Friday, November 27, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Nashville Predators

                                                                                        (My photo of post-game presser prior to head coach Dave Hakstol's arrival.)

The November 27, 2015, Black Friday contest featured a matchup of coaches Dave Hakstol and Peter Laviolette, who famously led the orange and black from early in the 2009-10 season through the third game of the 2013-14 campaign.

Hakstol's Philadelphia Flyers entered the contest with a 7-10-5 record (19 points). Laviolette's Nashville Predators' mark was 12-6-3 (27 points).

Introductions

Flyers starters: Goaltender Michal Neuvirth. First line: Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl. Top defensive pairing was Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto

Predators starters: Goaltender Pekka Rinne. First line: Calle Jarnkrok, Eric Nystrom and Gabriel Bourque. Top defensive pairing was Shea Weber and Roman Josi.

First period

Flip Forsberg opened the scoring for the Preds with his third tally of the season at 1:44. His short side shot was assisted by Mike Ribeiro and James Neal.

Del Zotto countered with his first goal of the season at four minutes into the game. His cut to his left and sent a laser over Rinne's left shoulder. Schenn and Giroux earned assists.

TOI Leaders were Gudas, Del Zotto, Weber, and Roman Josi.

Second period

Back and forth action is the best definition of what took place in this frame. In keeping with what can mostly be described as varied, lackluster play during the month, the Flyers exited the first period in a 1-1 tie.

The Predators seasonal offensive advantage hadn't factored into the game as the second intermission began.

Voracek's continued presence on the third line with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris Vandevelde remains telling, of both the player and the team. His appearance on the second power play unit, with Matt Read and Michael Raffl, deepened that reality.

Third period

Colin McDonald scored his first NHL goal at 4:57, putting the Flyers ahead 2-1. Assists were offered by Evgeny Medvedev and Scott Laughton. The marker came on a short-side shot past Rinne off a rebound. Philadelphia had overtaken the Predators in shots (25-23) by this point in the game.

Laviolette pulled Rinne with just over a minute to go in the game. His forced strategy worked, as Mike Fisher lifted the puck over a fallen Neuvirth with 20 seconds showing on the clock until the final buzzer. Forsberg and Josi assisted on the game-tier.

Overtime

The openly embraced 3-on-3 overtime ensued with each team taking game-ending chances through the first few minutes of action. But, a too-many-men on the ice penalty was assessed to the Preds with 2:20 to go.

Shayne 'Ghost' Ghostisbehere's power play goal won the game with 52 seconds remaining in OT. It was his third goal of the season, with assists to the temporarily reunited tandem of Giroux and Voracek.

Ghostisbehere later said, “It’s a fun ride right now and I don’t have any plans of getting off it. I mean I’ve never scored that many OT winners in my life so I mean it’s a surreal moment but I’m going to keep going and I’m looking forward to New York.”

After the game, Hakstol commented on how he felt his team played with the lead today. "We did a much better job I thought then we did a few nights ago. We were playing tonight, you always know on the bench when guys are talking about the right things and trying to do the right things, that’s a good step.”

Laviolette's remarks about chance totals and his goalie were familiar, based upon his post-game demeanor during his Philadelphia years. “We probably had 25 chances tonight. Quality chances. So there’s 20-25 good chances so there was Peks.  He played a good game in net. He made a back door save on a nice turnover. A couple of point plays chances and he made a save on Wilson’s rebound in tight. We had a lot of looks.”

Takeaways

The win could be a nice confidence builder for the Flyers during the holiday weekend.

'Ghost' is a clear difference-maker, whose play could enable him to remain on the squad indefinitely.

Saturday's game at Madison Square Garden calls for a quick turnaround. The 1:30PM ET start not only means a shortened period of reflection until the next puck drop. The Flyers' opponent leads the Metropolitan Division with a 16-4-2 record (34 points), ranks first in the National Hockey League in goals against and fifth in the League in goals scored. The Blue Shirts entered play on Friday tied for second place with the Dallas Stars for most points in the NHL. The Montreal Canadians' performance (17-4-2, 36 points) led the pack through the day that honors commerce in the United States.

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