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Lightning 5, Flyers 2: That sounds about right

In this one, I get a little analytical and there may even be a graph or two.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It is 7:04 p.m. and I have decided, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Flyers are going to win this game. We’ll come back to this later.

It is now 7:17 p.m., and sometimes I am wrong about things, I will admit.

The Flyers lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but you already knew that, didn’t you? Is that why you came here? To further your own suffering? To relive what you already witnessed? Perhaps you missed this game, and you are wondering if it was worth watching. Well, it wasn’t. It was not fun for me. I didn’t enjoy myself. I’m thinking about how I grew up a mere three hours from Tampa, and I could have so easily been a Lightning fan. I could have chosen that life for myself. Yet, I did not do that. I stumbled upon the Flyers. I made Philadelphia my home. I did that; no one forced me. It was my choice. I will be paying for that for the rest of eternity.

Anyway.

It was my hubris that got us here. I know this.

I will be the first person to admit that I had faith in the Flyers, and I believed it was truly possible that they would do the inconceivable and they would win this game. Not just win it, but positively whip ass. There are a few reasons as to why I let myself fathom this, but the truth is perhaps that I was just telling myself something I wanted to hear. Also, I really enjoy the narrative of the Flyers playing “up” to better teams. I don’t know. I had a good feeling in my gut, that’s all I’m saying.

Right into the opening frame, Tampa Bay looked lethal. This is a team missing Brayden Point and Victor Hedman, but they don’t look to be lacking anything. You genuinely wouldn’t even know they weren’t dressing a couple of key players. God, could you imagine.

As I fantasized about having this kind of depth, oh my God, of course, Mikhail Sergachev scored a goal at 2:22. Brad Keffer if you are reading this you must stop now as I will be writing something resembling a criticism of Carter Hart, as much as it hurts me to do so. This goal... was sort of soft. I add “sort of” because it did appear to deflect off Shayne Gostisbehere, but ah, I don’t know. Still.

Already, this was not a great look by the Flyers. I can’t figure out if they are genuinely a bad team (seems like that really cannot be true, but who am I to say) or if Tampa Bay is just that goddamn good. I will have to concede that it is a little bit of both. I have made a graph to demonstrate.

I hope that helps.

Phil Varone did some illegal stuff at the face-off and yes, a face-off violation penalty will be what gets us going. A shot of Varone shouting “are you fucking kidding me?” at a ref played; it was muted, and yet I felt it in the deepest reaches of my being. The Lightning would go to the first power play of the game at 2:38. That’s the good stuff.

Allegedly, this is the best power play in the league. By that, of course, I mean that it is absolutely the best power play in the league, but truthfully I avoided looking too much at the Lightning’s stats before this game because I wanted to avoid what I can only call an existential crisis. Or a panic attack. Either one would not have been ideal.

Through some act of God, the Lightning did not score on this power play, despite looking nothing less than excellent the entire two minutes. That passing? That chemistry? My God. And people in Florida of all places get to enjoy this? Florida? You’re telling me a bunch of Floridians are out there watching the best team in the league do this shit on a nightly basis? I feel sick to my stomach. As someone born and raised in Florida, I can say with unshakable certainty that no one in Florida deserves this kind of good will. I am speaking of my family and my friends and my loved ones, and I still will say they don’t deserve it. It’s Florida. You have to understand, I moved to Philadelphia in mid-December after never having experienced a winter in my life, just to get out of Florida. I did that, because it is Florida. Nothing good should happen there; anything good that does happen is questionable, and possibly a result of some nefarious deal with a demonic trickster imp. It should not be trusted. It should be regarded with suspicion.

It’s cool that they didn’t score on that power play, and surely it means something good for the state of our penalty kill, but it really would not matter in the end. Only a handful of seconds after the successful kill, Alex Killorn hammered a shot at the net that Hart really couldn’t handle at all, and we’re down by two goals at 5:13. This was, maybe, just maybe, not a good goal for Hart to allow.

