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Panthers 2, Flyers 1: Well, it was nice while it lasted

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Some observations for your morning…

Florida Panthers v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Well, that was kind of a yawner, right? Did we all make it through that one? Who fell asleep? Certainly not me, as I was working tirelessly to put together these ten observations on the game for you. It was a struggle, but it’s a sacrifice that I’m will to make for all of you. You’re welcome.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

1.What a weird start

The title of this section just about says it all. We could talk about it as a slow start, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. It was slow or quiet in the respect that there was a lack of tangible action going on out there (ie. goals), but we did still have some happenings. The Flyers held the edge in shots early, 5-1 at about the midpoint of the period, but did spend a bit of time hemmed into their own end and things looked like the might get a little dicey, but they did well to keep the Panthers to the outside and block their shots before they were able to actually make it on goal. We had a few turnovers, some broken plays, and that kept either side from establishing much in the way of momentum. We can commend the Flyers for their play in the neutral zone, their good work in keeping the puck away from the Panthers and keeping their entries controlled, but it wasn’t a whole lot of fun to watch. Sorry, guys.

2.The power play

But we did have a chance to maybe get some excitement! With just over four minutes to go in the period, the Flyers got their first (and, ultimately, only) chance on the power play of the evening, and a chance to get themselves on the board. And, well, they did not do that. It was kind of a rough go—it wasn’t until the second unit got out there that they were even able to make a clean entry into the zone after losing the opening faceoff. It wasn’t their flashiest kill ever, but the Panthers did well to keep the Flyers flustered, breaking up their entry attempts and tries at moving the puck cleanly through the neutral zone with speed. It just wasn’t working.

And, considering that we only got the one look at the power play last night, it’s hard to say if their struggles are a result of the shuffling of the personnel or of Florida’s work on the penalty kill, or some combination of the two. All the same, we want to see some more from them. Florida’s penalty kill isn’t great, but they made that kill look easy. The Flyers have the firepower that they should be producing on the man advantage. We just need them to find a way.

3.And then it got not boring

Were we complaining too much about things being boring? Well, the universe answered. We asked for some excitement but OH MY GOD NOT THAT KIND OF EXCITEMENT.

The Panthers managed a shorthanded chance at the tail end of the penalty, and then took that momentum and ran with it through the last two minutes of the first period. They had the Flyers caught in their own zone, and would not be held just to the outside, this time. They were racking up chances and the Flyers were left to just scramble to try and defend. Brian Elliott kept them in it, and they were able to clear the puck out with a few seconds left to go before the intermission, and somehow they survived that onslaught without giving up a goal, but oh boy did it look ugly for a bit there. And that wasn’t the end of that ugliness (but more on that later).

4.Killing penalties

And, because the universe loves a chance to even the scales, we didn’t have to wait too long to see the Panthers get a chance of their own on the power play. And that first one went okay! The Flyers weren’t able to execute any of their fancy shorthanded chances that we get so excited about, but they were able to keep the puck tied up long enough to eat up time, and that was just about all we could ask for. The same could be said for their third kill. And then, well, and then there was the second one.

Once they killed their first penalty of the night, we started to get a little excited—they didn’t allow a power play goal on Saturday, could they start a new streak in which they give up zero power play goals in consecutive games?

[Narrator: they could not]

Alright, so this one was messy. The Panthers were able to set up in the zone and the Flyers just got kind of still. And then Elliott inched out to play a shot, and deflected it right to Aaron Ekblad, who had all the space in the world behind Elliott to work with, and he didn’t miss from that close. And we complain a lot about how the system of the penalty kill fails so often, but that one wasn’t all on the system. Could they have found a way to clear that puck before it got on net in the first place? Sure. But the goal was just as much a result of that as it was the bad rebound.

5.Let’s talk about Brian Elliott

And since we mentioned Elliott already, let’s just move right on along to his own section. Despite that pretty ugly goal, it was an alright night for Elliott, all things considered. The second goal was kind of rough too, but more than anything else, it was a beautifully executed play by Evgenii DadonovChristian Folin’s gap control wasn’t great, and Dadonov took advantage of it, using him as a screen and lasering the puck in on goal right through his legs. There wasn’t a whole lot Elliott could do on that one.

