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Hawks Hits: Flyers Shoot Early & Often in Victory Over Blackhawks

Greg Boysen Avatar
February 21, 2024

The last time the Philadelphia Flyers came to town, Jonathan Toews played his final game in a Chicago Blackhawks uniform and possibly in the NHL. Tonight’s matchup didn’t have quite as much historical interest, but we can save that for Sunday! The visitors were aggressive with the puck all night long, and it paid off in a 3-1 victory.

The Flyers entered the night a little banged up, and despite just four wins in their last 10 games, they still held down third place in the Metropolitan Division standings. Very few people predicted them to be holding onto a playoff berth this late into the season. Meanwhile, Connor Bedard looked to continue his impressive play, which has seen him score two goals and six points in his first three games back from a broken jaw.

John Tortorella’s game plan was obviously to shoot early and often. They struck first when defenseman Travis Sanheim’s shot from the right point deflected off Alex Vlasic’s stick and got in behind Arvid Soderblom. Just over a minute later, Colin Blackwell used a beautiful toe drag to score his fourth goal of the season.

The Blackhawks could have had two more goals, but Samuel Ersson robbed Taylor Raddysh with his glove on a 2-on-1 and then got just enough of the puck with his stick end to deny Tyler Johnson a breakaway goal.

Travis Konecny, who had four points the last time he was here, beat Soderblom up high to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead early in the second period. The play came seconds after Anthony Beauvillier passed up a shot on a 2-on-1 rush and turned the puck over instead. Garnet Hathaway doubled the lead eight minutes later by swiping home a rebound, finishing off the scoring for the night.

The Flyers finished the night with 68 shot attempts, with 61 coming in the first two periods. The Blackhawks had 25 shot attempts in the third period to finish with 57.

Jay: Connor Bedard Taking Control Offensively

Missing 14 games seems to have lit a fire under Connor Bedard. Not to say he wasn’t playing hard and with intensity before he broke his jaw, but since his return, he’s been in “F-it” mode offensively. In Wednesday’s loss to the Flyers, Bedard took it upon himself to create scoring chances on his own several times. While his efforts didn’t result in goals, they certainly created several good looks.

We asked Nick Foligno about Bedard’s approach when he joined us in-studio on Tuesday. “The level of speed that he’s playing at…he’s not trying to slow the game down. He’s actually now accelerating it a little bit. Now he’s realizing, ’I can go.’ It’s great to see the confidence he’s come back with. He wants it. He wants to be a difference-maker. He wants to be the best, and he’s going to drive a lot of what we’re trying to do.”

This is just a glimpse of what’s to come with Bedard. During the second intermission radio broadcast, Troy Murray marveled at the growth Bedard has already shown from his first handful of games to today. Murray praised his coachability and work ethic. Rest assured…if there’s part of Bedard’s game that needs improvement, Bedard will obsessively work to overcome those shortcomings. 

Greg: Better Performance for Arvid Soderblom, But Same Results

If it weren’t for Lukas Reichel’s struggles and demotion to the AHL, you could argue that Soderblom has been the biggest disappointment this season. While his first season in the NHL wasn’t great, it was hard to properly judge a young goalie playing behind a depleted roster for the last third of the season.

Because Soderblom had a 2.83 goals-against average (GAA) and .913 save percentage (SV%) in two seasons with the Rockford IceHogs, there was a belief that he could factor his way into the long-term plans. All three of us predicted he would start more games than Petr Mrazek this season. As we all know, that prediction was incorrect.

Soderblom has only two wins on the season, both coming against the Toronto Maple Leafs, with a subpar 4.01 GAA and .873 SV%. He wasn’t awful in his last start against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure, they scored on the game’s first shot, but leaving Sidney Crosby wide open is not something you can pin on the netminder. He made 23 saves, but many looked to come on luck, not skill. Watching from my perch in the press box, he seemed very unsure much of the night, wasn’t seeing the puck until it was right on him, and was giving up big rebounds. These are issues that have plagued him all season.

“The last four to five games have been much stronger, so that’s good,” head coach Luke Richardson said after morning skate. “Even in practice, his compete levels has been high the last week here that I’ve noticed. So, that’s what we hope continues, and we’ve got to make sure that we play as well as we do in front of Petr in front of him, and probably even more so because, the last few games, Petr’s workload has been high.

“We want to make sure we just give Arvid the shots that he’s supposed to have and nothing to the backdoor or nothing that’s surprising to a goaltender where it creates untrust, where it makes a goalie sink into his net. We want him to be big and strong, like those games against Toronto early in the year; he was so good. And tonight, a team like Philadelphia is going to be a good match because they’re always hovering around the net and second chances around the crease, and that’s where Arvid usually shines. And we’ve got to make sure that we just protect all those vulnerable areas for him.”

Soderblom was under fire early as the Flyers came out firing. They had 38 shot attempts in the opening frame, with 16 getting on goal. The only one that got by him wasn’t one you can pin on him. Konecny’s goal was an excellent shot, but you can argue that a save could be made on it.

The third Flyers’ goal was a product of another Soderblom rebound. However, Jarred Tinordi has to do a better job of preventing Hathaway from getting to that puck. He was nowhere to be found, chasing the puck out by the right faceoff dot. When you have a goaltender prone to giving up rebounds, the defensemen need to have better awareness and get bodies on guys or at least tie up their sticks.

The Blackhawks didn’t lose this game because of Soderblom. His counterpart, Ersson, had more to do with that. However, it would be nice to see the second-year netminder steal a game before the end of the season, but you need more than one goal to do that.

Mario: Is Colin Blackwell Part of the Rebuild Bridge?

Tonight’s goal from Colin Blackwell was his fourth of the season and 69th career point. Nice. After missing a big chunk of the season following sports hernia surgery that ended his 2022-23 season, Blackwell came back to the lineup with a ton of jump in his game. While his point production hasn’t jumped off the page, Blackwell’s professionalism and work ethic has made him a stalwart on the Blackhawks roster this season.

He’s turning 31 in March and is on an expiring contract. We’ve seen extensions given-out by Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson this season to Nick Foligno, Jason Dickinson, and Petr Mrazek, but could Blackwell be a part of that list of players to sign a one-year or two-year deal to bridge the gap between the “rebuilding Blackhawks” and the “resurgent Blackhawks?”

I believe there are a number of players who are on UFA or RFA expiring deals that you can pencil-out of the picture for the 2024-25 season and Blackwell is one that I still feel like is on the fence. He has seven points in 27 games this season, following last season where he posted two goals and ten points. There’s value in having veterans around that play the way Luke Richardson wants this team to play and players who can be a conduit to that message between the coaches and the younger players as more prospects make the jump to the NHL over the next season or two.

If I had to make the decision today, Blackwell is back for next season.

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