The Flyers lost in quite the embarrassing fashion last night vs. Carolina in their final game of 2018; let’s talk about it.
1. Where oh where was the effort?
Let me preface this by saying there were clearly some players who gave a damn about that game, and this is not intended for those players. Overall, however, that was one of the worst efforts I have seen from a Flyers team and I’ve watched almost all of the games this season. This team was only down three goals for most of the contest but it felt like 30 with how poorly the team was playing. We’re all aware that hits are not the most important stat, but by god, at a certain point last night animal instincts kick in and you just kinda want someone to make a big hit.
The Flyers trailed for almost the entirety of this hockey game and still lost the Corsi battle. They even lost that battle in the third period, when the losing team should be throwing just about everything on net and dominating possession because that’s just how the game of hockey works. There was a plethora of horrific efforts out there last night and that should not be tolerated. It was absolutely incredible to see just how little energy the team had even when trailing. The Hurricanes were still buzzing even with a three goal lead, when most teams at that point go into at least a partial shell and just try to hang on. Simply put, that kind of effort with where the team is in the standings is egregious.
2. Even if Hart was good, they would have lost.
It wasn’t the best of nights for our sweet prince Carter Hart. The 20 year old had his first true stinker at the NHL level and it wasn’t pretty. Hart stopped just seven of ten shots, and looked bad on each of the goals scored. The sad, and deeper issue with this however, is that even if Hart was on his game they still probably would have lost. The offense struggled all night long and even when it looked like they could have some extended offensive zone time, they either fumbled the puck away or made countless number of passes that had no real purpose to them. The wonderful Bill Matz of BSH Radio put it perfectly on the postgame saying the team was simply “going through the motions.”
That is exactly what the team was doing last night and it showed on the stat sheet. They were outshot 33 to 23 and it’s honestly hard to believe they even had 23 shots. Hart is going to have these kind of games as a 20 year old in his first NHL season, the key will be rebounding from this and not letting it snowball into multiple poor outings. Until that happens, I refuse to be all that worried about Carter Hart.
3. Shot quality: not great folks!
Since Scott Gordon was brought in as Flyers interim head coach, it’s been fair to say they’ve generally had improved shot quality or at least have attempted to get to the high danger areas more often. Last night, however, there was very little of that. Carolina only lost the scoring chances-for battle 22-20, and won 8-6 in high danger chances-for. It’s not necessarily a surprise that the Canes did this, considering how great they’ve been this season at attacking the high percentage areas, so why is this an issue? Because the Flyers trailed for almost the entire game and somehow still managed to lose these battles.
The one positive here is that they kept Carolina to the outside relatively well, but at the end of the day they still allowed way too many chances. On the offensive end, shot quality simply needs to be so much better than that. Shots cannot continue to come from the point and low percentage areas in volumes such as these if the Flyers want to creep back in the playoff race.
4. Michal Neuvirth was the Flyers’ best player.
Trying to keep this semi-balanced between positives and negatives, Michal Neuvirth was spectacular in relief. After Neuvirth came in, he stopped all 23 shots that came his way including some dazzling saves to keep the game close. Although the hope of the Flyers actually coming back in this game was about as high as our tempers watching that affair, Neuvirth was doing his absolute best to keep us entertained. It’s truly incredible the kind of goalie that Neuvirth can be when he’s healthy, and it’s a shame that we haven’t been able to witness that all that much in his tenure as a Flyer.
Neuvirth most likely will start later tonight in Nashville, and hopefully we see more of the same from Neuvy - especially if the team comes out flat yet again. Although, let’s just try to not come out flat again, shall we boys?
5. Player usage an underlying positive
It wasn’t all that noticeable during the game, mostly because the game itself was putting me to sleep, but the Flyers’ player deployment was about as ideal as it can get last night. Andrew MacDonald was the least-used defensemen, and Robert Hagg just above him with Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, and Shayne Gostisbehere all getting over 20 minutes. Sure, it doesn’t really mean a whole lot given the loss, and how poorly almost everyone played, but it’s a positive nonetheless.
This has been something very noticeable since Gordon took over; Sanheim has received more and more ice time while the likes of MacDonald and Hagg receive less. The team is still struggling and there are clear issues, but it’s nice to see a young player like Sanheim getting the playing time he deserves.
6. Remember what it was like to have a good power play?
Yeah, me neither. The Flyers went scoreless on their two man advantages last night and looked poor in the process. Compared to what we’ve been accustomed to from the Flyers power play over the past decade or so, this performance in the 2018-19 season has been quite the shocker. At this point, we may need to see drastic changes to get these units going. Not just to the personnel on the units, but how the units operate as well. Unfortunately we most likely only see the latter if Kris Knoblauch is canned midseason, which one would assume would have happened by now. The power play is dead last in the league at an anemic 12.6 percent and the last time the Flyers finished with a power play below 15 percent was the 2006-2007 season where they finished last in the NHL.
7. The PK was good at least?
Once again, grasping for straws at positives for this hockey game. The Flyers penalty kill was perfect last night on two tries, allowing only five total shots on the Canes’ power plays. The PK still sits second to last in the entire league just ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks, but again, it’s a positive. We keep hoping that eventually these kind of games for the kill will turn into a good couple of weeks and then months, but only time will tell.
8. Newsflash, faceoffs don’t matter if you turn the puck over right after
Look, the Flyers broadcast team has said some silly things over the past couple of years in regards to player or team evaluation, but this faceoffs thing needs to stop. The amount of times I heard about how the Flyers are clear and away the best faceoff team in the NHL last night, and how it was surprising given that, that the team has struggled was baffling. Faceoffs do have a definite value. It gives a team possession of the puck after all. But if the team who wins the faceoff gives the puck away 90 percent of the time shortly thereafter the faceoff, what really was the value of winning said faceoff? We know that Jim Jackson and Bill Clement and Keith Jones aren’t analytics afficianatos, but ah, guys, can we make just a little bit of a better effort to analyze the game in a more intelligent way?
9. Why is this team so slow?
Disregard the roster of the Philadelphia Flyers. It is absolutely astonishing to me that in the year 2019 (hey that’s a first!) a NHL team can play as slow as the Flyers do. With how the league has evolved since the full season lockout of 2004-2005 into a speed dominated league, it’s incredible that the Flyers play at such an agonizingly slow speed. The most frustrating aspect of this is that they have some guys who can flat out fly on this hockey team.
Travis Konecny, Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, and more are all players with fantastic speed and yet the pace at which this team play is for a bunch of muckers and grinders. When I say I want my team to play physical, I don’t mean I want a bunch of hulking dudes who can barely skate but throw massive body checks. What I do mean is that I want this group of players to be flying out there and using their speed to play physical. This is something we just haven’t seen from this team and it was oh-so prevalent last night.
10. New year, maybe new Flyers?
Well, there you have it. The final Flyers game of the 2018 calendar year, and it fittingly ends in a loss. This has been a wild ride from making the playoffs on the final day of the regular season in 2017-2018, getting hosed by the Penguins in round one, signing JVR, firing Ron Hextall then Dave Hakstol, calling up Carter Hart, and much more. With the way the team is playing we may not be done seeing changes, but be sure we’ll have those changes covered here at BSH. Thank you for all your support over the past year and years prior, and we hope you’ll stick with us through the tough road ahead with this hockey team. As always, let’s go the Flyers, the hockey team the Flyers.
All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com