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Devils 3, Flyers 0: Not ideal

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Some observations for your morning…

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

This all felt pretty inevitable, right? The Flyers beat up on the Devils at home last time they played, and maybe we got a little too confident. So it goes. The Flyers didn’t play too badly, but maybe that makes it a little worse. Are we ready to lament this loss? Sounds like a great Friday activity.

All stats and graphics via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

1.Ping!

Yeah, we’re just going to get right to this one. We figured one of the keys to this game would be to come out with some jump, and the Flyers were able to do that. They more or less took over play through the early part of the first period, and they might have been able to take over the early lead had it not been for the pesky post. But, indeed, this would emerge as a trend for the evening.

[As a side note, I caught the Leafs game later last night, and I swear every time I heard the puck ring off iron, I winced. No more post. I’m begging you.]

All told, the Flyers hit the post five (5) times on the night, and frustration mounted pretty quickly from that one. They were creating space and chances and had room to work with, but each time they were mere inches away. We can play the “what would this game have looked like if they had closed on even one of those chances?” but the real result still stands. The effort was valiant, but we needed a little more.

2.The power play

But after some initial pressure, the Flyers would get another chance to get to get themselves on the board with a power play. And they did it! They scored a power play goal!

Well… not quite. They scored the goal, in that the puck did indeed cross the goal line, but it ended up being called back because James van Reimsdyk made contact with Keith Kinkaid while trying to set the fly by screen. Alas. They would get a little more pressure going through the rest of the attempt, but they couldn’t close.

And this was more or less the story of the night—the Flyers got some chances (six) in their four total attempts, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. And we want to give them credit for that, and not get too upset that it’s yet another game in which they couldn’t score. They’re still adjusting to James van Riemsdyk being back, but they’re also three for their last 43 attempts, and that needs to change.

3.RIP Brian Elliott

Goalie talk already? You bet! We normally wait until a little late in the article to talk about the goalie(s), but we’re just going to get right into it. It was… well I suppose we could call it a dramatic evening for one Brian Elliott. On the whole, he was good, stopping 23 of the 25 shots he faced. That makes for two goals allowed, and they were kind of rough, but also in their own ways at least partially excusable. The first was a stoppable shot, but Elliott was screened by his own player. And the second was when catastrophe struck—on a three-on-two, Elliott went down to try to make the initial stop, but knew right away something was wrong. He didn’t even make the effort to push across to make the save, and the puck was in, and Elliott was heading right off to the locker room, leaving Cal Pickard to come in in relief. The Flyers haven’t provided any update on his status, but it didn’t look good from where we were sitting. And the Philly goaltender drama continues.

4.Killing penalties

We’re going to flip over and talk about the penalty kill now, because it’s just about that time. We only had two looks at it, which really seems like it’s for the best, and both of those looks were successful. The Flyers held the Devils to just three shots and one proper scoring chance and kept them pretty quiet, all in all. The Flyers didn’t manage any of their pretty short handed rushes (though it looked for a moment like Scott Laughton might try for one, but it wasn’t quite there and he just cleared the puck and went off for a change), but they also didn’t give the Devils much opportunity for flash either. It was two quiet enough attempts, and we’ll take that.

And, hey, would you look at that. That’s two games in a row in which they haven’t given up a power play goal. That’s pretty neat. We might be a little more excited if it looked like there were some larger changes happening, that they might be finally putting the pieces together, but really they’ve just executed in this last one. The underlying stuff’s all the same. Alas

5.Welcome back, James van Riemsdyk!

The time has finally come! James van Riemsdyk’s back! When Nolan Patrick came back after missing a handful of games, we said it felt like it had been years since we’d seen him, and the feeling is this tenfold with van Riemsdyk. He’s been out since sustaining a lower body injury in the early part of the second game of the season in Colorado, and we were ready to see him make his triumphant return.

And, well, he did make his return - it just wasn’t as flashy as we might have hoped. He came out of the night with two shots, one high danger chance, and an adjusted 44.22 CF% at 5-on-5. He got just about two periods in with his new linemates in Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds, but things were shuffled in the third period in an attempt to get something going, making it a little tough to make any notes on chemistry emerging. We’re still waiting on that one.

