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Senators 5, Flyers 4: What we learned from a hectic game up north

Flyers battle back twice, but fall short in loss to start two-game road trip in Canada.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers were unable to overcome a pair of overturned goals in their 5-4 loss to the Senators on Thursday night, but there was much more to the game than those two plays. Here’s a look at what we learned from a close battle north of the border in Ottawa.

1. The second and third lines need to catch up to the first and fourth lines

While production has been strong from the first and fourth lines, the same can’t be said of the second and third lines, which were invisible yet again on Thursday. At one point the second line of Jordan Weal, Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds had a combined 13% Corsi For through two periods.

The third line of Matt Read, Jori Lehtera and Travis Konecny had better advanced metics, but wasn’t particularity dangerous outside of Konecny’s goal. That said, Konecny’s goal was on a breakaway and occurred with Laughton on in place of Lehtera off a line change.

Bottom line is the Flyers will continue to struggle as only two lines generate any type of offense. Only a few games ago the Flyers were getting chances from all four lines, and that has quickly dried up and left the onus on just two forward groups to generate chances and opportunities.

2. So, uh, about the goaltending

The Flyers’ problems in goal from Tuesday continued, after Brian Elliott allowed six goals against the Ducks. Three goals on 12 shots for Michal Neuvirth in the first, including a soft one while the Senators were shorthanded, got things off to a bad start.

Then after the Flyers cut the Sens lead to 3-2 late in the third the veteran was beaten by a dandy spin-o-rama by Mark Stone. Though it was a breakdown by the Flyers in transition a bit, Stone was on his backhand and beat Neuvirth easily to kill the Flyers’ momentum. There were a few times the Flyers really needed saves in key spots and Neuvirth couldn’t come up with them until it was far too late.

If it was his chance to distance himself from Brian Elliott a bit, it sure didn’t happen early. Simply put: five goals on 28 shots just won’t get it done on a nightly basis if the Flyers want to be anything other than a lottery team again.

3. The first line was ho-hum dangerous again

Jake Voracek scored his first of the season and Sean Couturier added a goal and two assists to fuel the Flyers’ offense. Senators goalie Craig Anderson flat-out robbed Couturier of another sure goal in the first, springing from post to post to make a great recovery save.

Couturier’s confidence in the offensive zone has really grown this year playing with Voracek and Claude Giroux, and he’s now starting to take ownership of the second power play unit by demanding the puck, something he hasn’t really done in the past.

4. Quick goals give Flyers life (twice!)

Two goals 53 seconds apart gave the Flyers life late in the second at 3-2 before a Mark Stone goal gave Ottawa back a two-goal lead heading to the third. Travis Konecny followed up Voracek’s goal with a quick snap shot past Anderson on a breakaway.

Radko Gudas started the sequence with a good play in neutral zone to halt a Senators rush and then made a great stretch pass to spring Konecny in alone for the goal. Gudas, who later received a game misconduct, isn’t just brawn after all.

Later it was a pair of Ivan Provorov and Couturier goals three minutes apart to pull the Flyers to 5-4 with just over a minute left in the third. A Tom Pyatt goal had just given the Senators what looked like a no-doubt 5-2 lead, but the Flyers again fought back with a couple of quick strikes and a shot to perhaps salvage a point from the game.

5. Taylor Leier hops back in, keeps fourth line chugging

Leier returned from a two-game absence and fit right back in on the fourth line with Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl. The trio had been stringing together good shifts before Leier’s injury, and the chemistry, puck movement and possession continued with Leier back in. On the night the line posted a 72.16% combined Corsi For, easily the best number among the four lines.

Raffl in particular had a couple of golden chances to breakthrough with a goal, but he tipped a pass through Craig Anderson’s legs and out the other side of the crease. He’s still looking for a goal, as is Leier, but their metrics show that it’s only a matter of time before they start seeing pucks in the back of the net.

6. The two goal reviews were killers for the Flyers

The Flyers were victim to a pair of disallowed goals on the night, which would have given them a 6-5 road win if they’d had both counted (noting, though, that had the first one counted, the second one — “scored” with an extra attacker for the Flyers — may not have happened). On the first one Jordan Weal parked in front of Senators goalie Craig Anderson and made contact with the goalie slightly before leaving the crease and watching Brandon Manning’s point shot go in.

On review, Anderson basically sought out the contact with Weal and turned immediately to the nearest referee after Manning’s shot beat him. Even though Weal’s contact with Anderson probably didn’t effect Anderson’s ability to make the save, the call was overturned and the goal was disallowed.

The second one would have given the Flyers the equalizer at 5-5 with under a minute left. Again, the goal would be disallowed as the referee used the old “intent to blow” call without actually saying it. On the ice he said the play was “complete” as the puck appeared to be covered by Anderson’s glove, but the replay showed the puck clearly in the net and not under Anderson’s control.

While both hurt, the intent to blow the whistle call just sucks and the Flyers deserved better after again battling back from a three-goal deficit.

7. The passing wasn’t crisp, good, whatever

There wasn’t a lot of tape-to-tape passing from the Flyers in this one, but there wasn’t even a ton of clean passes until later in the third period. Whether that on “D-to-D” passes or just feeds in the neutral zone from forwards, rarely did the Flyers breakdown the Senators via the pass.

At times the Flyers go through stretches like this where they struggle to make simple passing plays, and in these moments I wish there was a percentage of passes completed like their is in soccer. If there was, there’s no way the Flyers would have posted a respectable percentage in that game.

8. Who’s on the left? Who’s on the right? Does it even matter?

A lot was made on social media about whether or not Ivan Provorov was playing on the left or right side of the Flyers’ defense. Playing with Shayne Gostisbehere proved to provide quite the intrigue as both defenseman have the green light to jump in on the offense at will.

What ended up happening was Provorov and Gostisbehere changing sides of the ice quite frequently. As Charlie O’Connor points out, that’s probably more a product of the two having the freedom to switch sides and improvise more than anything else.

In the end, it didn’t matter who was on which side as the pair combined for three points (one goal, two assists) in their first extended action together.

9. The Flyers’ shot selection at 5-on-5 was better

via NaturalStatTrick.com

Per Natural Stat Trick, the Flyers’ shots at 5-on-5 were much closer to the danger area of the front of the net in this one. The old adage in hockey says that you need to get to the dirty areas to score goals, and it’s true for a Flyers team that often spends too much of their time at even strength firing shots from the outside.

But in this one you can see the Flyers generating more shots from in close, especially at even strength, which is encouraging as they try to improve their efficiency in that area instead of mostly relying on the power play.

10. Craig Anderson stole this one for the Senators

The 15-year veteran sold the interference call on Weal to deny the Flyers a goal and then denied them in several other instances with timely saves. In the end he stopped 36 of 40 shots (officially) and made a few huge saves late on Valtteri Filppula to keep the Flyers from tying things up.

Apart from that, Anderson is a stand up guy who was easy to root for in the Senators’ run to the Eastern Conference Final as his wife, Nicholle, batted cancer much of the season.

Some things are bigger than hockey, folks.

***

Here’s BSH Radio’s Bill Matz’ reaction to the proceedings from Ottawa:

Posted by Broad Street Hockey: For Philadelphia Flyers Fans on Thursday, October 26, 2017

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