It was a rough one. But here are some things we learned.
1. Sean Couturier is still good
So there were a lot of things that went wrong last night that we're not going to want to talk about, but we're going to talk about them anyway. But let’s start with a good thing. That thing, once again, was Couturier. He opened up scoring for the night on a feed from Giroux, and for a while there it looked like momentum was moving in their favor. Couturier looked to be in good form, as he has for most of the season so far.
We're seeing him looking more confident than he has in the past. He's keeping his game simple and allowing his teammates to work with him. We're not seeing him having to do everything. The whole line is involved, and the onus isn't falling squarely on him.
And when momentum had shifted squarely into Anaheim’s favor, Couturier brought a breath of fresh air late in the third. With his second goal of the night, he picked up his 200th point as a Flyer, and brought them the momentum back. Even if nothing came of this swing, and even if it couldn’t save the game, it was a solid night for Couturier.
2. Murphy's Law strikes
When everything that can go wrong does go wrong you get a game like last night. And it is bad, and if you are like me, you watch the whole rest of the game because you have to, and you are sad about it. Or something.
It really was a game where everything that could've gone wrong did go wrong. The Flyers just couldn't get much in the way of momentum going. The ice surface was disastrous. They lose a center in the middle of the game and have to spend the rest of the game shuffling. Penalties galore. Provorov takes a slashing penalty on a Kase breakaway that draws a penalty shot, which goes in, because of course it does.
It took until the last half of the third period before the Flyers could swing possession back in their favor, but by then it was too late. They had done too much stumbling through the middle of the game. They had given up too much.
3. Strangeness of tone strikes early
A little levity came early in the game, before we even knew we needed it, when Gudas and Bieksa were sent to the box for offsetting minors for unsportsmanlike conduct for trying to fight each other. A moment of pure comedic gold presented itself as, immediately after exiting the box, they got into a tussle and were ultimately sent back on offsetting five minute majors for fighting. In the moment it was great, it was funny, and it was a bit of weirdness that seemed like it was going to set the tone for the game that was scrappy already early.
But the joke didn't hold too well. As the game went on, the Flyers were down, and they were down, and they were down even further, and more and more this fight felt like a moment of avenging a personal slight, of taking an unnecessary penalty when they were piling up left and right.
4. New looks to the bottom six
With Matt Read and Taylor Leier out, and some inefficacy happening in the third and fourth lines, last night saw the beginning of a bit of shuffling in the bottom six. With Jordan Weal returning to his place on the second line, Lehtera was shuffled down to the third line, and Weise down to the fourth. The changes made some waves, but ultimately brought some mixed results.
The third line posted a 42.86 CF% after the first period, sitting just behind the first line in this measure, and seemed to show signs of clicking early. But this largely broke apart when Nolan Patrick went out in the second period, and further shuffling had to be done. Productivity stalled, and they suffered.
And the fourth line performed, in retrospect, just about as you would have expected. With the proper honey bees broken up, the fourth lines productivity also saw a dip. But it wasn’t all bad. Raffl and Laughton led the team in CF%, sitting at 71.32 and 65.76 percent, respectively. The drag, you guessed it, was Dale Weise, who lagged behind his original linemates with a CF% of 37.39 percent. Again, the shuffling through the second half of the game likely, didn’t do anyone many favors, but on the whole, the new look for the fourth line was not a good one.
5. Welcome back Jordan Weal
After spending two games out with an unspecified lower body injury, Weal made his first appearance back on the ice at the Wells Fargo Center last night. And while it wasn’t an awful performance, he definitely showed a bit of rustiness after being out for those two games. On his own, he seemed to face a bit of trouble getting started, but so too did his whole line in complete fairness. His time on the first unit on the 5 on 3 was an interesting and refreshing change, but he wasn't really able to capitalize on it. With a few prime scoring chances throughout the game, he either whiffed or just couldn’t put it in the back of the net.
But it wasn't all bad. His skating looked fine, and even though he struggled to get going, he didn't exactly look far from his usual form. We aren’t really leaving this game with any lingering questions about his status or his performance. We’re not too concerned and look to see him looking sharper when play resumes in Ottawa on Thursday.
6. And how are the new defensive pairings standing up?
One of the beans heading into last night’s game was one of shuffling. With Andrew MacDonald out for 4 to 6 weeks with a lower body injury, it left the Flyers with a bit of shuffling to do with their defensive pairings. We got a look at them at Monday's practice, what they might look like. And on paper things seem promising; they looked like the lines could be productive, like they might be good.
