Oh man. A Monday morning and we have to talk about that ugly, ugly Flyers loss, huh? Maybe it’s worth saying that they didn’t leave the state of Florida without a point, and they’re still situated at second in the Metro, so we maybe shouldn’t be ready to burn everything down just yet. But that was still rough, and we’re allowed to be sad about what unfolded yesterday. Let’s dig into what we learned.
All stats and graphics via Corsica.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com
1. That first period… woof
Alright guys. That shootout loss on Saturday was rough. The Flyers didn’t play the game they wanted to, and they have a chance to come out strong and really set the tone. Clean slate, let’s just get back on track.
The Flyers had a rough first period. Through the first twenty minutes, they were only able to register two scoring chances, neither of which were high danger. Beyond this, by the eye, they showed signs of struggle to get completely set up, as they failed to establish sustained pressure in the offensive zone. They were left scrambling, trying to keep pace with Florida’s transition game. By the time we hit the first intermission, and saw the two goals allowed, the feeling of “here we go again” was palpable. And it’s perhaps wearisome to talk about, at this point--the Flyers have fallen victim to the slow starts and early scoring deficits time and again. They’ve spent time hurt by them, but also found ways to break out of the cycle--all that’s left is hope that they’re close to hitting the latter.
2. The penalty kill
It sure was a nice run, when we didn’t have to talk about the penalty kill because the Flyers just weren’t taking any penalties. That run’s been over for a bit, and we’ve been seeing the pk more and more over the past handful of games, hitting something of a peak yesterday, when the Flyers gave up five power play opportunities. Let’s break it down.
On the first, the Panthers were able to spring Aleksander Barkov on a break on a rush back into the zone after an initial clear, and he was able to laser it past Petr Mrazek.
On the second, the Flyers still faced quite a bit of struggle, as they had trouble clearing the puck out of the zone, but were helped by the fact that Florida accidentally cleared the puck twice on their own. So another goal was avoided.
The final three kills, despite these early bumps, went relatively smoothly. The Panthers weren’t without their chances, but the Flyers were able to keep them tied up well enough and limit those opportunities. The result was no further power play goals allowed, and a step in the right direction.
As a final note: likely due to necessity with Johnny Oduya dinged up and Brandon Manning, Radko Gudas, and Robert Hagg all taking penalties throughout the game, we saw Shayne Gostisbehere playing a bit on the penalty kill. We didn’t see much of him, but he did fine. He’s an all situations player now. That’s pretty neat.
But while we’ve sort of touched on it above, let’s have a talk about our newest Flyer. Welcome, Johnny Oduya! It took him a bit to meet up with the Flyers after being picked up on waivers on Monday, due to some visa issues, but he’s here now! And he had a rough first game!
When news dropped just before the game that Andrew MacDonald had been listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury, it meant it would be Oduya’s debut as a Flyer. A chance to come out strong and prove that he belongs, after being shucked off by the Senators. Things did not go as planned. His very first shift saw a miscue between he and Mrazek that led to a turnover behind the net. But, it’s okay, they puck was recovered and it was all fine. It’s a new goalie and a new defenseman, that’s bound to happen while they figure each other out. As long as it doesn’t get any wors---
What’s that? Oh, it did. Oduya was sent out to help kill the first penalty, and saw himself handcuffed on that aforementioned rush, being burnt on the play that would lead to the Barkov goal. The rest of the game saw a few more instances of Oduya getting turnstyled, looking a step behind, before he found himself dinged up in the second period, and unable to finish the game.
So, while we could make a case that this was just a case of jitters, of not yet being up to speed with the new team. But maybe it’s the more likely explanation--we saw a seventh defenseman put in a second pair setting and expected to excel, and being unable to do so. And the Flyers are back to needing to figure something else out.
Surprise! After Mrazek’s rocky performance against Tampa on Saturday, and given the fact that yesterday served as the back end of the back to back, we figured it safe to assume that Alex Lyon would be getting the start against the Panthers, but this didn’t wind up being true. The idea turned out to be that Mrazek should play himself out of the funk that he was in, and be given more time to adjust to the team in front of him, and have a chance to redeem himself. And, you guessed it, this also didn’t work out that way.
Mrazek allowed four goals on 26 shots yesterday, for an .846 save percentage, and while he didn’t look as positionally lost as he had in his previous two games, he lacked the sharpness that we had seen from him in his first three. And while, to be sure, he didn’t receive exemplary support from his defense, he also faced some stoppable goals, particularly the first Dadonov goal. Here again, we saw him leaving too much space, and being burnt for it.
But, beyond just his play, his usage leaves some questions. How long will Hakstol lean on him? Will this be another case of the Flyers running another goalie straight into the ground? They have a three games in four days stretch coming up later this week, so it seems we won’t have to wait too long to find out.
5. Top line brought some flash
I don’t know about you guys, but some of us at BSH were talking amongst ourselves during yesterday’s game, and we came to an agreement: by and large, it was boring.
