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Canucks 5, Flyers 2: And the Flyers drop their fifth straight

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Some observations for your morning...

Kate Frese / SB Nation

It was bad, friends. Let’s get right into it.

All stats and graphics via Corsica.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com

1. Passing troubles early

The first few minutes of last night’s game felt like most of the others, of late. For the first six minutes, the Flyers struggled to get much of any momentum going. Passing was weak, their plays were broken up, they couldn’t seem to break cleanly through the neutral zone, and the puck was bouncing around like crazy.

The Flyers also faced some trouble staying upright, were losing their edges left and right. So maybe part of it was an ice issue. Who knows.

What remains is that the Flyers still struggle to start a game strong, have to take a few shifts to assert much of any kind of presence. They avoided digging themselves into an early hole, which seems a step in the right direction, but they still fail to do themselves any favors, during the early parts of their games.

2. Shot locations looking good… or not

Through these more recent games, we’ve been bemoaning and bemoaning the Flyer’s over-reliance on point shots, and their hopes that they can generate the offense that just hasn’t come. But the first period of last night’s game looked like they were breaking away from this trend. Their highest traffic area was in close to the net, as they worked to chip away at the puck in the crease. They were generating some close chances, and promise was abound.

But after the first period, the Flyers seemed to take a literal step back, regressing to taking a high number of point shots and hoping to pick up rebounds. But, as has been the case, this just wasn’t working. Markstrom’s rebound control was steady. The Flyers’ screens weren’t effective. Their forwards weren’t in place to capitalize on the chances they were getting. The Flyers dominated through the entirety of the game in shots, but it seemed their biggest hinderance throughout was the quality of the chances, rather than the quantity.

3. More defenseman goals

Last night Provorov opened up scoring for the evening, extending his goal streak to two games, and in doing so retaining his place as one of the only consistently good things about this team, this whole timeline.

On a setup from Konecny, Provorov was able to send the puck in and past a screened Markstrom. In a way, it felt like a near repeat of the goal from Saturday, with this yet-unnamed third line setting up its defensemen to pick up goal, fired from the perimeter. So secondary scoring is still technically lacking, but at least the middle six are setting up chances.

And for the second game in a row, it looked for a moment like Raffl had tipped the puck into the net, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Raffl still has zero points, despite doing most everything right. And that just feels about right.

4. Power play struggles

After looking like it had finally started to shake off some of the rust, the Flyers’ power play had another rough showing, last night. They were unable to capitalize on any of their attempts, and spent much of their time on the ice looking, largely, flat. Their second attempt of the night was a clear example of this. Were they even on the power play for those two minutes? They spent much of the time hemmed into their own zone, looking like they were the ones on the penalty kill.

And while we’re on the topic, why in the world is Lehtera still on PP2, over Jordan Weal? It seems a strange call, given that the only real area that Lehtera can offer influence is in the crease, but putting him there pushes out Patrick, who serves as the much better option for the net-front presence.

Maybe we can offer a bit of the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Weal was off the power play in the interest of easing him back into the play, after missing a game. Is this naive to think? Maybe. But we could stand to be a little hopeful, at least.

5. Neuvirth was not good, gang

Looking to make a triumphant return after sitting for the past few games, Neuvirth took extra shots in warmups, in anticipation of what was to come. He was getting so ready. And he fell so flat.

Allowing four goals--two at even strength, and two on the penalty kill--Neuvirth certainly showed some rust, looking just a little slower than usual, and with his rebound control looking shaky. To be fair, the team in front of him wasn’t excellent, but there was a chance for him to come up bigger. And he was pulled after 27:27.

Enter Brian Elliott. He looked his usual self through the end of the game, making the big saves when necessary, and not letting in any further goals while he was on the ice. Again, Elliott proved to be the difference maker, and showed why he has elevated himself to the clear 1A.

Indeed, the game could have been very different if Elliott had been subbed in earlier. Post-game, Hakstol admitted that, in hindsight, Neuvirth should have been pulled after the third goal, in hopes of not digging them into a bigger hole. It’s not a call you can get back, of course, but if nothing else, it reinforces why Elliott has been the go-to starter, of late.

6. Possession game held solidly in Flyers’ favor

And, as it turns out, goaltending was one of the team’s biggest hindrances, throughout the game. The Flyers registered an adjusted CF% of 54.84% percent, and held an edge in possession throughout the entirety of the game.

The Flyers led in shot attempts 79-54, and shots 38-36. They trailed in expected goals over the night, picking up 2.21 to Vancouver’s 3.36, but still led at five on five through the first two periods.

So the goaltending put them into a deficit that, despite some decent underlying play, they were unable to claw their way out of. And, to be fair, as we noted earlier, some of the chances they got were wanting for quality, but they were still there.

And this may be encouraging, if we dare go that far, that the underlying numbers still look decent, despite the results. These results don’t change, and we still feel bad about them, but we can also be led to at least hope that they can be predictive of future events. That they suggest that things may shift, eventually.

7. A goal by a Ginger Liner

With scoring having all but died in the middle of the game for the Flyers, some life was finally injected into the team--and the room at large--with a goal by Voracek halfway through the third period. From here the energy shifting, the Wells Fargo Center was back to buzzing, and the team seemed to have sparked.

Of course, we can’t ignore that the issue of secondary scoring still remains. Just as it has, the first line has worked to be the difference maker, while the others lag behind. But, in the context of last night’s game, there comes a certain point where you just need goals, and you don’t particularly care where they’re coming from. So, as we’ve been saying, the bottom nine need to find a way to break into the scoring conversation, this remains an issue that leaves the team vulnerable. But, at the same time, sometimes beggars just can’t be choosers.

8. Third period push

And the Voracek goal certainly sparked something for the Flyers. After looking like they had spent much of the middle of the game sitting back, to a certain degree, they were finally able to bring a real, tangible push late in the third period. The perimeter shots were still being leaned on, but they were able to pick up some rebound, and generate other quality chances, originating from closer in on the net.

But the synch still remained an issue, and despite some sustained pressure, the Flyers still saw their attempts broken up by the Canucks. Their defense, lagging through the game, stepped up, but not enough.

And this seemed the narrative of the third period--that of an impressive late game push, but of it just simply being too little, too late.

9. Headcases

And with this surge after the Voracek, confirmed was the theory that many of us have been floating for a good part of the season--the Flyers are a bunch of headcases. When, early in the game, they allowed a Canucks goal, and then another, and then another, you could see the energy leaving them. They sat back, and allowed Vancouver to push harder and work to close the gap in shots. The effort never completely fell off, but the quality of their play sagged, definitively.

An encouraging sign, of course, was that the Flyers didn’t allow the wheels to totally come off, given their frustration, and were able to avoid accruing a huge number of needless penalties.

Giroux called them a “frustrated team,” and this frustration is both understandable and certainly palpable. They were able to shore up much of the penalty troubles, but then troubles seemed to pop up elsewhere. They were able to get some scoring from not the first line, and the defense had a rough night. The Flyers, right now, are looking like a leaky boat, and it’s getting under their skin.

The only hope is that, rather than getting frazzled, that they can find some way to channel this into a tangible (positive) result.

10. The only damn thing I know

As Charlie and I were leaving the game last night, we came across a strange specimen on the sidewalk, just outside the Wells Fargo Center.

Alone on the pavement sat an “authentic fan” fan. Torn in two.

I paused on it for a moment, and realized in that moment, that I would never identify more with an inanimate object than I did with that fan.

We are all that shredded fan. Always and forever.