Another Saturday matinee, another loss for the Flyers. So it goes. Things are pretty rough right now, but they still didn’t play that badly yesterday? Anyway, here are six observations on the loss that extended the streak to six. Go birds.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com
1. A new look
With Nolan Patrick coming back into the lineup (hooray!) for yesterday’s game, we had a bit of shuffling done with the lines, and, for the first time in a bit, that’s good news here! We’ll note that everything was pretty well balanced/optimized, and we’re excited about the old top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny being reunited, as they looked to be getting back to old form, but what we really want to hone in on is the brand new Patrick line.
Well, it’s really not all that new at all. Scott Gordon put him back with Oskar Lindblom and Jake Voracek, a line that was creating a bunch chances at the end of last season (and also in a short stint together earlier this season), and they seemed to be picking up right where they left off. All told, they were able to create nine shot attempts at five-on-five, and averaged an adjusted 59.63 Corsi For%, tops among all lines. They weren’t able to close on any of those chances, but if this line stays intact going forward, it seems that the results won’t be too far away.
2. A special teams rundown
It’s special teams time! If it sounds like we’re excited about that, it’s because we are! We’re not going to bury the lede—the second unit scored a power play goal!
Sanheim attempts to make a pass, but instead scores! pic.twitter.com/eUgiwiTLOf— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 5, 2019
It’s been a rough going for that second unit, and the goal came from sort of a wonky deflection in front, and in a way that just feels right. They were able to buckle down and put in some good work yesterday, and they finally got a reward for that.
They weren’t alone in this, as the top unit also showed some sharpness in their four chances on the man advantage. The Flyers’ power play generated 14 shot attempts and nine scoring chances, but David Rittich came up big for the Flames and kept the Flyers to just one goal on the power play. It wasn’t all perfect work, as on their third chance they couldn’t really do anything, as they couldn’t get themselves cleanly into the zone, and that felt a bit familiar, as well. But, on the whole, a bit more strong underlying work done.
On the flip side, the penalty kill did some very good work, shutting down twice what can be a very dangerous Flames power play, limiting them to just one shot across their four minutes in total. Nothing terribly flashy going on there, just quietly sound work in preventing them clean entries and the opportunity to get set up to start cycling. And it got the job done.
3. Starter Hart
He’s back, friends! After a pretty rough showing and being pulled in his last game in Carolina, Carter Hart returned to the ice and looked to get himself back on track, and he seemed to do well enough at that.
He didn’t have the heaviest of workloads—32 shots in total and only seven high danger chances to face—but he managed it well enough. The three goals allowed we might say were stoppable, but not easily; that is, he wasn’t giving up anything soft, but the stops weren’t impossible to make. That said, what stood out the most about his performance was how he was able to respond to that rough last showing against Carolina on New Year’s Eve. He didn’t look to be in his own head, he just got to work and tried to fix the mistakes he made last time. He was tracking the puck much better, and responding to the shots he faced well, which is, if nothing else, a step in the right direction.
4. Doing that defense
A good deal of talk coming into this game centered around Calgary’s top line, particularly on how prolific they are in scoring and how and if the Flyers would be able to shut them down.
The short answers, it would turn out, would be “yes” and “send out Scott Laughton’s line.”
They weren’t matched up against the Monahan line exclusively, but they did have a heavy workload against them, and they found some success in it. The key would be to shut down their chances on the rush—where they can be particularly dangerous—and make it more difficult for them to enter the offensive zone with possession.
But they didn’t shut them down completely. Johnny Gaudreau still had that goal.
Okay, so no one’s perfect. And maybe that’s only tangential to our point because it wasn’t even the Laughton line on the ice against them when the goal was scored. And either way, this is a line that if you give them even a little bit of space to work with, they’ll make you pay. And that happened here. But, all told, the Flyers’ fourth line did some good work against them.
5. Travis Konecny, hello
We have a nod to Travis Sanheim for a job well done in yesterday’s game, and we also have another Travis to praise (funny how that works out). Konecny was bumped back up to the top line for yesterday’s game, and this move came with pretty much immediate positive results. All told, he came out of the night with three shots and an adjusted 48.18 CF% at five-on-five, all while bringing a bit of flash to the game—one very nice backcheck to break up a Flames scoring chance after Ivan Provorov turned the puck over, and then, of course, his goal.
Konecny from Rittich! pic.twitter.com/SDwNGJkymX— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 5, 2019
It’s maybe one of the weirder lead ups to any goal he’ll ever score, but there’s something to be said for getting a weird one, of taking advantage of a goalie’s mistake and getting an easy goal after how snake bitten he’s been, of late. This is usually where we might talk about this being the floodgates opening—you get one and they all start to pour out—and he’s hoping that this is true. But, all the same, we can feel comfortable saying that he had himself a very good game, despite the end result.
6. Playing almost a complete game
And this more or less brings us to our last point: on the whole, the Flyers played a good game, and we can feel pretty good about most of their process. The problem, as it has been for a good chunk of the season, is that this process couldn’t quite stretch over the full 60 minutes of regulation.
The Flyers played very solid hockey for about the first 50 minutes, and they had the lead as a result, but something happened at the end there, and they gave it up. It wasn’t even so much that they completely let off the gas and started giving up chances at will, but rather that they stopped playing to win, and started playing not to lose. And then it was as we said before, you give this Calgary team a bit of space to work with, and they make you pay for it. And they did.
And maybe this seems like an easy issue to fix, on paper, and yet it keeps coming up again and again. But whatever the fix is, they need to find it sooner rather than later. At the very least, for all of our sakes.
7. The only damn thing I know
Okay, we had to throw this bonus section in here. We can’t not do it. Anyway…
Will I be indicted for treason if I say that the Canadian national anthem just slaps so much harder than our does? Because it really does. Take me away, the proper authorities.