It wasn’t a terribly flashy night for van Riemsdyk, but the narrative might have been much different had he not brushed Kinkaid and had the power play goal wiped off. But it happened and we just have to move past it. It was a fine enough first game back, and it was just nice to see him getting his feet wet. It’s good to have him back.

6.Letting up

We’ve talked a good bit so far about how the Flyers pretty well dominated the Devils through the bulk of this game, but it wasn’t a full 60 minute effort. They dominated through most of the game, but we did also see them hit a stretch where they faltered.

The Flyers held the edge for a good bit of this one, but the end of the second period saw them giving the Devils some space to work with, and they ran with it. Steadily, they worked to pull momentum back in their own favor, and the Flyers were left doing some scrambling to keep from giving up another goal. They were successful in this, they kept the deficit to just one goal and kept themselves in it. They might have had a better chances to tie things up, if they hadn’t let up there, but also who knows. Maybe they would have just hit another post. Are we nitpicking? They did play well otherwise. But the let up was worth noting.

7.A note on quality chances

We’ve alluded to this already, but we’re really going to dig into just how much the Flyers out chanced the Devils last night. is this pouring salt in the wound? Probably. We’re sorry about that. We don’t feel good about this either. But we’ve got to talk about it.

This is a nice picture. All of that red in front of the net? We’ve been begging the Flyers to put up that sort of effort consistently all season. They did well last night crashing the net and creating chances in close. They put up 18 high danger chances for on the night, while holding the Devils to just eight of their own. It wasn’t just a question of the Flyers winning the shot quantity battle (which they did) but also that of shot quality. Their effort was solid, they just couldn’t finish. But, if nothing else, this is the type of effort we want to see from them, and one that will get them results, if they stick to it.

8.When it’s not your night…

This one was rough. We don’t really have to tell you that. Either you watched it with your own eyes or you’ve picked up on the thread we’ve been lying down. There were some things to like, as we noted above the Flyers were getting their fair number of chances, but they just could not buy a goal. That whole endeavor was summed up pretty nicely in one sequence in the third period, in which Kinkaid came out to play the puck and got tied up behind his own net while the puck made its way to Wayne Simmonds. He had a wide open net to work with, and at the absolute last second, Ben Lovejoy got a stick on the puck to deflect it away.

And this is one of those games where we want to talk about the team finding a way to close on all of those chances that they’re creating, and we would be correct in saying that. They need to find a way to close. But these games also happen sometimes, where the bounces are all against you and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. It’s inexplicable, but it happens. The test is just finding a way to not be rattled by it, to come out stronger in the next one.

9.Loose ends

It’s an all defense edition of our loose ends section, friends! We’re going to kick things off by talking about Andrew MacDonald. We thought about giving him his very own welcome back section, but to be completely honest, he had something of a quiet night. So he has to share his section. Sorry.

Anyway, Andrew MacDonald made his return to the lineup last night, and he was just fine. He came out of the night with an adjusted 68.15 CF% at 5-on-5, and had one very nice scoring chance that he just couldn’t close on. But otherwise his night was pretty quiet, and that’s probably for the best. After how rough he looked when he last played earlier in the season, we’ll take a low drama game from MacDonald. It’s unclear how much we’ll see of him in the coming games, whenever Radko Gudas is over his illness situation, but we’ll take this first game back.

And as we’re wrapping this thing up, we want to touch briefly on Christian Folin—he had himself another fine game, but you might not otherwise know that when weighing it against the louder hiccups in his game. The biggest of which was the screen he inadvertently set on New Jersey’s first goal of the game, something he’s done for two games in a row now. And then there was the scoring chance that nearly was, when Folin, fresh out of the penalty box had a chance to catch a puck skittering in on goal and just couldn’t do it. Instead of a breakaway, we got a clear look at the foot speed he’s lacking. We’re trying not to get too caught up in that when he had an otherwise okay game. But the loud stuff still sticks.

10.The only damn thing I know

Okay, so we can agree on this one, right? That “the Battle of the Turnpike” is the absolute worst name for a rivalry in the history of forever. I can’t even offer any actual analysis to it, it’s just awful. The turnpike is bad. The name is bad. Do better, the naming powers that be.