The Flyers turned a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 loss to the Devils on Thursday night, but it wasn’t all bad. Okay most of it was bad, but either way here are 10 things we learned from the proceedings, in no particular order.
Flyers again caught being too cautious playing with a lead
Though it ended up being the Flyers’ first loss all season while holding a lead after two periods, you could just feel this one slipping away as the third period dragged on.
It didn’t start that way, though, as the Flyers allowed just one shot on goal through first half of the third period. Now they had only one shot themselves on goal themselves, which started to reveal the problem.
New Jersey was the better team in the third and dominated the Flyers to the tune of a 61.54% Corsi For in the final stanza. The Devils won more puck battles, controlled more zone time and eventually made the Flyers pay for not being more aggressive in hunting for a fourth goal.
With 9:00 left the Devils came up with the puck out of a corner scrum, another puck battle, and Damon Severson snuck in from the point and tied things up at 3-3. Though they held the Devils down for much of the period, the lack of push offensively led to too much time in their own zone which ended up burning them.
Penalty kill struggles continue
Really hate to beat a dead horse here, but the Flyers paltry penalty killing is straight-up costing them games after giving another pair of goals to the Devils last night.
The frustrating part is that in this game at least the Flyers did a nice job on two of their kills, then were awful on the two that resulted in goals. They got a massive kill with less than five minutes left in the second, protecting a 3-2 lead after a bad offensive zone penalty by Travis Konecny. The forwards were aggressive at the blue line and did a great job of denying the Devils easy zone entries and were rewarded with a much-needed kill.
One seam pass confounded the Flyers defense and left Kyle Palmieri wide open on the first one, then nobody bothered to lift or bother Drew Stafford parked with his stick down right in front of the Flyers’ crease.
At some point something has to change, because the combination of players and strategy has just not worked at all.
Power play covers for awful PK
While the penalty kill continues to bury the Flyers, the power play continues to drop in a rope to bail them out. The Flyers went 2-for-3 on the man-advantage against the Devils and had chances on each and every power play.
They were also opportunistic, taking advantage of a 5-on-3 to tie things up at 1-1 after watching New Jersey take an early lead.
Claude Giroux buried one after a broken play down low when Jake Voracek tried to hit Wayne Simmonds with a pass, but the puck ended up on other side of the net and Giroux didn’t miss the empty net. It ended a nine-game goal drought for the captain.
FLYERS GOAL SCORED BY #28 CLAUDE GIROUX!— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 2, 2018
Then Wayne Simmonds got in on the fun with a power play goal of his own, stuffing home a rebound off a Voracek shot for his 17th goal of the season. Simmonds is one of the best in the business at establishing net front position and then corralling and finishing rebound chances.
Wayne Simmonds scores on the PP— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 2, 2018
2-2 in NJ pic.twitter.com/75gyP2NpDa
With struggles on the penalty kill looking like they have no end in sight, more than ever the Flyers will need to be potent on the man-advantage.
Alex Lyon’s NHL debut
Coming off a quick five-save cameo against the Capitals on Wednesday night, the Flyers gave the start to the 25-year-old and he more than held his own in his first NHL start, for the most part.
The Yale product came up with a huge early save on Pavel Zacha, his first of the game, and had virtually no chance on the Palmieri goal that was ripped right under the bar.
He was aggressive on a possible breakaway as Travis Zajac’s penalty expired and charged out to meet the puck before Zajac could get in all alone. That showed quick, decisive decision making and good instincts in what was a tough split-second move.
After a clunker from Michal Neuvirth trying to protect a lead the previous night, Lyon made a massive save on Jesper Bratt just after the 10-minute mark on partial breakaway with the Flyers still leading. Lyon was on top of his crease, cut down the angle and controlled the rebound without allowing a second chance.
Now Lyon would love to have the eventual game-winning goal back as he caught a piece of Nico Hischier’s deflection, but not enough to keep it out of the net. In his defense the Flyers were crumbling in front of him and it was likely a matter of time before they found the go-ahead goal.