Narrator: they weren't.
Even though on paper these pairings looked like they might work, what we saw above all was a bit of an adjustment period taking place. We saw pairing that had seen limited time playing together. Even if they were players who were at least relatively comfortable with each other, it's going to be a bit of an adjustment.
And the things that were ugly were really ugly. Defense was lagging throughout the course of the game giving away too much throughout. Manning, though covering his mark, was a little ahead of where he perhaps should've been leading up to the Montour goal. leaving too large a gap potentially, when Konecny was beat and lost his edge. Gudas negated an opportunity for the Flyers to get something going, when they drew a delayed penalty. Instead of having the chance to pull their goalie to get an extra skater out, to bring an extra push, Gudas shot the puck and it was smothered, stopping play. So there was some difficulty faced, some roughness, but they're still adjusting. They have practice today and they’ll be working on it, and will (hopefully) be able to get back on track.
But we can't close out the section without ending on a bit of a high note. Despite all of the difficulty faced throughout the night, on the second Couturier goal, Sanheim picked up his first NHL point, within a primary assist. So I guess it wasn't all bad
7. Even strength hockey was a distant memory
What does five on five hockey look like? I think I once read about it in a book, perhaps, but have not seen it with my own eyes in what seems like years. It feels like it’s been practically a lifetime.
The Flyers got sloppy in the second period. They picked up three penalties in just under three minutes, just couldn’t seem to get out of their own way. And this points to underlying issues that Couturier, Giroux, and others talked about post-game, and those are discipline and composure. After allowing the first Anaheim goal, the Flyers looked a little frazzled, but it could have been expected, after being hemmed into their own zone and the inevitable goal finally coming. But when the Ducks pulled ahead by two? That’s when it really began to break down. The middle of the second period marred by penalties, the Flyers were stuck killing them, with little hope of swinging momentum back in their favor. And the Ritchie goal to extend the Ducks’ lead to three, too, was all but inevitable.
8. Not a particularly strong showing for Elliott
After looking pretty solid so far this season, Elliott had a distinctly poor performance in last night’s game. He allowed six goals on 25 shots faced on the night, and those goals weren’t pretty. Of course, credit should be given to Anaheim for bringing pressure, flashing creativity, and generating quality scoring chances, but Elliott didn’t do himself any favors.
To be fair, he looked solid enough early in the first period, but after facing heavy pressure and a bit of contact from the Ducks, he was exposed as being just a bit out of sync. His positioning was off, and if he wasn’t losing track of the puck, he was lagging just a bit behind it. His defensive support was not quite what it could or should have been, but even if it had been, Elliott just wasn’t at the top of his game.
9. A retrospective and a look forward
I have a theory. If a team is presented with a 5 on 3 advantage for a more or less significant amount of time-- say, forty five seconds or more-- and they fail to capitalize on it, they will inevitably lose the game. This theory is, at this time, based on eye testing and a vague impression of a pattern, but it held true for the Flyers last night.
The Flyers had 50 seconds of sustained 5 on 3 in the second period, and while they were able to register a few shots on goal, they were unable to put any away. Like the rest of the game, the Flyers just couldn’t seem to get anything going, much to go in their favor.
But, despite the ostensibly ugly showing, some of the underlying numbers are not so ugly. The Flyers registered a 46.47 percent adjusted CF%, and outshot the Ducks 33 to 25, accruing 3.67 expected goals, to Anaheim’s 2.31. Does this change the fact that the Flyers lost this one? No. But what it does is suggest that the performance may not have been as bad as the eye suggested, that the road to recovering may not be so long as one might have initially thought.
10. The only damn thing I know
Okay, so I said Sean Couturier was one of the only good things about last nights game that wasn't quite true. Last night was also PAWS night at the Wells Fargo Center. They brought in adoptable dogs to be petted and hopefully taken to their forever homes. We had dog content on the big screen between periods.
Floofs and Flyers! PAWS is at the game with adoptable dogs! They're all super sweet! Find them their furever homes! pic.twitter.com/m3pcpp2Ozn— Kate Frese (@KateFresePhoto) October 24, 2017
Last night was bad. Dogs are good. Every night should be dog night. More dogs please.