Some observations for your morning
Welp, it looks like fortunes have finally caught up with the Flyers. They avoided the Vegas flu, and were met with just some tough breaks at home for the rematch. So it goes, I guess.
All stats via Corsica.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com
1. Flyers spending a lot of time in the offensive zone early
That’s it. That’s the end of the statement. They were there.
The feeling entering the first intermission was one of overall strangeness. It was a weird period. The puck was taking weird bounces all over the place. Players on both sides looked like they were doing a fair bit of scrambling. And it felt like the Flyers were spending a lot of time in the zone, but weren’t able to really do anything. It is, of course, difficult to quantify “feel,” but we’ll take our best shot here (sorry).
Given the amount of time the Flyers spent in Vegas’s zone, it seemed a miracle that they made it to the first intermission with only nine proper shots on goal. But it wasn’t like they weren’t doing anything. Looking closer, in the first twenty minutes, they were able to accrue 22 total shot attempts, giving them the edge over Vegas, who put up 18. So, despite the lack of results on the scoresheet, the Flyers put up a good effort early, which was an encouraging sight. It wasn’t particularly pretty, and they could have benefited from a few fortunate bounces, but they weren’t getting buried, either.
2. We jinxed it
Oh man. Guess we got too excited about it, huh? The penalty kill was doing well but now it’s bad again. Was this the BSH jinx again? We’re sorry.
Okay, let’s take a step back. Things were not great but also maybe not horrible? Let me explain.
Technically speaking, the penalty kill was not perfect. In real time, we watched them collapse deeper and deeper in the zone, bearing down on Petr Mrazek, and had a pretty good sense of what was to come. But the goals themselves were fluky—the first was a deflection off Mrazek’s stick, and the second was a quick pass, a rebound, and a Golden Knight in just the right spot to capitalize on it. Were they preventable? Absolutely. The Flyers had there moments of excellent pressure (see: the play that resulted in the Claude Giroux breakout attempt) but there they were caught lapsing. But it wasn’t all bad.
Of course, we can try to justify this all we want, but in the end, it was still two goals against that likely could have been prevented. And, as players and coach alike highlighted after the game, they’re just going to have to find a way to be better.
3. Mrazek time again!
Well would you look at that! No surprise here. After little short of a stellar performance on Saturday against Winnipeg, Petr Mrazek was slated as the starter for last night’s game against the Golden Knights. It would be another high powered offense that he would be facing, and he would need to be in top form, precise, if he hoped to fe—oh my god Petr what are you doing?! Get back in your net!
Okay, so the early part of the game saw a bit of roughness for Mrazek. He dipped out of his net to play the puck, ended up turning it over, and was left out of position, scrambling to stop the shot. He did. So it was fine. But it was not fine, if you feel me.
But the rest of the game saw things evening out, more or less, for Mrazek. He faced some tough shots—nine high danger on 29 shots in all situations—and made some big saves, but the three goals allowed still stand. He would have needed to be both nearly perfect and incredibly lucky to stop those, but they still stand. And sometimes that’s just what happens—you get unlucky, you get outplayed. And you just have to regroup and be better next time.
4. High danger chances
Buckle in, friends, you’re not going to like this one.
When we talked a few points above about the weirdness of feeling of the first period, there’s something we left out. If you still felt like, despite the pressure, or presence, or what have you that the Flyers were putting up was disproportionate to what they were giving up, well, you’d be right, in a way. Looking at the first period, the Flyers were only able to generate one high danger chance, while they allowed four, one of which turned into a goal against.
But things turn around after the first period. In the final forty minutes, the Flyers recorded 17 high danger chances while only allowing five more from the Golden Knights. They took control in this area for the end of the game, and while two goals were their reward for this work, they stood to benefit further from it. Marc-Andre Fleury came up big for Vegas, as did whatever celestial being that controls the puck luck on a given day, and the Flyers were robbed more than once. Does that make this any easier to swallow, knowing that the Flyers were doing solid work in generating high quality chances? Maybe not, I’ll let you decide that. But, at the very least, it was a nice introduction to the type of work they’ll need to be putting in on Thursday against Columbus.
5. What do we need here?
Do you ever feel like something’s missing? Did you have this particular feeling as we wound our way out of the first intermission? Was it a rush from the top line, leading to a scoring play that you were wanting? Well, if so, the Flyers had you covered.
After Valtteri Filppula’s line got the period started with a bit of movement and little consequence, the puck was left rattling around the neutral zone as each side fought to pick up control. From here, it was up to Travis Konecny to collect it and send it over to Sean Couturier, who got it moving into the offensive zone, and all that was left was to feed Giroux in his spot inside the left faceoff circle, and it was a laser into the goal. It was an effective, full-line effort, and it’s exactly what we never grow tired of seeing.
