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Avalanche 5, Flyers 2: The one where no one has any idea what goaltender interference looks like

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First loss of the Gritty era. It’s still historic!

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Colorado Avalanche Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the Flyers lost this one. I had a really nice intro that I’d written before the game started and it went something like “we’re going 82-0, losers.” I’d believed that, in my heart. It’s still early in the season, I have a fire in my heart, etc. Sometimes, things do not work out.

In all fairness, the score of the game does not reflect how close it was. The shots were held about even (37-35 Flyers to end the game) and both teams looked highly capable of turning the tide. In the end, though, the Avalanche got a head-start early on and carried it through till the end, edging out a 5-2 win over our boys. You can’t win them all. I am mad about that. We’re going 81-1 by the way.

So, realistically, the game could have started off better.

The Flyers looked to be carrying over strong play from their last game in Vegas for about one minute and thirty-five seconds before they let in an early goal by a fella named Colin Wilson. I say “they,” but what I really mean is that Brian Elliott let in an early goal by a fella named Colin Wilson. Christian Folin (replacing Radko Gudas in the lineup, a crime against God) also looked quite silly on that goal. Not ideal, in my opinion.

Although the Flyers were able to get a few scoring chances in, the Avalanche looked like the more energized team. They seemed to have an answer for just about whatever the Flyers were throwing their way, and it was frustrating to witness. Remember when this was the team you felt you could comfortably expect a win against?

The period wasn’t all bad, however. Sean Couturier would score his first goal (and notch his first point) of the season on a sequence that started with a breakaway by Travis Konecny, whose shot bounced off Semyon Varlamov’s pads and right onto Couturier’s tape. We got us a tie game.

The Flyers would get a power play off a hooking call on Matt Nieto at 10:12, but they basically did nothing with it. The first half of the power play looked fairly solid, with the Flyers doing a decent job of keeping pressure on the Avalanche and keeping the puck in the offensive zone, but it fell apart right at the halfway mark. They were simply defended against too well, and weren’t able to generate anything dangerous.

Folin (remember that he replaced Gudas? Remember?) followed that disappointing sequence with a similarly disappointing play of his own, a man determined to show that he is not to be outdone. His disastrous turnover would end in another goal by the Avalanche, this time by J.T. Compher. Elliott probably should have had that one, but Christ. Your goalie can only bail you out so much.

Highlight of this period hands-down goes to Shayne Gostisbehere for a sprawling defensive play that had me yelling expletives at the TV. The crowd wanted a penalty, but our illustrious referees are men of God, and it was not so. Thanks, guys! I’ve never willingly joined in on a “Fuck you refs!” chant and you can fact-check me on that! (Don’t fact-check me on that!)

The Flyers were just outplayed. They got another power play, but it was so underwhelming I don’t even need to talk about it. Our good pal Compher took a tripping penalty, we hoped something good would happen, and it did not happen. They looked clunky and unrefined. Let’s move on, please.

AFTER ONE: Avalanche 2, Flyers 1; shots 14-12 Avalanche

We began the period in deep existential woe with the news that our son James van Riemsdyk, home from war (Toronto), is not on the bench. He took a puck to the knee in the first period, and he’s dead now I guess, I don’t know. Sports!

From the start of this period, the Flyers looked a bit better than we’d seen from them in the first. Their energy looked stronger, and they traded decent scoring opportunities back and forth with the Avalanche for the first couple minutes. Avenging their fallen brethren, or something. I respect the move.

I can’t claim to know what’s going on in the Colorado locker room, but I have to wonder: are Mark Barberio and Varlamov, like, okay? Is there any reason we just saw Barberio absolutely flatten Varlamov? Dude got straight murked out there. (Hey, Mark, I feel the same.) Anyway, the sequence of events went as such: Barberio (accidentally??) tackled Varlamov to the ice, our good boy Mikhail Vorobyev took advantage of the empty net and loose puck, and we got ourselves a tied game once again. That’s baby’s first NHL goal, and one of the funniest things I’ve witnessed in a long time.

Scott Laughton went to the box for holding at 2:30, and the Avalanche had a pretty decent opportunity to get their go-ahead goal, but it was simply not to be. The Flyers penalty kill was more than up to the task here. Oh, and I take back most of what I said about Elliott in the first few minutes of the game. He’s looked like a completely different guy since, coming up big when needed (which was often, what with some of the turnovers we saw during that minor).