Not boring, in a game wanting for a bit of fun and high activity from the Flyers? Our first line. By the numbers, they were the most effective line at 5-on-5, averaging an adjusted 67.22 CF% in nearly 16 minutes on the ice.
But beyond their steady shooting performance, they were probably the most fun to watch, most apt to put up a fancy play for our viewing pleasure. Like this one!
Konecny makes up for his own turnover with a takeaway and fantastic zone entry. pic.twitter.com/HlyJ6XKRLu— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 4, 2018
But beyond this bit of fancy recovery that earned them a bit more time in the offensive zone, keeping their push alive, the Sean Couturier line was doing some solid offensive work, throughout. Their time in the zone brought them a couple of close looks, and their work was punctuated when they set up Travis Konecny’s third period goal--the only of the game. It was a nice showing, but it wasn’t enough to steal the game for them, and neither should it be expected to. Production was needed elsewhere, and it just didn’t come.
6. Turnovers and odd-man rushes
So, it’s probably about time that we talk about this, huh? The area that burnt the Flyers the worst in yesterday’s match-up. You guessed it, Florida’s transition game.
Each of the Panthers’ four goals came as a result of a breakaway or one-on-one rush, and, at this point, you kind of just have to wonder how that happens. The first one, sure, it’s the power play and they weren’t prepared to defend against the Barkov breakaway, didn’t see it coming. Fine, you could make a case for that. But to have it happen three more times, to have their defense split so easily and to have goals ensue each time, this marks a problem. It’s bad, of course, for the results of the game: four goals are more than the Flyers could score and so they lost, that’s how it works. But now you have to imagine other teams’ scouts will have looked at this as well and seen it as a weakness to be exploited in the future. So, the Flyers will have to find a way to shape up, cut down on costly turnovers, and seal off the center lane that the Panthers were making use of.
7. The bees *sigh*
Yes, you read that right. That is a sigh attached to the Honey Bees. We have to talk about them, too.
Despite some solid performances, of late, the Honey Bees had something of a rough game yesterday. Between the trio of Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier, and Michael Raffl, they averaged an adjusted 43.14 CF% at 5-on-5. They were struggling to create chances. Raffl and Laughton both played under nine and a half minutes at fives, and Leier, after making a costly turnover at center ice that led to a goal in the second period, was benched for the third, and only played 4:27.
But our sighing about the bees goes beyond last night’s showing. Despite solid underlying numbers of late, we’re seeing them struggling to convert on the chances they’re generating. And we’ve seen them able to do so before, so we have to ask, what gives? It’s possible that we’re just seeing something of a dry spell, but the Flyers need them to be doing more. When the only player in our bottom six who isn’t on a scoring drought is Jori Lehtera, you’ve got a problem. With the playoffs drawing nearer and nearer, and the schedule getting more difficult, the Flyers can’t afford to be a two-line team. And the first in need of shaping up is the bees.
Before we dip too deep into this section, I want to drop a graph for you. Take a moment with it.
By the numbers, yesterday wasn’t an altogether awful showing for the Flyers. Through three periods, they outshot the Panthers 40-26, held the edge with a 54.14 CF% at 5-on-5, and were able to register 12 high danger chances. Not exactly damning figures, here.
So, again we arrive at the old--and perhaps unfair--narrative of “this is a team that just can’t finish.” And while there were conflating factors--Florida’s tight checking and Roberto Luongo’s strong performance, for example--this adage holds a bit of truth. The Flyers weren’t without their chances, but they just couldn’t close on them. They came close, ringing off a couple posts, but no luck.
And perhaps it’s easy to say “well, the Flyers just need to finish their chances,” and yes, this would be true, but still easier said. But we can hope. Seize your chances, the Flyers. Don’t overthink it.
9. A note on discipline
This feels familiar now, doesn’t it? Having to chide the Flyers for lack of discipline? They took 17 penalty minutes yesterday. We have to do it.
But it’s not just the fact that these penalties were taken--only one power play goal was allowed, so it’s hard to be too mad about that--but rather that they were, in turn, taking chances away from the Flyers. They nearly had their first power play of the game on an interference call, but found it negated when Brandon Manning was called for a slash in retaliation. And maybe it’s a product of the context of the game--players tend to commit more stick infractions when they’re chasing the game--but it shouldn’t be so easily written off as that. We’ve seen the wheels come off completely and this team look positively undisciplined, and it’s not a good look. It’s hard to be composed, perhaps, when you’re chasing, but they need to find a way to button up. The penalty kill’s been pretty good of late, but they shouldn’t be giving away chances for free.
10. The only damn thing I know
I’ve got two loose ends for you all today:
First, I don’t want to have to listen to it, but it’s pretty cool that the Panthers’ goal song is “Sweetness” by Jimmy Eat World. That’s a jam.
Second, I cannot believe they also played the Harlem Shake. Yesterday. In the year 2018. Unbelievable.
Third, bring me Travis Sanheim. You know why. Just do it, the Flyers.