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Bruins 3, Flyers 2: Yeah, that was a tough one

Some observations for your morning...

Flyers vs. Bruins 12.2.17
Kate Frese / SB Nation

The title says it all, doesn’t it? This one really stings. I’m not going to linger too long on it, recapping. Let’s just get right into what we learned.

All stats and graphics via Corsica.Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and

1. Starting strong

So the Flyers were back at it after a pretty dejecting loss the night before, after a night of travel that landed them at their hotel around two in the morning (I know this because the broadcasters made note of of approximately 60 times), and while they were looking to get back on track, we felt there was a reasonable threshold for fatigue to be seen. But it didn’t quite work out that way, not initially.

Rather, the Flyers kicked things off with speed and energy, and took the early edge in momentum, edging the Bruins seven to one in shots through the first five minutes of the game. And while, to be fair, they were helped by the fact that Kevan Miller took a four minute high sticking penalty and sent the Flyers to an extended power play, the Flyers seemed to be gelling early on. By the time we hit the first intermission, they were leading the Bruins in shots 16-10, and hoping they could keep up the good work*.

  • They couldn’t, not really, and found themselves lagging in the second period. But, if nothing else, it was nice to see a bit of jump right out of the gates, rather than the stagnancy of a tired team.

2. The power play

But since we touched on that extended power play chance the Flyers got early in the first period a little bit in that last section, why don’t we move on to talk a bit more about it here.

The Flyers’ power play of late has been, to put it mildly, lackluster. They were one for 19 in their last six games, and folks were starting to sweat. But things have taken a bit of a turn for them.

The good: on the first half of the double minor, Patrick executed a truly beautiful through the legs, through traffic pass to Voracek, who notched the first goal of the game, and officially got the Flyers back to scoring on the power play. Let’s have a look at that.

The less good: on each of their next four chances, they really struggled to get the same level of pressure and speed going. And, as such, they had No More Goals.

So, all in all, we’re kind of just about back where we started? The first unit has enough top-end talent that they shouldn’t be struggling so mightily. They’ve been streaky, yes, but it’s about time that they break this down streak in a big way.

3. The Patrick line

You know, I’m really starting to think this line needs a snappy nickname. Remember when we were all about those? Let’s get back to that.

But, all the same, our snappy nickname-less second line put up another solid showing last night. By shot share, they were the Flyers’ most effective line, posting an adjusted CF% of 59.79 percent at five-on-five, and putting up four scoring chances—including one high danger chance—among the three of them.

But about that high danger chance: it came from Lindblom, making this another game where he was so close to finally notching his first NHL goal. His work along the boards and behind the net has been solid, and the way he’s been hovering around the front of the net working to create more high danger chances seem to bode well for future results—his process is good, but the results aren’t yet, and things are bound to break open eventually. But, unfortunately, the kid just cannot buy a goal right now. Alas.

4. Turnovers

In the larger scheme of “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” the Flyers’ turnovers through the early part of last night’s game were both bad and ugly. It’s an area that’s troubled them throughout the season, and something they’ve been able to clean up intermittently, as they went. They’ve had solid nights and not so solid ones, and yesterday’s game fell clearly under the latter.

In part a testament to Boston’s aggressive play, the Flyers had themselves a bit of trouble holding into the puck. The Bruins were credited with seven takeaways, and while this doesn’t sound a particularly steep figure, when makes it worse is that these takeaways were of the higher profile variety. The highest of which, of course, would be Patrick’s turnover at the blue line that gave the Bruins the puck back in the offensive zone, and let them set up the push that culminated in Riley Nash’s goal.

And, it’s now that we reach the point of sounding like a broken record, to say well jeez guys, if you want to play better hockey games, stop turning the dang puck over. And maybe it’s easier said than done, maybe not, but all the same, it needs fixing. It’s a weakness we’ve seen exploited time and again, and it’s not really getting any better.

5. Lyon time!

And would you look at that! After 16 days of not seeing him on the ice, Alex Lyon’s back! We figured this would be the case, given Mrazek’s somewhat rocky play of late, and the fact that Hakstol alluded to the fact that he would split his goalies on this back to back, but here we still are. So how’d Lyon do in his return?

All in all, not so bad. He stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced for a respectable .889 save percentage. But what impresses, beyond the numbers, is how Lyon’s performance seemed a marked improvement over when we saw him last. His speed seemed better, his rebound control stronger, and his movements more economic. It wasn’t a perfect showing, but it seems a testament to the growth that can be made, given the proper opportunity. And we remain eager to see how he can continue to make strides, going forward.

6. Killing penalties

It feels familiar again that we have to keep talking about the penalty kill, but what doesn’t feel familiar is that we get to talk about how they’ve been doing well. Maybe it should feel familiar by now, but after how volatile they were earlier in the season, I feel leery of getting too complacent in this new success, but I digress.

The Flyers kept the Bruins off the board on each of their attempts on the man-advantage, and held them to just three shots in total. We can talk about their more aggressive style of play, how they did well to tie up the puck and clear it, but this is all secondary to the PK’s real highlight of the night. That’s right. Read my lips. Jori Lehtera shorthanded goal.

This pair has gotten a lot of grief throughout the season—and it’s been warranted, as they’ve given up more than their fair share of power play goals—but last night they really pulled it together, and indeed, brought it to another level. Should we expect to see this out of them from now on? Probably not. But it was neat to see that they had it in them.

7. Shot selection

By now, we’ve touched on some struggles, and have some more to get to, but despite this, the fact remains that, by the eyes, the Flyers played a solid game last night. Indeed, it seemed their most complete and dynamic showing over the past handful of games. And this has to do, in part, with the fact that they were able do some good work in creating quality chances.

The good news: the Flyers were able to get a bit of activity going around the net, and generate some quality chances (a respectable six high danger chances, in all) from between the circles. We saw them crashing the net and disrupting the crease, creating some havoc, even when they weren’t able to get a shot off.

The bad news: they were also leaning on shooting from the area around the left point, which were not shots of the highest quality. It’s an area for improving on, to be sure. Let’s just hope they do that soon.

8. Hemming and hawing

Welp, you had to know this was coming. We’ve got to talk about one of the more glaring issues the Flyers faced in last night’s game. That’s right, the fact that they just could not get out of the zone.

We’ve talked about this in the past, how the Flyers will do some good offensive work and then have it wiped out when they let themselves get hemmed into the zone and giving up some chances. It’s a frustrating cycle, and it reared its head again last night.

We saw it on the Nash and Marchand goals, but also throughout the night, where they failed to clear the puck out of the zone and got stuck, giving possession over to the Bruins, and let them get to work. Once they had that control, they were able to keep the puck moving with speed and generate a handful of quality chances, and the feeling was that, if they escaped unscathed, it would be a miracle. Lyon had a good night, but the Flyers shouldn’t expect him to work miracles because they just can’t seem to get a clear. We saw them giving away chances, and getting burned for it.

9. More yelling about the defense

It’s like deja vu isn’t it? Just yesterday we talked about the rough showing against Pittsburgh that the Flyers’ defense put up, and we have to talk about it again. Now, to be fair, one the whole it was a better performance for the defense, as they cut down on bigger mistakes,the odd-man rushes, and did better to keep the Bruins out of Lyon’s eyes. But, despite the cleaning up that they did, they weren’t without their lapses.

Yesterday, we talked about how the Hagg-MacDonald pair had the particularly ugly game against the Penguins, and last night this transferred over to Manning and Gudas. We saw Gudas burnt on Gionta’s breakaway goal, but the particular ugliness came more with Manning’s play. We saw him falling down and giving up chances. We saw him blowing his coverage. We saw him screening his own goalie and nearly letting in another goal. And maybe we’re overblowing this, it was a bad game, and maybe he gets better. But the frustration creeps in when we consider these as parts of a growing trend, and one that is allowed to continue by the coach. We have players beating down the door behind him, who may not may not be improvements, but at the very least, aren’t being given the chance to prove themselves, either way.

10. The only damn thing I know

Something you may not know about me is that I kind of love when the organists in NHL arenas go all in and just start playing pop songs. Even when they’re not songs I particularly care for, it’s fun. But the organist in Boston really came up big for me, and my own tastes? Blister In The Sun? Feel It Still? That’s good stuff, guys. I’m here for it.