More new lines
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol continued to tinker with his lines, promoting Scott Laughton to the third line with Jordan Weal and Michael Raffl and sticking Valterri Filppula with Jori Lehtera and Taylor Leier.
Overall the Flyers had a nice game at even strength numbers-wise (54% Corsi For), so it’s safe to say that the new lines weren’t terrible. The Laughton line was mostly out there with Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas on the tying goal and was outworked in the puck battle that led to the goal.
As for the fourth line, they did contribute a pair of assists as part of Shayne Gostisbehere’s go-ahead goal.
Laughton did have a great chance to break the 3-3 tie with 6:16 left, but Keith Kinkaid was up to the task. It was also the Flyers’ best scoring chance of the third period, which wasn’t a great sign that late into the period.
The Gudas play
Things got testy in the first when Radko Gudas barreled into Kyle Palmieri, causing Palmieri to go to the ice hard and miss a few shifts before returning. Gudas, who is a repeat offender, was accessed a major on the play.
It appeared as though Gudas, on a foray into the offensive zone, was trying to get back to his point position and avoid a cutting Wayne Simmonds. Instead, Simmonds slid by and Gudas leveled a completely unsuspecting Palmieri. Gudas left his feet but picked his head up and looked to be trying to avoid any contact and was caught in a bad position.
Gudas had to answer for the play with a tilt with Travis Zajac after leaving the box, and we’ll see if the NHL Department of Player Safety has anything else to add to what happened last night. Here it is below, you be the judge.
Radko Gudas with a strange hit on Kyle Palmieri, looked like he tried to jump around him? pic.twitter.com/rx7BYseOaH— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 2, 2018
What can Shayne Gostisbehere do for you? Everything.
After having a tough time clearing puck in his own zone with a long shift against the Devils forecheck, Gostisbehere eventually worked the puck up and out of the zone. Then Filppula hit him with a pass and he put a laser past Kinkaid to put the Flyers in front.
It was a hard-working shift for Provorov and Gostisbehere, and it showed how the pair has evolved together to get out of a bad spot and turn something positive. It also showed how far Gostisbehere in particular has come, as he hasn’t always been that calm and reliable behind his own net.
With how hemmed in the Flyers were, I’d have been happy to just get a clear and a line change, but Ghost went ahead and jumped in on the offense to finish off a phenomenal shift.
FLYERS GOAL SCORED BY #53 SHAYNE GOSTISBEHERE!— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 2, 2018
3-2 FLYERS! pic.twitter.com/lh8jORdym2
The value of the high-danger scoring areas
We’ve heard it a million times in hockey, if you want to score you’ve got to go to the dirty areas. Well the Flyers did just that and got rewarded against the Devils. All three goals came from the face off dots and in.
Against the Caps, too many of the Flyers better scoring chances as the game wore along came from the outside as opposed to from the circles on in. Against the Devils, the Flyers got back to consistently getting pucks down low and taking advantage from there.
They’ve got to be more disciplined, period.
With the way the penalty kill has consistently given up goals, the Flyers need to eliminate bad penalties until things improve in that facet of their game.
Nolan Patrick’s hooking call was because he let Hischier beat him to a spot off a draw. Avoidable. Michael Raffl picked up a boneheaded two minutes for essentially tossing a Devils player’s stick into the 17th row on a holding call. Then Travis Konecny, with the Flyers holding a lead, picks up a tripping call in the offensive zone.
Until the penalty kill shows some kind of improvement, the Flyers need to be smarter and play a more disciplined game in order to offset their woes in that special teams department.
Claude Giroux has bounced back, is in the midst of a special season
Look, we all can see that the captain is enjoying a resurgence after an admittedly down year a season ago. But it’s one thing to see it and then another to compare the raw numbers.
After his 15th goal in the loss to New Jersey, Giroux now has 58 points in 51 games played this season. That’s the same amount of points he had last season, in 31 more games. Giroux is on pace for a 93-point season, which would tie his career-high of 93 back in 2011-2012.
It didn’t take long for people to realize that Claude Giroux was going to have a bounce back year, but now the Flyers’ longtime captain is headed for a special and historic personal season.