The game would lapse into 4-on-4 hockey with penalties given to both Jake Voracek (high-sticking) and, oh, hey, Compher again for retaliating with a slash. The Flyers haven’t had a great history with 4-on-4 hockey, but they looked pretty good here, right up until the moment they did not. Gabriel Landeskog would score for the Avalanche at 7:18. Well, I’m unhappy.

Controversial goal! Controversial goal!

I don’t know about you guys reading this, but I am a stubborn person, and not often a rational person, so I fully believe with complete certainty that the league hates us, and wants us to suffer. It’s anti-Bullies mentality. It’s anti-Philly bias. Frankly, it’s un-American. It’s also the only excuse for this not getting called goaltender interference, which it absolutely was. I know that these calls can be a little nebulous, and often they are dictated by the phases of the moon, the tides, other cosmic variables in our universe, etc., but come on. From everything we’ve seen in this league, all the goaltender interference calls we’ve observed, this should have been one. What hot, festering garbage.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Counting backwards. 3-2 Colorado.

We’re treated to another Avalanche power play when Nathan MacKinnon drew a hooking penalty on our Robert Hagg. Again, the Flyers did a decent job defending this. Elliott once again was forced to come up with massive saves here, most notably one just 6 seconds before the end of the man advantage that looked like a goal for sure. Sometimes you need your goalie to bail you out, and Elliott looked up to the challenge.

The Flyers continued to get more scoring chances towards the end of the period, coming into the offensive zone with bursts of energy and peppering Varlamov with dangerous shots, forcing him to make some pretty challenging saves.

This flurry of energy came with a downside, however, as we saw Konecny nearly bowl over a very big and scary man named Nikita Zadorov who is surely not to be fucked with. We nearly witnessed a murder on ice as Zadorov responded (rationally) by pinning Konecny to the ice with his stick pressed against his throat. Cool! Measured response! Konecny would receive an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and Zadorov would get one for attempted murder (roughing). Back to the 4-on-4 grind to close out the period.

AFTER TWO: Avalanche 3, Flyers 2; shots 28-25 Avalanche

The third started with about 40 seconds of 4-on-4 hockey, during which nothing too eventful happened. The Flyers began swapping quality scoring chances with the Avalanche throughout the first several minutes, the type of stuff that makes you think “oh God oh God I’ve missed hockey so fucking much.” Both teams looked on it, with the Flyers showing more energy than in the previous two periods, looking truly dangerous at times.

Ian Cole, who I do not like because he was a Penguin and therefore an enemy, did some major interfering with Laughton at the 3:20 mark. Off to the power play we go.

This power play? I could marry it. They didn’t score here, but they did just about everything else. This checked almost all the boxes for me: a stellar keep by Gostisbehere at the point, an excess of shots (shots shots sh-sh-shots), and the construction of a lovely vacation home in the Avalanche’s zone. If they could keep this level of play up, a tie goal looked inevitable.

The third period was exactly what a hockey game should look like. Open ice, baby, open ice. Key players from both teams would have fantastic scoring chances. I forgot to breathe more than a few times. Why can’t it always be this way?

Of course, the fun cannot always last, as the Flyers, a hockey team who cannot count, would be called for too many men on the ice at 12:54. I love it. Let’s get wild, guys. Konecny went to the box to serve the minor, and we went back to the penalty kill.

The Flyers once again defended fairly well, and nearly were out of the clear before Folin (the Gudas-replacer and interloper) got called for hooking at 14:38. I personally love to witness 5-on-3 hockey, even if it’s only for a few seconds. Get weird, etc. They survived the 2-man disadvantage, but not quite the following Avalanche power play. Wilson would score his second of the night just as the power play was winding down at 16:21, and now we’re down 4-2 and oh God now I have to go back and change the intro I wrote an hour before this game started.

Down by 2 goals and with 1:44 left on the clock, Dave Hakstol sent Elliott to the bench for an offensive-zone draw that just didn’t turn out the way anyone was hoping. Blah, blah, blah, someone from the Avalanche scored an empty net goal, whatever. It was MacKinnon, in case you wanted to know that, or something.

Well, you can’t win them all. Perhaps this is the end of the Folin experiment? Please God.

AFTER THREE: Flyers 2, Avalanche 5; shots 37-35 Flyers