All told, he stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced on the evening, and did what he could to keep the Flyers in it when the Panthers had really taken over the game. He bought them enough space that, if they had closed on one or more of those chances in the third period, this might have been a very different game. In short, Elliott was *Kelly voice* good, not great. It was a more or less even performance, but the push in front just wasn’t there all the way to get the win.

6.Close, but no cigar

We’ve hinted already at this, but let’s get more direct about it—the middle portion of this game was rough. The Flyers had to kill three penalties and that sapped out a good bit of energy, but their 5-on-5 play left something to be desired. They put up seven shots across the whole of the period, only one of which could be considered high danger. They just looked a little flat, and they weren’t able to generate much in terms of sustain pressure or high quality chances.

But there was one area where they were trying to get the right work in—we saw a bit of a lull in the efforts to generate plays from below the goal line in Saturday’s game, but the good news is they got back to it last night. The bad news? They were throwing pucks in front from below the goal line, but there was no one there to accept that pass. So it was all for naught. We appreciate the effort, and want to see them keep it up. Just maybe work on the execution a little bit.

7.Turnover fest

We hit on this earlier, but we’re circling back to it, well, because it was an issue not just contained in the first period. The Panthers were credited with 11 takeaways on the evening, and this sounds just about right—they were disruptive when the Flyers were trying to enter the zone with possession and were chipping at plays wherever they could. So it was a mess of plays breaking on a micro level, and not always a ton of room for momentum building.

But then there’s the flip side: the Flyers knew what the Panthers can do when collecting a turned over puck, given some space to work with. They just wait for them and they get to work. So the Flyers were looking for that, and had to play things a little tighter as a result. So that slowness that we were also feeling through this one? That had something to do with it. But despite the product feeling a little dry, the Flyers, on the whole, did well in defending against those turnovers into breakaways threats that the Panthers bring. It wasn’t super pretty, but it worked well enough.

8.The Patrick line brings some jump

Does it sound like we’ve been grumbling too much so far? We’re sorry. It was kind of a rough first two periods, and we have some feelings about that. But things did turn around in the third period, largely by the efforts of Nolan Patrick’s line. They came out from the second intermission with some serious jump, and were looking sharp, much sharper than they had to that point, right away. They were buzzing right away, but the result did come eventually, with this great feed from Oskar Lindblom to Jake Voracek, who placed the puck perfectly to beat Roberto Luongo. Just an all-around nice play.

But the good work wasn’t just limited to that play—the trio came out of the night with an average adjusted CF% of 63.54 percent at 5-on-5, and, as we noted above, were really leading that late game charge. Through the early part of the third period, it felt like every shift they were getting, they were finding a way to create a scoring chance. They were just only able to find the back of the net the one time.

9.A little bit of push

And what an equally weird end to the game. Like we noted above, the Flyers did well to come out strong and start generating chances through the early goings of the third period, and really dominated play through much of that period (outshooting Florida 14 to six in the last 20 minutes) They picked up the one goal, and very easily could have had another one, or even a couple, if they hadn’t hit the post or if their other chances had panned out. They were creating some chances, but somehow, even so, the push wasn’t even. They hit a stretch in the middle of the period, after Lindblom hit the post, where they just weren’t able to generate much of anything. They regressed to looking like they did earlier in the game, and then time got away from them.

Also curious was the situation with the goalie pull—it didn’t happen until late. Hakstol had the chance to pull Elliott with just around two minutes to go in the period—the Flyers had the puck deep in the offensive zone—but Hakstol wouldn’t call Elliott to the bench. Rather, he waited until there was just over a minute to go to do so. And maybe it was product of not liking the matchup that was out there with two minutes to go, and wanting to wait until a switch was made. Fine. And maybe if the Flyers had managed to tie things, it wouldn’t have mattered. But they didn’t, so it does. It was a strange call.

10.The only damn thing I know

Here we are, folks. Somehow we got to this point. For whatever reason, the Florida Panthers are a team that gives the Flyers a ton of trouble. It feels a little weird, right? Kind of random? They’re not even like a real rival, there’s nothing going on that should make it seem like that should be the case. Either way, I don’t like it. There’s no actual analysis here. I don’t like that this is happening. That’s all.