Well, that sucked.
A high-energy game and an honest effort by the Flyers wouldn’t be enough to make up for some pretty disastrous defensive flubs and turnovers at the blue line by multiple culprits. While they managed to rack up an impressive amount of shots, finishing the game with 37 shots to the Blue Jackets’ 19, they couldn’t bail Carter Hart out when it mattered, and they couldn’t crack the code on Sergei Bobrovsky.
They lost this one 4-3, and they probably should have won it, in my opinion.
This is the first loss of the post-Dave Hakstol and Starter Hart era. Milestones still matter, I guess.
The energy and pace of this game looked pretty promising from puck drop; a long stretch of play with no whistle would start the game off, both teams focusing on their defensive efforts. Although the first half of the period had everything you would expect from an exciting back-and-forth game, it was actually more like a whole lot of nothing. The Flyers looked sharp, but not dangerous enough in the offensive zone to generate any effective opportunities; the Blue Jackets looked composed, but failed to put together chances.
Let me check my notes here. Ah, here I write, “Nothing is happening.”
Perhaps in an earnest effort to wake me up, Radko Gudas threw a hit on Markus Hannikainen and effectively pissed off Brandon Dubinsky, who dropped the gloves. You know, as much as I pretend not to, I still love a good fight. Especially when the rest of the game has been like this.
Gudas wailed on Dubinsky pretty hard, and the linesmen weren’t having that. Both took their five-for-fighting, with Dubinsky taking an extra 10-minute penalty for misconduct, as well as two minutes for instigating. Gudas would also receive two minutes for the initial interference call from his hit on Hannikainen. That’s a combined effort for 24 penalty minutes. Still 5-on-5 hockey. Keeping up?
The game would finally start picking up with only a handful of minutes left to play, with Zach Werenski taking advantage of an Ivan Provorov turnover at the blue line. He got one behind Carter Hart, a crime punishable by stoning, at 15:05. Ivan, please go see a sports psychologist, you beautiful disaster.
Provorov turns the puck over at the blue line and Werenski strikes. pic.twitter.com/oAIZQgaXJF— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 22, 2018
The Flyers, to their credit, responded quite well with a burst of offense the other way that just lacked completion. This would eventually pay off in the form of a penalty on Ryan Murray. He would be sent to the box for crosschecking at 17:40, and the Flyers got their first man-advantage of the game.
Without sugarcoating it, the first unit of this power play effort looked pretty awful. The Wells Fargo Center was not shy about sharing their displeasure with the team. I was prepared to write a full disparaging paragraph about this terrible power play, but then, of course, they decided to score with only a few seconds left.
Claude Giroux took the draw, battled hard for control of the puck, got it to Sean Couturier, who backhanded it in. Probably not quite the way they were thinking it would go, but hey, it went anyway, and that’s all that counts. Tie game, and a power play goal too? Sure, I’ll take it.
Couturier scores while Giroux takes Bob's eyes away. Tie game! pic.twitter.com/K7UC2byObK— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 22, 2018
AFTER ONE: 1-1, shots 7-5 Flyers
Much like a repeat of the first period, the second looked fairly even, both teams playing with high energy but not a whole lot of interesting stuff happening in either zone. This wouldn’t last long, however, with the Flyers coming up with some pressure in the offensive zone and swarming Sergei Bobrovsky. Although nothing was scored here, it’s the kind of energy you’d expect from the Flyers in a 1-1 game.
That energy would eventually pay off, as it is wont to do. Phil Varone, putting the topper on an all-around solid game, would score his first goal as a Flyer at 7:40. Ah, man, look at that face. I’m sufficiently charmed.
Phil Varone's first as a Flyer! pic.twitter.com/fn74J3SBRU— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 22, 2018
The warm fuzzies would soon dissipate, though, as the Flyers have a nasty habit of doing that. Hart came up with a stellar save on Cam Atkinson, but lost control of the rebound; subsequently, Atkinson’s second attempt at 9:30 did not miss. Well, that’s fine. It’s all fine. Another tie game.
Hart makes a huge toe save on the first shot, but the second goes in. 2-2. pic.twitter.com/q95F7u1xJ4— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 22, 2018
It seemed that after Varone’s goal, the Blue Jackets flipped on a hidden switch. I’m equally enamored and frustrated by this. What’s their secret? They began to put some serious pressure on the Flyers, and drew an interference penalty on Couturier at 10:00, sending the Flyers to the penalty kill.
This might seem pretty bad, but it’s probably worth mentioning that the power play numbers for the Blue Jackets have not been, uh, good. On the other hand, the Flyers penalty kill isn’t exactly intimidating either. This really could only go well for either team.
