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Avalanche 4, Flyers 1: Sad brooms

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Some observations for your morning…

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

What an ugly and messy game that was, by and large, friends. We won’t wax poetic about it, just… yikes. Let’s see what we learned from this.

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

1.Weal line buzzing early

It’s about to get real grumbly real fast in here, because, as we said, there was a whole lot of messiness that went on in last night’s game, but there was also a little glimmer of hope right in the early part there. So let’s start with that? Sure.

We’ve been liking what we’re been seeing from the third line of Oskar Lindblom, Jordan Weal, and Travis Konecny, and evidently so has Dave Hakstol, because he opted to keep them together for another game heading into last night’s. And, as they have been since they were put together, they gave us a good look to start the game. They came out with some jump and got a bit of time in the offensive zone, but weren’t able to convert on it. Their momentum was interrupted (more on that soon), but they were off to a good start.

Things would get a little weird and dicey from there, with the wheels coming off just about until we hit the third period and the Flyers being unable to do much of anything, and then Lindblom getting bumped down to the fourth line when Michael Raffl left the game. But they were generating chances on the rush, they just needed to get in a little closer on net, get in position for rebounds, just tighten up on some of those details. They were knocking on the door, but they couldn’t convert.

2.Killing penalties

Well, we should get on to talking about the penalty kill. Because whatever momentum the Flyers might have been working on building was promptly broken up when they took a penalty just over two minutes into the game (this time it was Weal sent off for hooking). So we’re talking about the penalty kill. And how it continues to fair.

The worst part? The Flyers were actually doing a bit of good work in this one. They didn’t have any huge bits of flash like a huge breakout try or even a goal, but there were some quietly sound bits. Like the couple of times when they defended the blue line really tightly and denied the Avalanche power play an entry into the zone. They broke up their chance, didn’t just back straight up into their own zone, and that was pretty great, all things considered.

But the problem was that they couldn’t consistently do that. Instead, they did have times where their coverage broke down and the Avalanche entered cleanly and were able to get set up. And then we don’t have to guess too hard what happened after that. Because it’s what always happens. Robert Hagg talked about it after the game, if one guy makes a mistake and breaks coverage, it’s in the back of their net. Just like on Mikko Rantanen’s first goal. And it just keeps on happening. They did kill off Christian Folin’s delay of game penalty, and we can’t ignore that completely. But they’re still one of the worst penalty kills in the league. And they’re not doing anything to fix it.

3.Signs of life? Anybody?

This is normally the type of point that we would throw at the end of the article, easing out of things with a topic a little more general, but we really need to address it now. The Flyers looked flat and ineffective through a good part of last night’s game. It starts with, well, the slow starts, but then it seeps into the back half of the first period. And then into the second period. Really, it took until the third period for them to really start showing some jump. But before that, it was missed connections (much more on that later), too much deliberation, and a bit of pressing. Colorado was just running right through them and they couldn’t seem to find an answer.

And this was a big theme through the post-game interviews—they know that they’ve been starting poorly, and that they need to be better. They’ve been saying that all season. They know it. And that’s great. The first step to fixing a problem is knowing that there is one. But we’re now getting to the point where saying “we need to be better” isn’t good enough. They need to actually execute. They need to actually be better.

4.The power play (does not do the thing)

And we’re just going to keep on rolling with this thread, that of special teams units being ineffective, so we’ll jump on over and talk about the power play and how it’s fallen flat another night.

All told, the Flyers had three chances on the power play over the course of last night’s game, and they failed to convert on all of them. It wasn’t all bad though, as they were able to put up eight shots and two high danger chances for, and were able to get a bit of their cycle game going. But they just lacked the finish. Either they couldn’t chip away enough to knock the puck in, or no one was in position to tap in a rebound, or Semyon Varlamov just made a big save. But it was another night with no results. And the power play goes to just 17.6 percent and falls to nineteenth in the league.

And Nolan Patrick talked about it after the game, how power plays don’t have to just be about putting up points on the board, that just as important is the momentum that they help the team build, that they can carry with them even after the penalty expires. And this is true, absolutely. But when you’re digging yourself into holes like this team can’t seem to resist doing, the goals feel pretty necessary too. We’ll take as many of them as we can.

5.Brian Elliott was fine

It’s that time again. It’s time to talk about the goalie. It was Brian Elliott who got the nod for yesterday’s game, after a solid showing on Saturday against New Jersey, and last night he was… well, like the title of the section says, he was just fine.

Things started off looking a little rough, with his rebound control looking shaky, giving the Avalanche some second chances on shots that should have been stopped cleanly, but Elliott was able to make that second save, so we gave him the pass. We figured we’d let him get settled.

