone in front of Ward as the Flyers trailed by a goal.

Voracek took a feed from Oskar Lindblom, a puck earned while three Carolina skaters looked on, and finished the play with a backhander while falling to the ice and evening the score at two apiece.

An uncontested clear up the boards from the defensive zone from Simmonds, and with no Hurricanes defenders in sight, put Filppula all alone on a breakaway on Ward.

The backhand-forehand finish put the Flyers ahead 3-2 with 5:49 to play.

With Ward out of the net for the extra attacker, Raffl got his stick in front of a Sebastian Aho pass attempt inside the Flyers blue line.

Konecny then saucer-passed the puck back to him in the neutral zone that allowed him to launch it into the open net for the insurance goal with 1:50 left.

Stopping the puck

A 23-save performance from Lyon was the “rock solid performance” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol expected of the young netminder.

Ward finished with 23 stops in the losing effort, many frustrating Simmonds, Konecny, and Voracek during the first 40 minutes of play.

The post denied the Flyers a chance to light the lamp just 30 seconds after the opening puck drop as Ivan Provorov’s backhander hit the iron to Wards’ right.

Ward made several quality saves, particularly in the second, including a glove save on Konecny’s breakaway that maintained Carolina’s 1-0 advantage at the time.

Lyon continued to give his team a chance to stay close, particularly with saves on Hanifin, Lee Stempniak and Aho.

However, giving up four in the final period, particularly Filppula’s breakaway snapper to the blocker side overshadowed the veteran Ward’s effort to defend the Hurricanes net successfully for a full 60 minutes.

Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport

About Peter Koutroumpis 1723 Articles
Peter Koutroumpis is an alumnus of the University of Toronto and Bowling Green State University. Living in the Raleigh area, he has been involved and employed in organized sport and competition as a player, official, teacher, coach, administrator, and volunteer. With more than 25 years of experience in sport event management and programming, as Owner and Managing Editor of the Triangle Sports Network, a set of online sports news sites, he provides a variety of perspectives on the amateur and professional sports landscape including the NCAA, NHL, NBA, PGA, LPGA, and more.