Well, folks, Western Canada has not been kind to the Flyers. After they dropped Saturday’s game in Vancouver in a shootout, the Flyers found themselves pretty handily beaten in regulation by the Calgary Flames last night. They got off to a rough start, giving up the first two goals of the game, and struggled to pick up much steam as the game went on. A goal about midway through the third period by Matt Niskanen (his first as a Flyer) gave them a bit more life, but that’s about all they could muster. They got a bit more pressure going, but in the end, an empty netter by Elias Lindholm sealed the win for the Flames, and the Flyers will head off to Edmonton tomorrow looking to salvage this trip with a win. Here’s hoping.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
How’d they look out there?
5-on-5: 15 SF, 29 CF, 35.6 CF%, 44.51 xGF%
So, it kind of feels like we barely had any 5-on-5 time in this one, doesn’t it? Particularly early on, it seemed like both sides were just alternating power plays, but I digress. What the numbers (and, well, our eyes) tell us is that the Flyers never really got their feet under them at 5-on-5. The Flames dominated play, getting the better of them in both shots and attempts. The Flyers did register more high danger chances (five in total), but they couldn’t do anything with them.
All told, while they looked a little better as the game went on, they spent much of this game looking scrambly and disjointed—they struggled to complete passes cleanly and didn’t really have an answer for the Flames’ forecheck. It was sloppy, and a shot total of just 15 feels about right. The Flames were doing well defensively, and the Flyers weren’t working cohesively enough to break through that.
Power play: 1 SF, 1 CF, 3 SA
*looks at that stat line*
It wasn’t a great showing for the Flyers’ power play, either. They did have a couple of good looks, and were able to put together a couple of nice passing plays, but it didn’t amount to a whole lot. Indeed, the Flames had more chances on the Flyers’ power plays than the Flyers did. The Flyers, overwhelmingly, found themselves chased out of the offensive zone and then struggling to get a clean entry back in. This too, despite a couple of nice moments, was messy. And we’re going need a bit more from them.
Penalty kill: 2 SA, 5 CA, 2 SF
To keep us from sounding too doom and gloom in this one, we’re going to pivot here and talk about how we can feel pretty good about what the Flyers were able to do on the penalty kill last night. They were disruptive and positionally sound, and they were even able to manage a couple of shorthanded chances of their own. They were solid again, and they kept what can be a very dangerous Calgary power play off the board.
1. Travis Konecny
We’re never going to get tired of talking about how good Konecny has been to start this season. He’s been very good, and he had himself another good night in Calgary. He didn’t record any shots of his own, but he came out of this one with an adjusted 42.37 CF%. And no, that number in and of itself is not very good. But it does rank him third among all Flyers skaters, so relatively speaking, he performed well there.
Konecny finds Niskanen for his first as a Flyer! pic.twitter.com/m0HU3MfJ9a— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) October 16, 2019
But what we really want to praise him on is his playmaking. He picked up the primary assist on Niskanen’s goal, coming from that really lovely feed from below the goal line. He also made a perfect pass at speed on the rush to Oskar Lindblom for what was perhaps his best chance of the night. Konecny just seemed to be right in the middle of everything last night, and we appreciate his efforts.
2. Oskar Lindblom
We’ve been talking a good bit throughout the season about how well the whole of that Couturier line has been working, but we should take a moment to extend a hat tip to Lindblom, because he had himself a pretty solid individual game last night. He had himself one really nice scoring chance which saw him just hold onto the puck for a fraction of a second too long. We also liked his work on the penalty kill—he’s looking faster this season, and he’s using that new speed to break the puck out more often, even going for some shorthanded chances. He didn’t get himself on the board last night, but Lindblom seems to be doing the little things right. And it seems only a matter of time before he breaks through.
3. Brian Elliott
It feels a little weird to recognize the goalie in a loss like this one, but Elliott really did have a mostly solid game. He still gave up the two goals, but on both we wouldn’t place the blame squarely on him. The first was a quick shot off a turnover on a failed clear. The second saw the shot deflected in off of Travis Sanheim. Elliott really had his work cut out for him in this one, as the Flames registered 38 shots on goal, and with the Flyers struggling as they did to break the puck out of their own end, things could have been a lot worse for them if it hadn’t been for Elliott.
And, if nothing else, it was reassuring to see—he looked something of a mess through the preseason, and it’s nice to see that this hasn’t really bled over into the regular season. He’s back to his regular sound backup form. Just what we needed from him.
Two loose observations
1. The breakouts? Yikes
We alluded to this already, but especially early on, the Flyers were really struggling on the breakout attempts in this one. A failed clear led to more zone time for the Flames on the play that culminated in the goal for Michael Frolik. And this had the Flyers playing a dangerous game—despite something of an uneven start, we know the Flames are a team that can put the puck in the back of the net, and you obviously don’t want to be giving them extra chances for free. Just trying blind clearing attempts isn’t going to cut it against a team like this that’s pretty quick on loose pucks.
We want to give a team that’s still learning a new system a bit of a break, but this one was really messy at times, and it’s coming up on time when they need to really clean up these smaller details like passes and clearing attempts.
2. A moment to contextualize
So, this loss doesn’t feel very good. The Flyers have been looking good through their first couple of games, and it really felt like they were picking up some momentum with those first two wins, and even in a solid game played in Vancouver, even if it ended in a shootout loss. The Flyers didn’t play their best game last night, but they also ran into a good team that’s finally putting things together after having a bit of a slow start themselves. This wasn’t a great game for the Flyers, and those are bound to happen.
In a vacuum, it isn’t the end of the world. But with them losing in the shootout in Vancouver and then in regulation last night, it makes it even more important for them to pick up, at the very least, a point (but really, an actual win) in Edmonton tonight if they (and we) want to come back to Philly feeling good about how their season is starting off. Just because you win the first two doesn’t mean you’ve escaped the slow start. We’re still working on it.
The only damn thing I know
The Flyers always seem to start their season with one of these road trips out west, and that means a bunch of late starts, and you’d think that we’d be used to that by now. And that I’d be past complaining about the late starts. But I’m not. They’re too late. It’s past my bedtime. I’ll never stop complaining.