Let’s take a break for a minute. Let’s just chat; you, the reader, and me, the idiot. My cat just got a new collar, and Christ almighty, he hates me for it. He’s just been trotting around my room making these displeased little noises, boring holes into the back of my neck from staring at me with tiny kitten fury, and dramatically glancing away any time I meet his gaze. He is haunting me like the ghost of a Victorian child, tied to the mortal plane because he has been wronged. It’s a nice collar, though.

Anyway, yeah, sorry, hockey was still happening. JT Miller scored the Lightning’s third unanswered goal in the first at 10:23. We really all should have seen this coming, and assuredly many of you did see this coming. Not me, however, as I have made a complete change in my life and have decided that I will view the world with childlike optimism once more.

As it turns out, I have been wronged by my own zest for life and general positive outlook, and not for the first time.

Back from his conditioning stint with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Brian Elliott would get his first look back in the Flyers net since November when Scott Gordon decided to pull Hart. This made me sad. Every goaltender is bound to have games like this; we’ve all seen great goalies pulled, and it happens, and is fine. But Carter Hart is but a child. A baby boy. I felt for him.

Adam Erne, whose surname is pronounced like “Ernie” and made me smile, took a hooking penalty at 18:59 and sent the Flyers to the power play with just over a minute left in the period. As is to be predicted, the Flyers failed to get anything going against the Lightning’s penalty kill, and these broken-up power plays don’t typically get a lot of momentum going, anyway.

It turns out that the person who is atoning for the 12-1-1 run the Flyers have gone on is me. I am paying for it. It is just me. I will bear this with my head held high.

AFTER ONE: 3-0 Lightning, shots 13-7 Lightning; Lightning goals scored by Mikhail Sergachev (2:22), Alex Killorn (5:13), and JT Miller (10:23)

Although the Flyers started off the period with a minute left on the power play, it really did not matter. Perhaps I have said this before, possibly in this very same article, and there’s a chance I said it a mere three stanzas ago, but power plays that get sliced in half by intermission have a tendency to look underwhelming. So it goes.

I’ll preface this part of the recap by saying that although not a lot happened in the second period, it wasn’t exactly boring to watch. Hey, that’s something to write home about.

Another power play would go to the Flyers after Claude Giroux went awkwardly into the boards by way of a trip by Danick Martel (hey, I know that guy) at exactly four minutes into the period. Although it did look like it could’ve been painful, Giroux didn’t look too shaken up, and we got a power play out of it. That’s exciting.

In my notes for this game, I simply wrote, “nothing happened.” What an incredible analysis by me. The Flyers didn’t score here, and it didn’t really look particularly close, though there were one or two good looks that lacked finish. Either the power play is bad again (debatable) or the Lightning are a very good team. It could be either! I have made yet another graph to illustrate this. I am all about the analytics tonight.

There were some positives to take away from the second period, however. At the halfway point of the frame, the Lightning were held to zero shots on goal. That’s right. Not a single one. That’s no joke, considering it’s the Flyers defense vs. the Lightning’s offense, a true David and Goliath type situation. So, hey. That’s kind of cool.

The Flyers didn’t really look that bad here. It’s easy to think that they did, even if you were paying attention, because they were down 3-0 and that sort of clouds anyone’s view. But they were trying. I promise you there were efforts being made. Somehow Louis Domingue is playing the game of his career. That really is how it tends to go, isn’t it. (Goal-tends to go. Thanks.)

Anthony Cirelli gifted the Flyers yet another power play on a tripping penalty at 17:08. It really is looking like God or whoever was giving them every single possible chance to turn this game around, but whichever cosmic higher power pulling the strings here has severely underestimated this team’s ability to squander. That was a roundabout way of saying they didn’t score here. Of course they did not do that. That would have been too kind to me.

AFTER TWO: 3-0 Lightning, shots 21-21

Just as I’d resigned to writing a very biting and ironic article about how the Flyers were absolutely getting shutout by the best team in hockey, Sean Couturier did the type of things he likes to do (good things, usually) and got a puck to Oskar Lindblom right in the slot, cutting Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-1 at 1:03. Hope, the dumb thing with feathers, started building in my chest.