And from there it was a bit of a mixed bag—take a few big and timely saves to keep them in the game, even when trailing, mix them with a couple goals we can’t begrudge him too much (one on the penalty kill and the Matt Nieto goal that saw him sort of screened, but also can after a lapse in coverage that should have never left Nieto that open in the first place), and add one (Gabriel Landeskog’s) that we really needed him to save, and you’ll more or less have Elliott’s night. It was 29 saves on 32 shots on what was neither his best or his worst performance. He was just fine.

6.Turnover fest

We’ve been leading up to it, so let’s get into the particulars of some of that messiness that caused the Flyers to lose steam in the early to middle portions of last night’s game. We’ll start with talking about the turnovers.

If you came out of last night’s game feeling like the Flyers just didn’t get enough quality chances, didn’t get enough pucks in deep, well, you might be on to something. The Flyers themselves would agree with you, based on the comments of both players and coach after the game, as well. They needed chances to tie things up, to close the gap, and they just didn’t have enough push in them early, and part of that comes with the fact that they just weren’t able to hold onto the puck long enough to change that pattern. They were credited with making eight giveaways at 5-on-5, but were hindered just as much by passes not coming cleanly, being broken up in the neutral zone and sent the other way. We’ve seen it before, them shooting themselves in the foot like this, but it’s a pattern that’s holding, and one that keeps hurting their chances of building up steam.

7.Still getting some traffic to the front of the net

Despite what might seem like evidence to the contrary, the Flyers actually were able to get some chances in close last night. Indeed, they won the shot quality battle, putting up 13 high danger chances for in all situations to Colorado’s nine, and taking a 56.45 xGF% at 5-on-5. They were getting some looks, so what else was going on there?

Perhaps their biggest trouble mirrored that of what plagued them on the power play—they were able to get traffic in front of the net, but there was just one piece missing, or a half step behind. We saw a handful of times when the Flyers were zipping deep into the zone with possession of the puck, and they were able to manage a quick pass across the crease that has the goalie moving. There’s open net on the other side, but the trailer just isn’t there in time to take advantage. So the chance is negated.

And we should also give credit where it’s due—Varlamov also made a couple of really great saves, and really seemed to be on last night. We won’t take that from him. But the Flyers did still outchance the Avalanche. And they need to find a way to make those chances could for just a little bit more.

8.Nolan Patrick!

So there’s a lot of grumbling that’s been done about this game, and rightfully so, but we shouldn’t pretend that it was all one hundred percent bad. Can we talk about something good? I think we need a little bit of levity.

Patrick had himself a very solid game last night. He put up two scoring chances and an adjusted 51.03 CF%. He looked dynamic through most of the night, even when the team around him was sagging. And then, of course, there’s the matter of that goal.

Really, this whole play was all Patrick. It was him who put on some quick moves and was able to skate around, maintaining possession of the puck long enough to get the pass off to Travis Sanheim, and then get himself in front of the net in time to make the deflection off of Sanheim’s shot from the blue line. Jake Voracek got the secondary assist on that one, but really Patrick should have gotten it. If we’re being really technical about it.

But, jokes aside, it was a really stellar all around effort by Patrick, and another solid game for him, post-injury. Momentum’s building, folks. Can you feel it?

9.If everyone could stop getting hurt, that would be rad

I think the title of this one just about says it all. With Michael Raffl leaving last night’s game with a lower body injury, and Shayne Gostisbehere taking a puck to the knee and looking like he was in bad shape for a bit there (thankfully, he did come back to the ice, didn’t even leave the bench), it’s becoming very readily apparent just how shell-shocked we are about injuries. There have just been entirely too many to start this season. And I know I’m one to talk about how much I want to see Philippe Myers get a shot with the big club, or how, if they don’t get Mikhail Vorobyev back into the lineup I will light myself on fire, we don’t actually want to see any more injuries. We don’t know anything about Raffl’s status just yet, if he’ll end up missing any time, but the sentiment remains. I am tired of all of the injuries. Exhausted by them. Enough is enough, guys. Take care of yourselves out there.

10.The only damn thing I know

If I sound a little fatigued here, it’s because I am. But it’s fine, it’s all for you guys. I spent the whole of last evening channeling all of my energy into sending telepathic messages to Kyle Dubas—who was sitting behind me in the press box—trying to get him to take one of our bad players and send us one of their good players, thanks. I’m not sure if it worked, a Computer Boy might not be fooled by my tricks, but I did my best and I guess we’ll have to see. But I tried. For the good of the team.