Tonight is one of those nights you have to find positives in, even though it's difficult.
The Flyers had about as great a start as you could have hoped for. They scored the first goal which has been absolutely crucial to provide the Flyers with the #confidence to succeed, it seems. To make it more impressive, it came from the second power play unit. Gasp! It was good enough to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead going into the second period.
And it wasn't one of those fluky periods where the Flyers were badly outplayed but they managed to score a power play goal and Steve Mason kept them ahead. Sure, Mason didn't let anything in (he stopped six shots during the first period), but the Flyers were-well, they were kind of killing it. They dominated in shots attempts at even strength and if you've been following the Flyers like I assume you have been, that is a pretty friggin' huge deal.
Of course the Flyers had to make things interesting, so Nicklas Grossmann took a penalty to test the Flyers shaky penalty kill early in the period. Steve Mason some really great saves as the Sharks jumped on the opportunity, but the Flyers killed the second half of the penalty with authority. Still, San Jose came out and controlled play in the second. That wasn't fun.
The feeling that the Flyers were just trying to hang onto their one goal lead to make it to the third was pervasive. Sure enough, within the final three minutes of the period, Marc-Edouard Vlasic shook off Claude Giroux to tie the game at one.
The third period was back and forth. Every time it seemed like the Flyers had given up too much space (as they tend to do), they managed to generate some opportunities of their own. I thought for sure they'd make it out with at least a point, but nice things are overrated obviously. With twelve seconds left to play in regulation, Matt Nieto scored on an empty net after a flurry of saves from Steve Mason left him tripped up and out of the net.
It sucked, but you should always look on the bright side of life.
Good things (mostly):
- Sean Couturier fought Brenden Dillon. It was his second fight this season, third in his career. I'm sure it will be touted as a leadership move or a heart move or a toughness move, or something. With or without the fight, Couturier had a great game.
- After Grossmann's penalty in the second, Bellemare sprung him from the box. His breakaway was nothing short of shocking. The guy dangled. I swear to God, you guys, I thought he was going to score. What a trippy moment.
- Scott Laughton scored his first NHL point tonight and boy, has he earned it. His assist on the Sean Couturier's goal to open scoring was a beauty of a back-hander. Laughton has been earning his keep while with the big club, and it's really nice to see some of that hard work start paying off on the score-sheet. Love you, Laughts.
- As far as the line shakeups were concerned, it seemed like both the first and second line benefited from the moves. Raffl looked good on the first line, Schenn looked good on the second. Think the top six will stay that way for a while should everyone stay healthy.
- R.J. Umberger took Zac Rinaldo's spot up on the third line. Big fat whatever to that one.
- For what it's worth, I thought Jake Voracek looked a little off. Dunno what it was. Something about the way he was handling the puck seemed a bit shaky. Could have been the Sharks coverage of him. To compound that, he went into the boards awkwardly during a weird play towards the end of the second and went to the bench quickly. It looked like everything was okay, since he never went to the locker room, and he played plenty afterward. Hope all is well. Important to note that even on his off nights, Voracek is still one of the Flyers most dynamic players.
So yeah, there are positives. The Flyers played much better than I assumed they would, better than most assumed they would. They really hung with the Sharks through sixty minutes. And yet, they emerged with no points. It's a goddamn shame. They played well! How often can you say that about them?
All of the positives don't count for much when you aren't getting points, really, but hopefully they carry over into Anaheim tomorrow and the result is different.
It's past my bedtime. See ya tomorrow, Flyers.