And this was, largely, the story of the game for the top line. Despite not dominating at 5-on-5, they held their own and brought a bit of flash. They had their chances—three shots and two scoring chances between the lot of them—and were able to convert on the one to get the Flyers on the board. Would we have liked to see more? Absolutely. But this, paired with the defensive work they did against Karlsson’s line will have to do.
But this also brings us to our next point…
6. Matching up
A surprising thing and a not so surprising thing happened last night.
Surprising: Dave Hakstol opted not to match the Filppula line against the Golden Knight’s top line (as he did on Saturday against the Jets), and instead went one-for-one, most often using the Couturier line against Vegas’s Karlsson line.
Less surprising: as a result, none of the Flyers’ lines were blown out.
By the numbers, it was the Couturier line that faced the biggest struggle, averaging an adjusted 40.12 CF% at 5-on-5. So, despite the bit of flash we saw from this line, as noted above, we still saw them outshot at 5-on-5 by a not insignificant margin. They weren’t thrashed, but they weren’t able to dominate in the way we’ve seen them able to do. But, hey, they didn’t allow any goals while they were on the ice, either.
But where the top line struggled, the other three flourished, with each of the other three lines averaging and adjusted CF% above 50 at 5-on-5. Given less of a defensive load, they were afforded the space to foreground offense. And while they weren’t able to close on their chances, the process remained solid, and bodes well for future results.
7. Another (sort of) welcome back!
We know, we know, he’s been back since last week against Pittsburgh, but Wayne Simmonds was really back last night. And where better to showcase that than where he shines—on the power play. After two unsuccessful attempts, which still saw him working well in the net-front to try to pick up deflections, frustration was mounting with the Flyers’ power play. And, with them down a goal nearing the halfway point of the third period, when they were given another chance to even things up after McNabb’s hooking penalty, they were needed to come up big. And, boy, did they ever.
Just over thirty seconds into their shift, the Flyers’ first unit was looking their sharpest they had all night, moving the puck around the zone at a good clip and working to open up lanes and chances. And before we knew it, one did just that, and it was Simmonds, not from the front of the net, but from the edge of the left circle, who was able to knock it home, tying things up.
And, of course, this doesn’t erase the struggles that the power play’s been having,or negate the fact that they still have work to do, but it’s the first step towards a bit of consistency, and it’s a step in the right direction.
8. Powers that be… please
How long can we keep harping on this same point? Until we get what we want! What do we want? An Oskar Lindblom goal!
Despite the lack of results on the scoresheet, we never seem to get tired of saying that he had a very solid game yesterday/last night. And Monday’s game was no exception. Lindblom recorded an adjusted 63.69 percent CF% at 5-on-5 (third among all Flyers), and put up two shots against the Golden Knights—both of which were high danger chances—and found himself robbed on both occasions. He’s working well to establish himself as a presence both behind the net and at the front, almost exclusively working to create high danger chances. It’s a method that’s bound to produce for him sooner or later, once the bounces finally start coming to him. But, at the very least, he’s generating chances well, and looking distinctly settled at the NHL level.
9. Loose ends
We’re nearing the end of our article, and I still have a few small, lingering thoughts that I want to included, here. So, quick hits it is.
First, Charlie made the point last night that it seems like Travis Sanheim just cannot catch a break. He takes a penalty late in the game and it gives way to a Knights power play, and the Flyers let in a fluky goal. And that’s rough. But what’s worth noting what happened after that: he was allowed to play. He wasn’t stapled to the bench for the remainder of the game, as we’ve seen Hakstol do after rookies make costly mistakes. And that’s not nothing.
Second, there’s no way around it, this was a rough one. The Flyers were dominant through nearly the entirety of the game, but still came up short.
Somehow the Flyers lost in the last five minutes of regulation /again/.
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 13, 2018
And Shayne Gostisbehere summed it up best after the game: “we’re letting these games get away from us.” The regular season’s winding down, the games are getting tighter, and they’re going to need to find a way to bear down as they close this out.
And finally, a note on opportunism. You hate to nitpick like this, but if you think back to Konecny’s breakaway later in the game, where he was eking closer to the crease, had a chance, and tried for a pass—and he’s got to take that shot. And this isn’t us trying to slam him, exclusively, this is something we’re seeing all around. The team’s overthinking, looking for the perfect play and missing their chances. And, of course, you want to be at least somewhat thoughtful, and work to create higher quality chances, but there’s also something to be said for taking that too far, and getting wrapped up in the thinking and giving up chances to act.
10. The only damn thing I know
So, I had a whole spiel planned out in my head after the first period, about how it was really touching how warm the reception was for Bellemare on his return to Philly. How he seems like a likable guy, and how it wasn’t his fault his contract was bigger than his production, and it was nice that the people still like him and yadda yadda yadda.
But that’s over. That’s cancelled.
He hurt Nolan Patrick.
None of Steph’s adult sons are to be harmed on our watch. This is against the law and this friendship is terminated. Thanks for tuning in.