I feel like I mention this whenever I get the opportunity (which is fairly often, hey), but Scott Laughton has been playing really well. Today’s game is only another example of that. Taking advantage of a clunky play by the Blue Jackets, he took control of the puck with a nice burst of speed and had himself a nice shorthanded breakaway chance. Bobrovsky came up with the initial save, and again on the rebound. Another missed connection by the power play found Laughton again, and he ended up with another shorthanded chance with Dale Weise. Eventually, one day, one of these times, Laughton will actually get the goal here. It’s certainly not for lack of effort.
Another turnover at the Flyers blue line, this time by Jake Voracek, turned out to be disastrous for the good guys. Atkinson scored again at 13:23. There were a lot of culprits here, Voracek specifically, but also Provorov and Travis Sanheim, who frankly left Hart out to dry here. There are times when you want the goalie to bail you out, but no one in this league can work miracles. 3-2 Blue Jackets.
Voracek turns it over at the blue line and it leads to Atkinson scoring his second of the day.— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 22, 2018
We're noticing a trend here. pic.twitter.com/fc4VhLRAVL
The response from the Flyers here wasn’t bad at all; they pushed hard in the offensive zone and managed to generate some nice opportunities, but lacked any true finish.
Dubinsky would get sent to the box for roughing on Gudas (oh, familiar) at 17:20. There is really not much to say about the ensuing power play. Although they looked mostly competent in short bursts here, the tie goal didn’t exactly feel inevitable, and the power play came to an end without anything particularly noteworthy either way.
Then, of course, because this is exactly the way things would go for us, Artemi Panarin scored the next goal straight off the faceoff with just over thirty seconds left in the period. That sounds about appropriate, doesn’t it?
Panarin right off the draw. pic.twitter.com/Lpi95jK2xp— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 22, 2018
AFTER TWO: 4-2 Blue Jackets, shots 22-15 Flyers
A two-goal lead is certainly not insurmountable, but if you are the Philadelphia Flyers, you may get some kind of perverse pleasure out of making it seem that way.
All joking aside, to their credit, the Flyers definitely did not look like a tired or discouraged team in the third. They started off with the same energy they’ve had all game. Effort is not the issue with this team, to be sure. Sanheim in particular had a nice chance off the rush, his shot dinging right off the post. A shot by Andrew MacDonald was smothered by Bobrovsky, and an extra couple of shots at the puck by Michael Raffl would not gain him any friends.
Shayne Gostisbehere was sent to the box for slashing at 7:03, handing the Blue Jackets another power play opportunity. An aggressive penalty kill, punctuated by a strong effort by Raffl to get the puck to the offensive zone, would completely stifle the Blue Jackets here, and it didn’t even really look close.
Hart’s numbers in today’s game haven’t fully reflected how the team has played in front of him. He came up with a handful of nice saves in the third, doing his best to stop the bleeding for the Flyers. It was really up to the guys in front of him, and they hadn’t been able to finish on any of their chances.
Wayne Simmonds, off a feed on the rush by Voracek, very nearly had a goal, if not for the fact that Bobrovsky is very good in net. You really hate to see that.
That would turn out to be the story for much of the rest of the period. A delayed penalty call on Pierre-Luc Dubois for tripping would send the Flyers on another power play at 10:41, and once again the power play wouldn’t be able to come up with a goal. I call this The Bobrovsky Effect, and it is evil.
Another delayed penalty on the Blue Jackets? Absolutely, let’s take it. Dubinsky went off to the box for tripping at 15:55, and the Flyers put together a valiant effort to get something behind Bobrovsky, to no avail. This was probably their best power play of the game, including the one they actually scored on, with a cacophony of activity at the net looking very nearly like a Renaissance painting. They threw everything they had on net, and it still wasn’t enough. So it goes.
Still not quite giving up, the Flyers pulled Hart with just over two minutes left in the period. This seemed to be the ticket. A writhing mass of bodies right in front of Bobrovsky’s net took their turn stabbing at the puck, and eventually it ended up in the back of the net. James van Riemsdyk got credit for this goal at 18:50, the type of stuff that makes you remember why you love this stupid goddamn sport.
JVR scored on on a scramble in front, but it's not enough. pic.twitter.com/UH7J5fUdoL— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 22, 2018
The Flyers gained control of the puck off the neutral zone draw and Hart went right back to the bench with just one minute left in the game. A handful of dramatics ensued, but unfortunately for the Flyers, even their most earnest efforts wouldn’t be enough here. They avoided an empty net goal, which would just add insult to injury, but couldn’t get the tie goal before the horn sounded.
Can’t win them all, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. Someone give Carter Hart a big hug for me.
AFTER THREE: 4-3 Blue Jackets, shots 37-19 Flyers