Jakub Voracek started this game with a goal to make it 1-0 Flyers; the rest of the game? T’was but a blur of horrific goaltending and defense and not a lot of offensive action. It’s important to not overreact to these kinds of losses, but there was very little to be pleased by with this game. Let’s get into this.
5v5 Corsi-For: 46 CF, 51.11 CF%, 46.85 CF% SVA
At first glance it doesn’t appear the Flyers did that poorly in regards to generating shot attempts, but then those pesky score effects come into play. The Flyers trailed for the majority of this game, resulting in the massive drop-off from raw Corsi to adjusted Corsi. By the periods, the Corsi totals were 12-12, 20-19, and 14-13 with the last two of course going in favor of the Flyers.
So before we continue I have to ask you, the reader, it sure as hell didn’t feel like they had that many attempts right? It felt like the Flyers were tripping over themselves seemingly every time on the breakout, and it’s truly surprising that the team actually generated that many shot attempts. The score and venue adjusted number makes that feeling seem more valid, but it’s still a bit of a shock the raw totals were still that high.
5v5 shot quality: 23 SCF, 14 HDCF, 33.85 xGF%, 32.05 xGF% SVA
Ah that might help validate those feelings as well. In all honesty, they didn’t do a terrible job of getting to the high-percentage areas. The problem in this game wasn’t so much their generation of high-percentage shots, it was how many they were giving up at the other end. The Islanders had 32 scoring-chances-for to the Flyers 23, 25 high-danger chances-for to the Flyers 14, and the expected goals percentage tells the tale.
So far this season, limiting their opposition’s dangerous shot attempts has been a strong suit for the orange and black. They came into the game allowing the fewest SCA and HDCA in the league, but this game was just a total opposite. It’s making excuses for them sure, but they looked like a team in the second half of a back-to-back. We’ll get to the goaltending later, but the defense wasn’t doing Carter Hart or Brian Elliott any favors.
And to point to the defense pairing that was the primary causation of these numbers, look no further than the Gostisbehere-Morin pairing. The two were simply terrible last night, each posting xGF percentages under 20 percent. For reference, the next highest defenseman was Provorov who had a xGF percentage of 42.73. Not great of course, but quite the jump from Morin and Gostisbehere.
Is all of this cause for concern? No, I don’t think so. This game feels like an anomaly for a generally strong defensive team. Overall from a metrics standpoint, this is a game the Flyers just need to forget about. Even the best teams have games like this and the Islanders are on some kind of roll right now picking up their seventh straight win.
1. Carter Hart was ... not great
Alright, let’s get this out of the way quick and early. Hart genuinely did not look good last night. He was off on his angles, seemed jumpy in net, and just lacked that calming presence we hear about with him so often. The second goal in particular is one that I want to point out though. It was a 3-on-2 rush for the Islanders which — obviously — is on the defense to not let that happen. However, what Hart did on the goal is what had me having some war flashbacks.
In Sergei Bobrovsky’s rookie season the major gripe with him — outside of the whole breakaways/shootouts thing — was how small he would make himself in net. That problem continued to get exposed more and more as the season went on, and especially in the playoff series vs. Buffalo. On the second goal, that’s what Hart did and he paid the price for it, getting beat upstairs.
The first goal was a poor rebound, and to be fair someone has to pick up said rebound, but it was poor nonetheless. The third goal was some straight up poor defense so it’s hard to fault him there, but the fourth goal is what really signaled Hart needed to be pulled. Ryan Pulock bombed away from the point and through a screen ... actually checks notes there was no screen and it beat Hart clean. Pulock has a hard slapper, but with no screen and a clean look, this is a save that Hart simply has to make, no excuses. The fifth was a breakaway, hard to put any blame on the goalie there.
Is it time to panic about Carter Hart? No, so can we please not? I understand having some worries with the kid, but it’s important to remember he is just 21 years old. He will have nights like this, but if he learns from them and it makes him better, that’s what’s important.
2. What’s wrong with Shayne Gostisbehere?
We can talk all we want about the fact Gostisbehere has had Robert Hagg and now Samuel Morin as defense partners this season, but it doesn’t change the fact Ghost has not been good. There are some mistakes where we can point to and say, “maybe he doesn’t make that mistake with a better partner” but that’s not the majority. He’s had some ugly turnovers that look MacDonald-esque and his coverage in his own zone has been dreadful.
We can only blame his partners for so long before the question arises: What if it’s Gostisbehere and not his partner? Hagg hasn’t looked great by any means, and Morin absolutely struggled last night, but it takes two hands to count how many horrific mistakes Gostisbehere made. Simply put, the team is paying Gostisbehere to be better than this. Guys like Hagg and Morin are not making his kind of money, I expect him to be head and shoulders better than them and I’m not seeing it.
Is he fully capable of turning it around? Yeah, for sure. We know what he’s capable of when he’s clicking, but it has to start happening soon. If he’s scoring at even an average pace we’re not noticing his defensive miscues as much as we are now. He’s paid to be an explosive offensive defenseman, he needs to start playing like it.
3. Kevin Hayes looked good at least?
One of the very few bright spots on this team last night was Hayes, who was all over the place offensively. One of the few players to really get the Flyers some extended offensive zone time, Hayes picked up just a lone assist on the night. He drove play a solid rate but I was honestly expecting it to be higher. He posted a 52.23 CF% SVA, good for fourth best among his fellow forwards.
He was by and large the most noticeable forward last night, and at the very least continues to prove his worth on that massive contract he received in the offseason. There wasn’t a whole lot to like about what the Flyers did offensively, but Hayes was an exception.
4. Moose looked sharp
Another rare positive from this game, Brian Elliott looked very sharp in relief of Hart. He kept the game respectable and arguably kept them in it as Claude Giroux scored late to make it a two goal game. Elliott will most likely see the start vs. Pittsburgh on Tuesday given Hart’s performance, so one can only hope we see this version of Moose over the one we saw vs. Columbus.
5. That game just sucked, folks
Outside of the Flames game earlier this month, this was by far the worst the Flyers have looked. After the Voracek goal to start the game it was just downhill from there. The Islanders were winning all of the puck battles, killing the Flyers on the forecheck, and got helped out by some poor goaltending. The fact this is really only the third time all season — Stars and Flames being the other games — they’ve looked clearly like the worse team is a positive in itself.
All statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick