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Senators 2, Flyers 1: Still fell for the trap

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Some observations for your morning...

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Ottawa Senators exist in sort of a weird space for me, they’re just this rag tag group of former Leafs, the more punchable Tkachuk (Keith Tkachuk’s words, not mine), and then some other dudes, and all I hear is that this team is not very good.

And they beat the Flyers last night. I don’t have any jokes about that part. It happened. Let’s talk about it.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

How’d they look out there?

5-on-5: 29 CF, 17 SF, 43.83 CF%, 51.03 xGF%

Well, we sort of, almost got what we wanted here? After Wednesday’s game we talked about how we needed to see the Flyers starting stronger and not just immediately conceding a goal, and they did that last night. They came out with some jump and did well to cycle and really hem the Senators into their own zone, and they were able to pick up a quick goal to take the lead. But just about as soon as that happened, they started to lose steam. They weren’t skating as well, they weren’t as quick on loose pucks, and they struggled to generate much pressure to really test the Senators. During the third period, they pulled back some momentum, but we wouldn’t really say that they were dominating the period, like we’ve seen them able to do in the past. They looked a little flat, and they let Ottawa get the better of them in this one, after showing that bit of early promise.

Power play: 9 CF, 4 SF, 2 HDCF

Unfortunately, we’re sort of rehashing the same ideas here that we talked about after Wednesday’s game. The Flyers had just under six and a half minutes of five-on-four power play time, and then some more 6-on-4 time at the end of the third period with the goalie pulled, and they couldn’t do anything with it. They had a good number of chances, but struggled again to actually get them on net, as well as to get high danger chances to really test Anders Nilsson. Their entries gave them some trouble, and they were just lacking that crispness that we were seeing sporadically from them not too long ago.

We know that power plays in general—and this one in particular—can be streaky, and this kind of down period can happen, but they’re going to need to find their way out of this slump sooner rather than later.

Penalty kill: 5 CA, 3 SA, 1 HDCA, 3 CF

We’ve got some more bad news folks: the Flyers’ streak of successful penalties killed was brought to an end last night, when a breakdown left Tyler Ennis open right in the crease and he was able to sneak one through Hart for a goal. It was a shame, because otherwise, the penalty kill was looking pretty solid. They were facing a squad that came into this game last in the league with a 6.5% success rate, and that was helping them a bit, but all the same, their overall process (except for that blunder) was sound. They were able to remain quick and disruptive on pucks, and still do the fun thing in generating shorthanded breakouts—indeed, they ended up nearly matching the Senators in chances generated while they had one more player on the ice. So overall, good work, but we would’ve liked to have seen a little better.

Three standouts

1. Carter Hart

It may have come as a bit of a surprise to some that Hart would get the start against Ottawa rather than the Islanders, but that’s what we got, and Hart came up with another good game in the start he was given. He stopped 17 of the 19 shots he saved, and served as a largely stabilizing presence while the Senators rallied after the first period. The team in front of him was struggling to put much together, and he needed to stay steady for them, to keep things from really getting out of hand.

He did let in one ugly one on the penalty kill—Tyler Ennis probably shouldn’t have been that open right in front of the net, but that shot also can’t just trickle through. Hart surely wants that one back, but he also kept this game from getting uglier than it did.

2. Tyler Pitlick

It was, at the end of the day, something of a mixed bag of a game for Pitlick. He scored his first goal of the season to give the Flyers the early lead in the first, and then saved a goal at the other end to maintain the lead later in the same period, so we was certainly able to bring a bit of flash.

The underlying numbers, though, don’t love his game. He was last on the team in adjusted CF%, with 20.81 percent, as well as xGF% with 23.02 percent. The Flyers found themselves at a disadvantage in the territorial play while his line was on the ice. Which was decidedly not great.

We do give him credit for generating that tangible offence, though. He was the only one to break through.

3. Joel Farabee

On the flip side, the underlying numbers do like Farabee’s game. He was held off the scoresheet, but he was the Flyers’ single best generator of chances last night. He recorded six shots across all situations (the most on the team) and four scoring chances (tied for the most on the team). Additionally, at five-on-five, he put up a (you guessed it!) team high adjusted 69.35 CF% and a 79.00 xGF%, which was good for third on the team. All of this is just to say that Farabee was pretty dominant in this game, and it’s hard to find much to complain about about his game, other than the fact he wasn’t able to convert on one of those chances. But the process, if nothing else, remains sound.

Two loose observations

1. Depth is still an issue

Tyler Pitlick scored the lone goal of the game, and last I checked, he is a depth player, so maybe this section sounds strange, on the surface. But as we alluded to earlier, the underlying process with the Flyers’ depth has still left much to be desired.

The new-look top line showed some promise, and while the Couturier line struggled some last night (a 36.11 C F%), given how strong they’ve looked through the start of the season, we’re willing to bet that they bounce back. But outside of them, the third and fourth lines weren’t able to produce much of anything. The top two lines accounted for 15 of the Flyers’ 29 shot attempts at 5-on-5 (22 were taken by forwards), as the bottom two lines struggled to get much of anything going offensively. You can mask some of that when the top two lines are scoring consistently, but you can’t bank on that happening every game. And on nights like last night, we see why it’s important that the Flyers find a way to get something out of their bottom six.

2. They failed the test

Bill talked about this some on last week’s episode of BSH Radio, but this week had two big tests for the Flyers. The Capitals game was to see how they would be able to hang with the top team in the division. And then the Senators game would be to see if they could avoid the trap and not play down to their opponent. And, to be blunt, they failed.

The Flyers had the edge through the first period, and they had the chance to really put this one away. Instead, they took their foot off the gas and let the Senators come back. They had the chance to come in and beat up on a lesser opponent on paper, and instead they gave them too much space to work with, and by the time they were able to work to pull some momentum back their way, it was too late.

This all isn’t the end of the world, and it’s worth remembering that this team has taken steps forward, but this is also a reminder that there’s work left to be done, yet.

The only damn thing I know

This is like… barely tangentially related to the events of the game, but yesterday I learned that the white cat from the meme is from Ottawa. You know the one.

And, despite the result of last night’s game, it still might be the best thing Ottawa has going for them.