There's been a pattern to a lot of Flyers games that have taken place in the last month or so or even just since the new year began. The Flyers look slow to start a game, give up a goal or even two, slowly get their legs under them, and end up scoring just enough to pull out an exciting win.
Tonight we allllllllmost saw that script play itself out perfectly in reverse. The Flyers absolutely came out on fire, controlled the flow of things for most of the first period, and even took the lead just over a minute into the game. They got off to the great start on home ice that we all thought they needed.
And then the wheels came off a bit -- enough so that the Flyers spent most of the middle 40 minutes or so of the game trying to put them back on. Missed opportunities, unfortunate penalties and a mostly-stagnant power play saw the Flyers' early 1-0 lead sink down to a 3-2 deficit which lasted into the game's 59th minute. Some late-game heroics helped the Flyers secure a point -- for the second straight game, and for what seems like the dozenth (dozenth? Is that a word? We'll go with it) time in the past month and a half -- before, in their first home overtime game of the entire season, they would play five more minutes and seven rounds of a shootout before bowing to the folks from Nashville.
It certainly wasn't the greatest or prettiest game the Flyers have played. I thought both teams had their good stretches and bad stretches, though I guess you'd hope to see a little more good than bad at home against a team without much high-end talent up front.
But after complaining about slow starts for weeks, and in a game where they were staring a regulation loss in the face for most of the third period, I guess you take the point and move on.
SOME ASSORTED THOUGHTS:
* Every line has had its hot streaks this season, but is there much doubt as to which one is the hottest at the moment? The team's second line of Scott Hartnell, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds was on the ice for both of the team's even-strength goals and combined for five points, including three (a goal and two assists) for Simmonds. They've kept it going for a few weeks now, and their efforts played a big role in pushing the team to overtime tonight.
* They were on for both even-strength goals, but the Flyers were this close to another one when Michael Raffl caught the puck in front of what was literally a wide open net. Instead, this happened (may have to click to animate):
Ugh. David Legwand committed a penalty in order to save this one from going in. Penalty well spent. Unreal save.
* Speaking of penalties, the Flyers' PP looked reeeeeally rough for most of the night, and only finally produced results when Craig Berube pulled Steve Mason with under two minutes left and set up a 6-on-4. I don't know how much there is to the whole "the PP does way better on the road than at home thing" but it just looked like way too much time was spent either taking the puck up ice or chasing it back down ice with the man advantage. Guys not being able to keep it in, guys not connecting on their passes, not entering the zone cleanly and/or just dumping the puck in ... there's enough talent here (and we've seen enough results here in the past) to believe that they're better than this.
* On the other side of the coin, after the team's penalty killing streak came to an end last weekend, the Flyers finally saw their propensity to take stupid penalties actually hurt them on the scoreboard tonight. No matter how good the team's penalty kill has been this year (and it's been quite good, as you may recall), every once in a while you're gonna get burned. The Preds took advantage of a 5-on-3 in the first (following an uncharacteristically stupid boarding penalty by Kimmo Timonen) and a Nicklas Grossmann high-sticking double-minor in the third to put up two of their goals on the night. It's nice having a really good PK, but the Flyers were bound to learn eventually that they can't continuously win games on the strength of that alone.
* Steve Mason was pretty good tonight. 34 saves out of 37 attempts, none of the goals against were really on him, and he made a couple of nice stops in the later part of the game to keep things within a goal. After a few ugly games for him of late, good to see him look relatively better tonight.
* The other Steve, Downie, played tonight. I did not notice him a ton, as he was mostly on the fourth line, but that fourth line of him, Adam Hall and Chris VandeVelde did have one or two nice shifts where they got some pressure going in the Preds' end. So that's cool, I guess. Keep him in the lineup, Chief.
* Andrej Meszaros tied the game at 2 on a beeeeautiful shot with four seconds left in the second period. He had an assist on the game's opening goal as well. He now has nine points in his last nine games. I saw a bunch of "pumping his trade value!" jokes on Twitter after he scored that goal, but, uh ... you've gotta keep him in the lineup the way he's playing right now, no? I'd like to see Erik Gustafsson back in the lineup at some point, too, but it doesn't look like Mez is gonna be sitting again any time soon.
* As mentioned above, possession was played pretty much to a draw tonight. Shot attempts at 5-on-5 were a perfectly even 43-43, with the Flyers controlling things in the early going and the Preds getting back ahead for most of the rest of the game.
* If you didn't think before tonight that shootouts are the dumbest things in existence and the fact that they decide who gets points in the NHL standings is alarmingly stupid, consider all of the following regarding tonight's seven-round affair:
- The three players with the most career success in the shootout for the Flyers (Claude Giroux, Vincent Lecavalier, and Matt Read) all did not score on their attempts.
- The two Flyers who did score (Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier) had BOTH never scored in a shootout attempt before tonight.
- The team the Flyers were playing against had lost all five of its prior shootouts this season and had scored on one of its 19 attempts in that time.
- Two of the players who scored for Nashville were defensemen; meanwhile, four of the five forwards they trotted out failed to score.
The shootout is dumb, and in case you needed a reminder, it's basically a total crapshoot. It sucks.
Comment of the Night:
if the nhl wants more scoring they should just mandate that every team have a meszaros
Still at home on Saturday night against the Islanders. Two points then, please. Go Flyers.