Some observations from the Flyers' 2-1 victory over Nashville on Thursday night:
Ivan’s struggles: I’ll say it again: I believe Ivan Provorov’s issues are physical not mental. I believe he is favoring his left hand and maybe arm, which is why you see him with that glove off or dangling constantly when he is on the bench, and even skating around in between whistles. Whether it’s some nerve issue from the shoulder he injured last season or a new one undetected early into this season, I believe it has affected his passing and shot accuracy, and his quickness to make plays.
The good news: He has become more physical over the last stretch of games and is getting pushed around less in the crease than before. He’s even clearing people out. Sure he shouldn’t have pushed the linesman Thursday night and put his team in a bind with the misconduct penalty that ensued. But I liked what it said about his game. Snarl goes a long way in this league.
Carter’s saving saves: Scott Gordon is right when he says the Flyers haven’t subjected Carter Hart to a 40 or 50 save night yet. But it’s far easier to limit damage when your goalie is controlling his rebounds the way Hart has, or deadening them to get a faceoff.
Some of his best saves Thursday – like when he caught and froze a puck during that second period 5-on-3 after a Flyers defender had broken his stick – were momentum stoppers. Brian Elliott often talks about when a goalie is playing well, he stays calm and lets the puck come to him. Hart, at age 20, is doing that. It’s big.
Gordon’s coaching: It’s hard to tell after two games and zero full practices if Scott Gordon is a better coach than his predecessor or just a new voice in the room. But clearly the Flyers have played a lower risk style over the last two games, their offense often generated by a counterattack. Hell, they’re even blocking shots (23 Thursday night).
But Gordon would have received one of my three stars Thursday for a simple but incredibly smart timeout he called amid the 5-on-3 to allow his personnel-deprived penalty kill unit to take a rest and remain out there.
Provorov was serving a misconduct for pushing a linesman. Andrew MacDonald and Radko Gudas, two other defenseman used on the PK, were serving minors, resulting in the 5-on-3.
“We had two defenseman in the box and Provy was in the locker room ... those two guys are killers and Ghost does not normally kill," Gordon said. "So we had the timeout to take the time to put those guys back out there, or we would’ve had to put two forwards out there to kill and one defenseman. So it was an opportune time for it and there was only like 40 seconds left in the period, so it just gave us a chance to keep those guys out there that were doing a great job.”
That is coaching. And it was at least as important as any goal or save.
I do not know if the previous coach would have done that. I do know that Dave Hakstol’s use of timeouts, and non-use of them in what seemed to be obvious situations, was a recurring postgame question.
C’mon ref: Credit Gordon, amid all he’s had to absorb this week, for thinking on his feet with the timeout. And for getting his team continually refocused among some iffy officiating, including a rather lame effort by at least one referee, Eric Furlatt, last night.
It’s one thing to miss the call, as he did when Couturier was smashed head first into the boards during the third period, forcing him to miss the rest of the game. It’s another to make up what you saw, when you clearly didn’t. I suspect he will hear from the league, but we won’t hear about it.
The sound of children in the background: Perhaps you have the sound of little voices in the background over the last two games. Yes, Radko Gudas’ adorable little girl was one. Scott Hartnell’s brood was there Thursday night.
Is this an offshoot of the new regime? Don’t know, but things sure seem more relaxed around the Flyers these days.