The Flyers fell to the Blue Jackets in a shootout on Saturday night by a 2-1 final, but as usual there was more than meets the eye in the Flyers’ latest shootout debacle. Here are 10 things we learned, in no particular order because it’s just funner that way.
That Provorov/Gostisbehere defense pair was great
Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere skated together and Robert Hagg and Andrew MacDonald were paired up against the Blue Jackets. Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas remained a pair as they have been for some time.
As expected, the pair of Provorov and Gostisbehere was pretty fire. They posted a 54% Corsi For and were noticeable all night creating chances in the offensive zone. The smooth-skating Provorov did need time to adjust to the offensive forays of Gostisbehere, which did lead to a couple golden chances for the Blue Jackets the other way.
That MacDonald/Hagg pairing was not
The results were much worse for the MacDonald/Hagg pairing, which struggled to a 28% Corsi For in all situations on the night. While the metrics were bad, the eye test wasn’t as forgiving as both players really looked out of sorts with each other.
They struggled moving the puck out of the zone and had coverage problems that boiled down to communication issues. Hagg was clearly used to playing with the more offensive-minded Gostisbehere and let MacDonald handle a lot of the zone exits early, which isn’t exactly his best strength. Then later on Hagg tried to exit the zone more himself and that’s a part of his game that is still evolving as he gains more experience.
In theory this pair should play well together long-term as they work together more, but there’s a chance that during the adjustment period they make enough mistakes to cost the Flyers games in that stretch.
Travis Konecny fits in on the top line
The second-year forward earned a ticket on the top line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier and posted a 64% Corsi For on the night. As usual the Flyers’ top line was all over the place and had a bunch of chances that they’d love to have another crack at.
Konecny on the top line is likely an effort to squeeze some offense out of the player and get him rolling, as has happened with the other two guys that coach Dave Hakstol has plugged in with Giroux and Couturier.
His speed really opened things up more than Wayne Simmonds had in recent games, and if it weren’t for the goaltending of Bobrovksy, the Flyers’ newly formed top trio would have found the net.
The Flyers ran out of gas in the third period
Playing the back to back nights did the Flyers no favors against the rested Blue Jackets, as expected. Brian Elliott was on life support in the third period and helped steal the Flyers a point as you can see from the game flow below.
Brian Elliott has earned this holiday break more than anyone
Again left hanging for long stretches in this one, all Brian Elliott did was earn the Flyers a point on the road against one of the better teams in the conference. He stopped 35 of 36 shots in the game and had no chance on a perfectly placed shot in the shootout for the winner.
It was just another strong performance from the veteran who has now started every game since Michal Neuvirth last played on Nov. 28 against San Jose. Neuvirth should return to action following the holiday break, and nobody in hockey has earned a few days off than Brian Elliott.
The penalty kill continues to be a problem
Seth Jones started the scoring with a power play goal against the Flyers’ 28th-ranked penalty kill. Though the Flyers haven’t been shorthanded as much in recent weeks, when they have been they’ve pretty consistently given up goals on them.
With the Flyers playing respectable hockey at even strength this season, the issues on the penalty kill have cost them points and games far too often. At some point the players can only be looked at so much until the coaching staff needs to be assessed. In short, Ian Laperriere has not gotten the job done and at some point he needs to be held accountable for the continual issues on the penalty kill.
The Flyers are good enough to hang around the playoff picture, but they’re being dragged down by their dreadful penalty kill and something needs to chance on that front, and fast.
Flyers shot from everywhere, but focused in close on Bobrovsky
When assessing the Flyers’ shot selection, often times we’ll find a mess of point shot attempts, but that wasn’t so much the case against Columbus on Saturday. Per Natural Stat Trick’s heatmap, we can see that the Flyers really worked around the circles and in.
Though they could only muster one goal on Bobrovsky, it wasn’t for a lack of trying as the Flyers had numerous chances from high danger zones of the ice but just didn’t get the results they were looking for.
Nolan Patrick had a tough night
The Flyers’ rookie center didn’t have his best night at the office a night after showing well in Buffalo. The youngster missed the net on a pair of decent scoring chances and took two pretty bad penalties, one for hooking after turning the puck over and another as his stick got up high on a Blue Jacket.
While Hakstol will live with the ups and downs as Patrick grows offensively and defensively the coach will not be happy seeing the rookie make multiple trips to the penalty box. Thankfully, neither of Patrick’s penalties cost the Flyers, as the Blue Jackets’ power play goal occurred with Dale Weise in the box.
Yes, the Flyers still suck at the shootout
Sergei Bobrovsky is already one of the best netminders in the league, and his athleticism and quickness makes him particularly tough in the shootout. Given how quick his movement is, it was curious to see two of three Flyers shooters try to deke the goaltender rather than pick a spot and shoot.
Claude Giroux didn’t even move Bobrovsky with a couple moves and he didn’t bite on any of Jake Voracek’s head fakes while making both saves look pretty easy in the process. Sean Couturier went with a quick backhand to forehand and nearly snuck it over the pad of Bobrovsky.
At least Brian Elliott was solid between the pipes for the Flyers, stopping two of three attempts and only being beaten by a perfectly placed shot from Pierre-Luc Dubois.
The NHL should extend the three-on-three OT to 10 minutes
As usual it stinks for a great back-and-forth game to end in a lousy skills competition but the Flyers and Blue Jackets served as another example of a game that likely would have ended had there been more time in the overtime session.
Both teams had great chances that were oh-so-close to putting a bow on this game and the shootout has lost luster and excitement for fans over the years. The league needs to finally get rid of this mess already.