Another home game, another bit of bonus hockey. There’s a lot to break down from last night’s game, so let’s get right into it. Here’s what we learned.
1. Slow starts forever, but maybe getting better?
Am I beating a dead horse, here? Why do I need to keep talking about this?
The Flyers have been plagued by slow starts to their games through much of the beginning of the season. Last night was no exception, but it also saw them take a step forward.
The good news: by the time they hit the nine minute mark, they had registered three shots on goal-- the same number they picked up in the whole of the first period in their last home game against Arizona.
The bad news: they were only able to put up two more shots in the next eleven minutes, to end the period. They went into the first intermission down one goal.
More good news: possession was pretty even throughout the first period, as the Flyers held an adjusted CF% of 50 percent after one.
So they made some steps away from the slog of a first period performance that was their last home game, and avoided digging themselves into a hole, heading into the second period, but the overall effort remained less than stellar.
2. Power play steps
It's not often that you have a narrative on a section of the game all but handed to you, but it certainly happened with the Flyers' first three power play performances of the night.
On their first chance, they were held without a single shot on goal through the duration of the two minutes. In their second, they were able to bring more pressure and register a few shots, but were unable to capitalize on any of them. But, with the third, they were finally able to pick up the goal.
You couldn't craft that arc in your Intro to Creative Writing class. I mean, you could. It'd be a little weird, though.
But this slow start on the power play, just like the slow starts in the first period, is something that needs to be cleaned up. The power play doesn’t have the luxury of being able to take a few shifts to get settled and take whatever happens. The power play is hit or miss, and they need to start hitting, not letting this become a trend.
3. Gostisbehere’s return
Halloween may be over, but the ghosts are still out to play! The ghosts are ... playing ... hockey? The ghosts-- *I am beaten to death with my own computer* [Ed. note: We regret to inform you that Maddie is dead.]
Ghost was back playing last night and he looked good. We had an idea of how badly he was missed while he was still absent, but it became even more evident in his return last night. The defense looked more dynamic than it has in a few games, and having his speed and skating skills was great.
And, of course, it's not too bad that he also picked up an assist on the Giroux goal in his first game back. He now leads the team in power play points, with nine, and has been a presence to behold.
As could have been expected, he showed a bit of rust after being off for about a week, but it didn’t prove to be a major hindrance to him or his linemates. It was nice to have him back.
4. Second line. Hello
Heading into the second period, the Flyers were down one goal, and had just put up a solid enough, but not terribly flashy, effort. But the second line changed that. With a Filppula goal on a Konecny feed through traffic, the Flyers opened up scoring for the night, and brought a bit of flash in the process. And the fact that it was that line feels like a big deal.
With the recent movement in flipping Weal and Konecny on the left wing, the line showed some promise, but we were still waiting to see its full potential. And they’ve looked impressive, so far.
But with this recent success remains a question: what do they do when Patrick is back in the lineup? Do they move Konecny back down with him? The two showed a bit of chemistry early, but does this merit breaking up what is finally shaping up to be an effective second line?
These are some major questions the Flyers will have to consider, and obviously we don’t have the answers just yet. So we’ll have to wait and see.
5. Neuvirth’s up-and-down performance
Neuvirth, getting his second consecutive start after a shutout in St. Louis, didn’t quite bring the same level of performance as he did in his last game. He looked sharp early in the game, and held up against the pressure that Colorado was bringing. The first goal he allowed was stoppable, but only with great difficulty. The next two came as the result of bad bounces-- the first off Provorov’s skate, and the second off Hagg’s stick. This was rough, was less than ideal, but there’s not too much you can do about it.
The fourth goal, however, was a different story. After a Gostisbehere turnover, there was no bad bounce, no difficult angle, just space. And Neuvirth just got beat.
To be fair, he made some big saves when he needed to, and kept the game from being uglier than it was, but his performance still proved a little weak. He helped them pick up one point in the standings, still, but wasn’t playing solidly enough to shut down the Avalanche’s efforts in the shootout.
