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Islanders 4, Flyers 3: Still dying

Some observations for your morning...

NHL: New York Islanders at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers came home for their second game of the back-to-back last night, and despite taking what felt at the time like a pretty commanding 3-0 lead, and holding on to it despite letting off the gas a bit in the second period, the wheels fell off in pretty spectacular fashion and the Flyers let the Islanders claw their way back. You may be shocked to hear that neither team could collect the win in regulation, or then overtime, and this had to go to yet another shootout. Because this is our lives now.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

How’d they look out there?

5-on-5: 40 CF, 23 SF, 47.23 CF%, 37.21 xGF%

Overall, not the Flyers’ best performance at 5-on-5. They had a slight edge in the first period, but weren’t able to keep up that same pressure through the final 40 minutes. The Islanders took back much of the momentum after the second intermission, and the Flyers didn’t really have an answer for it.

The Flyers were pretty well limited in terms of their chances, and held to the outside, and this was something we might have expected to happen, because this is just what the Islanders do. They play pretty tight defensively, and don’t give a whole lot up. Would we have like for the Flyers to have found a way to game plan against that and found a way to break through? Absolutely. But they wouldn’t be the first team to fail to do this.

Power play: 12 CF, 7 SF, 2 HDCF

This really should just about sum up our feelings on the power play from last night. All in all, it wasn’t their best showing, they still weren’t quite connecting on all of their passes, and Vigneault kept switching up the personnel from attempt to attempt, with Travis Konecny being bumped up to the top unit and Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere alternating between the top unit.

It was still a little messy, but they did better at generating chances than last night, and they got a reward for it.

Penalty kill: 10 CA, 5 SA, 7 HDCF

On the flip side, it wasn’t a very strong night for the Flyers’ penalty kill, which feels strange to say now after they’d been good for such a long stretch. That stat line, if your reading experience was the same as mine, is pretty telling—okay, they had about 5:46 on the penalty kill, 10 shot attempts, fine, five shots, not terrible I guess, SEVEN HIGH DANGER CHANCES?

Which is all to say that, particularly given that Brian Elliott was also looking a little shaky, it’s not a huge surprise that the Islanders were able to convert on the power play, when given that many good chances. The door was pretty much wide open.

Three standouts

1. Sean Couturier

The Flyers changed the lines up last night from what we were expecting from warmups, which meant that we had to spend the first couple of minutes seeing what they were running and trying to decide how we felt about it. And I had just finished saying that “hey, a Couturier line with Oskar Lindblom and Joel Farabee could be interesting, that could be something,” Couturier took a pass from Lindblom for the first goal of the game on the rush.

Overall, the line showed some initial promise, even if the numbers (a 45.63 CF%) don’t necessarily reflect that. We’re willing to give it a few more games for things to come together, because on paper, they look like they should be effective. Couturier individually had a solid game, even if it was quieter through the rest of the game. They had a tough matchup, sent out almost exclusively against the line of Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, and Mat Barzal, and they were able to keep them pretty well contained. Not a bad effort.

2. Oskar Lindblom

Sticking with that line, Lindblom also had a good night, individually. As we said, that newly reconfigured second line seemed to be clicking, and it also brought us the second of the Flyers’ two even strength goals, this line from Lindblom on a feed from Farabee. It was a nice shot, probably not the most dangerous one he’s ever taken, but it certainly got the result.

Lindblom also put in some good work elsewhere, setting the screen on Provorov’s power play goal, and was relied upon to play a bit of defense against the Barzal line. As we noted in the last section, the underlying numbers for this line weren’t great, but they were able to weather the storm, at the very least. Lindblom’s been good all season, so another solid game from him isn’t much of a surprise, but it doesn’t make it any less nice to see.

3. Ivan Provorov

We talked a little about Provorov already in the power play section, as he immediately shut all of us up, wondering about his general power play prowess and if he’s ultimately the best fit on the first unit (still maybe up for debate though), but beyond that, he had himself a pretty solid game. He picked up an adjusted 50.91 CF%, which was sixth among skaters and second among defensemen, and played, overall, a pretty quiet but sound defensive game.

There was, however, a moment when his defensive game was sound but loud, and he had to jump into the net to play backup goalie for Elliott who had gone for a stroll or something, saving a goal. He had to do it again not too long after, but it wasn’t quite as flashy to look at. And that’s all to say that this game might have gotten even uglier if it weren’t for Provorov’s efforts. So hat tip for that.

Two loose observations

1. *Depth remains an issue intensifies*

We talked about this yesterday, after Friday’s loss in Ottawa, but it was apparent again in last night’s game, so we’re going to do a bit of rehashing. The Flyers’ bottom six has been struggling, and they made some changes to the lines last night in hopes that they could shake everybody up and get things going again, and it didn’t really work.

We’re going to pick on the fourth line again, because it very quickly became clear that a line with Tyler Pitlick, Andy Andreoff, and Chris Stewart just wasn’t working even a little bit, but the fact remains that they weren’t really getting much contribution from the third line, either, still. The Flyers seem, for now, reluctant to make another move to mix up the bottom six, and that just leaves us with the feeling that they need Scott Laughton back in a big way.

2. Deja vu

It feels like we’ve done all of this before, right? It’s not the first time in recent memory that the Flyers let the game get out of hand and blew a lead. They did it on Friday, as well as last weekend against Boston. They had the edge in the first period and then it all sort of started to get away from them. The Islanders got the better of the play in the second period, but the Flyers were able to hold on keep them off the board. But the third period saw some uglier defensive breakdowns, and the Islanders weren’t going to let those chances go. And just like that, they were back in it.

And we can say that back-to-backs are tough, especially when travel is involved. And we can note that this is technically still a team working through a new system. But they still need to tighten up, and make sure that they’re not giving away games in the third period. You can’t bank on shootout wins all the time.

The only damn thing I know

Gotta say, gang, at the game, Kurt, Charlie, and I were predicting a fight for Chris Stewart in that one, because, you know, apparently that’s what he does here, and I’m pretty disappointed that it didn’t happen. That’s all I’ve got.