Welp. The six game winning streak is snapped. And in a pretty ugly way, if I do say so myself. Let's just get right into it.
1. Early PK comes up big
Hey guys! Remember when we said that the Flyers were doing a really good job of not taking a lot of penalties? Well, that’s done, that’s over, that’s cancelled. (For the start of the game, at least).
Just 5:27 into the first period, Travis Konecny took an interference penalty and was sent off the to box, and the Flyers had an early Kings power play to break up. And they did well, doing exactly that.
We’ve seen a bit of a turn from the PK of late, with them taking a step up and looking more active and aggressive than they did in the earlier part of the season. Not only are they able to clear the puck (a good sign and the most basic objective), they’re working harder to get after it in their own zone, rather than just getting set and hoping they can block a shot. It’s serving them well, as it kept the Kings tied up, trying to defend the puck, and limited the number of shots they were able to generate.
My only qualm? Though the restructuring of the pairing has been working well, I’ve been missing the days of Laughton and Leier springing the puck out of the zone, and jetting off for a rush on their opposing goaltender. But beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.*
*they would actually put this duo back together while Raffl served his penalty. No breakout though. Alas.
2. Elliott has a shaky start
So, it was bound to happen eventually. Elliott's been pretty much on fire through the past few weeks, and we had to know that he would hit at least one bad game, sooner or later. But we certainly would have preferred that last night not be the one.
Let's be frank; the Martinez goal was not a pretty one. Not even heavily screened, it was the second point shot that Elliott just missed. The first one, on the Kings' power play, was fortunately saved by the post, but he couldn't get so lucky twice in a row. His positioning just looked a little off, and his vision just didn't seem to be at 100 percent early in the game.
As was the case with Thursday’s game, when he put up another rough first period, he was able to get closer to back on track as the game went on. He still allowed two more goals after the first period, but they weren't on quite as easy of plays. He made some big saves, keeping the hole the Flyers were dug into from getting any deeper, but the team in front of him just couldn't seem to find a way to claw their way out of that initial hole, to begin with.
3. The power play is good again
Do you remember when we were all grumbling, wondering when the power play was finally going to get it together? It seemed like we had spent forever complaining, but nothing seemed to change.
But wait, hold on. Well would you look at that! They did it! The power play is good again!
It was a strong showing from the get go--on their first attempt, though they were unable to convert, they were able to generate a nice bit of sustained pressure, and put three shots on goal.
On their second attempt, they seemed to pick up right where they left off, getting the cycle going. And then, just fifteen seconds into the shift, Giroux shuffled the puck off to Voracek who sent it flying in on goal, tying things up at last.
Their third attempt looked, well, not as sharp, as they allowed two Kings breakouts. But the second unit still got a good look, but couldn't capitalize.
And this would be the story of each of the next four power play chances the Flyers would get through the end of the game. Their energy and pressure were there, as extra flexibility and movement especially on the first unit allowed for the to create more dangerous chances, but they just couldn't seem to close. And while this is something we'll obviously need to see them do going forward, the process seems to bode well for the results coming eventually.
4. Quality vs. quantity
Oh wow, the Flyers outshot the Kings 37 to 25 but still found a way to lose. How could that have happened? Well, to answer that, we have to revisit our old friend, the heatmap.
So, in short, what we have here is a case of the Flyers not listening to me. We talked after Saturday’s game about how the area around the blue line was too hot, that the Flyers were relying too heavily on perimeter shots, even though they were still able to generate chances in closer to the net. And that’s really what saved them.
But, last night, the Flyers got a lot of shots in from the perimeter, and even not much else. As such, they were only able to accumulate 2.45 expected goals when even more were needed.
So, we saw that in the battle of quantity versus quality of shots, the Flyers aligned with quantity. And they lost out in the end.
5. Not a great night of five on five hockey
One of the high points of the evening, as broken down above, was the power play. Highly effective in generating sustained offense and dangerous shots, it looked consistently like it could do some damage with a slip by Quick or the right bounce. Which is a good thing, because the Flyers could not do anything at five on five.
Last night at five on five, the Flyers were, in a word, thrashed. They registered an less than exemplary 44.17 percent adjusted CF%, and 1.03 xG, compared to the 2.45 xG in all situations.
Between tight defending by the Kings preventing the Flyers from moving well through the neutral zone or holding onto the puck when they were in the offensive zone, turnovers, and shot selection, just to name a few areas, the Flyers struggled mightily at even strength. Their own chances weren’t quite as dangerous as they needed to be, and as Hakstol noted post-game, they didn’t make the Kings work hard enough for the chances that they got. It was a lackluster performance, and the numbers and results that come with it seem, at the very least, fitting.
6. Third line still struggling
Something that hasn't changed: things are still rough for the Patrick line. The nominal third line, they've been getting minutes more or less akin to the nominal fourth line, the Honey Bees. Much was the same last night, and for good reason. In just about ten and a half minutes, the line averaged an adjusted CF% of 36.28 percent at five on five. And, to be fair, only three Flyers--the Honey Bees--broke the 50 percent CF% at five on five last night, but 36.28 percent is just so ugly.
So what's the problem? Can we blame Dale Weise for everything? I mean, we could, but it may not be that simple.
Jordan Weal has been driving play reasonably well, in his own right, and has been doing pretty much every little thing that you could ask of him. Patrick has faced some struggles of his own, but has looked like he's hit something of an upswing, earning back the trust of the coaching staff (he's getting shifts in the third period now!). And Weise hasn't been stellar, overall, but last night was a particularly visibly poor showing for him.
So, maybe the chemistry isn't there. Maybe the little issues are hurting them more than one might have otherwise thought they would. Maybe they're still working at finding a way to adjust to each other's style. Fine. But all I know is, with the other three lines clicking and showing no signs of being broken up, they have to figure something out eventually, and they have to figure it out fast.
7. Plot twist: a good thing?
In perhaps the strangest turn of events, last night also saw the Flyers on the positive end of a goaltender interference call.
Towards the middle of the third period, it looked like the Kings may well have sealed the game in their favor, with yet another goal, extending their lead to three. The energy left the room. Everyone was once again filled with sadness.
But wait. Something's happening. Hakstol's challenged the goal. Here we go.
And then the unimaginable happened. After a bit of conferring, the officials announced that Elliott had indeed been interfered with, and the goal would be taken off the board.
The crowd erupted. This was it. The spark they needed. The Flyers would find a way to kick it into high gear. They would rally around their good fortune and find a way to at least even things up. Or score one more goal. Just one.
But, of course, that's not what happened. They were able to generate a few good chances, but the extra gear was nowhere to be found. And there were no more Flyers goals to be had.
8. Passing and cracking the Kings' defense
And now we've reached another area where the Flyers hit a regression last night. After looking like they had both cleaned up their passing and found a way to crack the tight checking teams, last night they didn't do either of those.
They started in much the usual way--the Flyers' passes just weren't connecting, and it was looking like it would be another one of those games where they had to take at least a few shifts and at most a whole period to get a rhythm going. And, in their defense, they came out in the second period looking like this would be the case--that is, until we hit the third period and it was turnovers and broken plays abound, all over again.
And, once again, the results of those struggles spoke for themselves, as the Flyers failed to get much going in the way of momentum throughout much of the game. Outside of a few examples of sustained pressure and connection, they largely looked scattered.
The beneficiaries of this, of course, were the Kings. With their already tight defense, they were able to push and break up the plays the Flyers were creating with relative ease. It was a tightly defended game, and where the Flyers once showed strength in working against such a system, they came up short, last night.
9. A look at response
The third period of last night's game posed an interesting question. Down by at least two goals for much of the final twenty minutes, this is the point in games during the losing streak where they would start to clamp up and get frustrated, making costly mistakes and taking ill timed penalties, in the process. It remained to be seen if they would fall back into those old traps, would implode like they had in the past.
And, to perhaps our pleasant surprise, they didn't do that. Sure, you can say that they started to press too hard in chasing the lead, and you'd be right. The third period effort wasn't stellar--just the number of turnovers should speak to that--but what was encouraging was the way that they managed to keep it together, and even make Los Angeles look like the undisciplined team. Could things have gone better? Would we have liked a different result? Yeah, absolutely. But what we saw at the end of last night's game was leaps and bounds better than what we were getting just a few weeks ago, when the games were in the exact same situation. And that's not nothing.
10. The only damn thing I know
The Flyers have a new pre-game video that they play on the big screen before the anthem and, you guessed it, it’s holiday themed. It’s charming and festive, but it’s one detail in particular that stuck out to me.
One of the fonts they use to write “Happy Holidays” looks like the Tim Horton’s logo font.
And I can’t stop thinking about it.
It’s honestly a real tragedy that the Wells Fargo Center doesn’t have a Tim Horton’s somewhere in the arena. If the Phantoms have one in the PPL Center, it would only seem fair that the Flyers have one too. But no such luck.
It’s very late, and I’m still thinking about it, and I probably still will be by the time you guys read this in the morning.
So, if anyone should feel so inclined as to deliver a double double to me on my couch sometime today, that’d be super cool. Thanks.