6. All other lines. HELLO
We started the second period, and it was the second line was the one showing some flash. But this exclusivity didn’t hold, and the others slowly showed up in the third period. Voracek scored for the first line. Then the third line picked up a goal, as Weiss was fed by Weal from below the redline. These two lines both held adjusted CF%s over 50, and drove play well while they were on the ice. The Honey Bees didn’t look quite as sharp as they have, but they still posted a respectable 49.3 adjusted CF%, and didn’t exactly get torched, definitely held their own.
And these are the type of efforts that we want to see out of this team, given their depth. The results weren’t quite there last night, but they were close. And they shouldn’t be too far away.
7. And we've got overtime again
Now that we’ve had a taste of bonus hockey at home, it looks like it’s bonus hockey forever. Or something. The Flyers couldn’t capitalize, but they looked sharp in their three on three opportunities.
The Flyers controlled the puck well during the three on three portion of overtime, and held an edge in terms of possession. They brought some dangerous looking shots and breakaways, looking primed to score, but found all of them broken up or stopped. The Flyers looked sharp in their overtime stint on Monday, but looked even better last night. It’s a small sample, but for now, it’s encouraging to see that it seems like they have their three on three play at least very close to figured out.
And, of course, we have to extend a nod to Jordan Weal, who looked great during the shootout. More of that, please.
8. Keeping it simple
One thing we’ve pointed to through the early part of the season is that the Flyers look to be at their best when they aren’t trying to over-complicate things. This seems a good rule of thumb, a good thing to continue, but we saw a bit of slippage from this method last night.
In a way, the Avalanche of last night looked a lot like the Flyers of Thursday, in their matchup against the Blues. They were blocking shots effectively, and certainly not making things easy for the Flyers. But, it would be unfair to give them all of the credit, as the Flyers also didn’t do themselves any major favors.
Post-game, Konecny talked a bit about the shot blocking, noting that "it's frustrating because I know me, I had a couple blocked tonight and you're almost trying to get too cute and you're shooting right into them. They're giving you lanes, it's just, you know, you're trying that extra drag and shooting through them when the lane's there. You know, maybe it's just a little bit of overthinking on our part there, and like I said, they blocked some shots, but our opportunities were there."
So straying from the more or less most simple approach did them a disservice. It was a shame to see last night, but still an easy fix. And hopefully they make it, as they get ready to face Chicago.
9. Possession was good (and that makes this feel worse)
On the whole, the Flyers had a really solid night against the Avalanche, from a possession standpoint. At its lowest, possession was even at 50 percent CF% after the first period, and the Flyers only picked up steam from there. They averaged a 58.13 percent adjusted CF%, and registered 4.39 expected goals to the Avalanche’s 3.09. On the surface, those numbers paint a nice picture, but they also make the loss a little harder to swallow.
Bad bounces proved to be a problem for the Flyers, but this game really shouldn’t have been as close as it was. The Flyers, in general, played better than the results show, and had they tightened up a little, and had the bad bounces never struck, this could have been a very different game.
But, to avoid getting too mopey, these numbers also show some promise. The Flyers can’t hit bad puck luck forever, and they have four days to tighten up the issues that reared their heads last night. Saturday’s game proved less than ideal, in terms of results, but pointed to the idea that they’re at least doing some things right, and heading in the right direction.
10. The only damn thing I know
The Flyers really need this break. They have four days without a game coming up, and they definitely need it.
To be fair, they’ve been playing good hockey, and haven’t exactly been showing signs of major fatigue. But they’ve also gotten the snot beaten out of them, more or less, over the past few weeks. Could they probably keep going if they needed to? Sure. But the bit of time away should do them some good, give them the time to let some of the battered bodies heal. They just have to make sure they find a way to be sharp, heading into Thursday’s game against Chicago.