Sometimes you leave a loss from your favorite team feeling angry. Sometimes you leave a loss from your favorite team feeling sad and depressed. Usually, being a sports fan, it's one of those two, or some other negative emotion. Tonight, though, the Flyers saw their four-game winning streak come to an end, and for the most part I seem to be coming away from this one saying "eh, alright, it happens; on to the next one."
It's not to say that this was a game the Flyers dominated for the duration of and only lost because of a white-hot goalie or something. They didn't, even though Semyon Varlamov was fantastic and was definitely the Avs' best player. The Avs probably got the better of the play tonight, and you kind of wish that you'd see a better performance from the Flyers.
But with Matt Read missing the game with an "upper-body injury", and with Michael Raffl being taken out in the first period with a concussion suffered on a high hit by Gabriel Landeskog, it kind of seemed like this was an uphill battle from the start. Craig Berube had to basically just throw his players on the ice three at a time, and it seemed like the fact that they were within a few really close chances late in the game of tying it was a testament to the fact that they were fighting throughout this one to get back in it.
The head coach agreed with that sentiment as well:
Berube was happy with #Flyers' effort; they were without two key forwards (Read, Raffl): "The effort was there. There were no passengers."— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) January 3, 2014
(This, for comparison, coming from the guy who ripped the Flyers after their win against Vancouver on Monday.)
I try not to be too easy on this team after losses, but it seemed from the start like it wasn't gonna be their night. It wasn't. And they were still close. Good on 'em, I guess. They're on a tough road trip against the Western Conference (in the altitute tonight!) and they aren't gonna win 'em all.
* So as mentioned above, the lines for the game got a little bit ridiculous after Raffl was taken out. With Read already out, and with the team's three fourth-liners (Zac Rinaldo, Adam Hall, and Jay Rosehill) never ones to get a ton of ice time anyways ... the Flyers were basically cycling seven, eight, nine forwards around the three different forward spots as they pleased. Here was every combination that had been on the ice for at least one 5-on-5 event (i.e. shot attempt, faceoff, hit, giveaway, etc.) through the end of the second period, in order:
There were 32 of them. And that's just through two periods. That's not to say Berube actively called for 32 different line combinations -- some of them were likely only on the ice for a few seconds and one event -- and that's not to say this was all Berube's fault, because this was clearly a tough situation. But in any event, it's pretty clear that the line blender was on full purée mode after Raffl headed to the quiet room.
* Hopefully Raffl's injury, by the way, isn't serious. I'm not optimistic -- the fact that the team went right out and called it a "concussion" rather than just a "head injury" or an "upper-body injury" doesn't seem like a good sign -- but he's added some speed and hockey smarts to this team's top-6 and it's clear that this team sees him as a key moving forward. Here's hoping the team handles his injury with the proper care and that, ultimately, his concussion doesn't have him sidelines too long.
* Steve Mason will get the loss -- his first regulation loss in nearly a month -- and the game-winning goal for Colorado by Ryan O'Reilly was one he'd probably like another crack at, as it came from a weird angle and snuck by Mason after he initially got a piece of it. That said, he ended the night with 29 saves on 31 shots, and he made some nice saves in all three periods to keep the game within striking distance. Shame that he would end up getting the loss -- he had a nice game overall. Just got outplayed by the other guy. (Varlamov, as mentioned earlier, was quite good tonight, making a ton of saves on good Flyers chances and ending the game as the first star.)
* The other goal the Flyers gave up was probably the lowlight of the evening. It began with an ugly turnover in the neutral zone by Sean Couturier (who had what seemed like a very uncharacteristically tough game tonight, at least in the early going), it saw multiple players (looking at you, Steve Downie) look a bit slow to get back on D on the odd-man rush that ensued for Colorado, and it ended with four different Flyers playing Four Corners around Jamie McGinn, who cleaned up the rebound from Matt Duchene's shot right in front of Mason. As such:
Don't do that.
* There were definitely some chances left on the ice tonight, the most of which probably came from the combination of Scott Hartnell, Brayden Schenn, and Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds got the team's only goal (a deflection in front on a shot from Andrej Meszaros), continuing his hot play of late, and the aforementioned trio combined for 12 shots on goal and a number of near misses. Schenn played a career-high in minutes tonight (21:40), likely thanks in part to Raffl's injury, and Hartnell seemed like he was thiiiiiiiiis close to potting a goal two or three different times.
Overall, not the prettiest loss, but as mentioned above, it seemed like the deck was stacked against them here and they did what they could.
Questions with Answers:
- Do Steve Downie and/or Max Talbot end up impressing their old teams? Talbot both drew and committed a penalty; Downie was stopped on a breakaway in the first period and had another chance or two. Neither of them were outstanding or anything.
- Speaking of, how does the third line look with Matt Read out and Downie back up? I think you're hard-pressed to put labels on lines tonight given that every 30 seconds there was a different, new line on the ice that hadn't been before.
- A lot has been made of late about how much better the blueliners have been at generating offense and scoring chances. Do we see that tonight? At times, sure -- Streit made a beeeeeeeautiful outlet pass to set up the aforementioned Downie breakaway, and Mez had a nice shot that Simmonds deflected for the lone goal -- but it's hard to say much about the blue line's offense when there wasn't really a ton of offense being scored.
- New month for Steve Mason. December wasn't great for him but he ended if quite nicely. How's he start the new year out? Mostly good, as he finished with just two goals against and kept the Flyers in it throughout. Though the game-winner was at a tough angle and was probably one he'd like another shot at.
Comment of the Night:
V: "You take it G"
G: "No, V, you go"
V: "I said YOU TAKE IT"
G: "Fine :( /slapshot over net"
-- PierceC, following a rather frustrating third-period odd-man rush
Phoenix on Saturday night at 8. Go Flyers.