Matching penalties would be served not too long after this goal, as Wayne Simmonds and Tyler Johnson both got tied up with each other. Simmonds had been attempting to get around Johnson, who began holding onto him for dear life (I feel the same), and Simmonds engaged in some behavior of the rough type. Subsequently, Simmonds went off for roughing and Johnson went off for hooking at 2:17.

Open ice, baby. Both teams got plenty of chances here. The Flyers looked close to scoring another goal, plenty of offensive energy happening at the right end of the ice. Although nothing particularly fun went down here (and by “fun” I truly only mean “a Flyers goal”), it did a lot to prove to me that this wasn’t a game the Flyers intended on losing without a fight. We’ve not always seen that from them this season. It’s nice.

A delayed call would go against the good guys not too long after the game returned to even-strength, once again on Simmonds, this time for hooking at 5:43. You know exactly what I wanted to see was another Lightning power play.

This penalty kill looked so goddamn good; not just successful in the results, but genuinely competent, aggressive, and smart. Because of all of these reasons, it was only inevitable that the Lightning would score on it with literally one second left on the penalty. I promise you it looked good. I was thrilled by it, right up until the moment I was not, after a full minute and fifty-nine seconds. Good God. Elliott had lost his stick, Yanni Gourde had the angle shot at 7:42, and that was that.

It was a little demoralizing, I can’t lie about that, but I am more than accustomed to being treated this way by the Flyers. That’s what “love” is all about, I suppose. It’s watching this team night after night, witnessing the lowest of the lows, and still saying, “yeah, I’ll be doing that again.” I did not even have a single cold one before the opening frame. I am completely sober. It’s the Tampa Bay Lightning, and I am stone-cold sober. I worked nine hours today at my full-time job. Yes, I would say this is love.

What am I ever saying? Sometimes I just start typing a stream of conscious and I don’t stop. Anyway, right. The hockey game.

Travis Konecny, you absolute untamed beast, I will follow you into any war. Although it wasn’t fully clear if he even intended on getting it to the net, Konecny sent a puck into the blue paint at a completely insane angle and nailed it at 10:51. I don’t even know what to say; words don’t really suffice. Enjoy this visual image instead.

Things started to look kind of cool and promising, but then the Squanderers struck again. Varone would get sent to the box for tripping up Domingue, a strict no-no move, and yet again we are forced to bear a Lightning power play.

But not just any power play, my good friends. No, Radko Gudas, for reasons that are fully indiscernible and breathtakingly mystifying, just straight up whacked a guy on the head. No real reason behind it. No malice, even, or any kind of catalyst. He just hit a dude on the head. It seemed deliberate, but it didn’t even seem angry. It is like some unknown force within him demanded that he whacked someone with the blade of his stick, and he was powerless to deny it. Absolutely beyond me. The Lightning would go to a 5-on-3 power play at 16:11.

The Flyers did wonders with this, I won’t even downplay it honestly. The fact that the best power play in the league could not score on the 2018-19 Philadelphia Flyers on a 5-on-3 is nothing short of incredible. Remember where this penalty kill was in December? A shout-out here to the play of Brian Elliott, who had looked fairly sharp since he relieved Carter Hart; he was a huge reason as to why the Flyers escaped this one unscathed.

Just as the power play wound down, Elliott went right to the bench for the extra attacker. Although it was extremely unlikely, it did look possible that the Flyers could poke in a couple extra goals and take this to overtime through sheer force of will.

A flurry of dramatics would finish off the remaining minute and a half of the period, and I will be as succinct as possible here (I know). Sean Couturier scored a goal, or at least he and the rest of the Flyers were certain it was one, while the referee on the ice did not agree. It was called goaltender intereference and therefore illegal, which I find to be rather silly, as Couturier did nothing more but poke at the puck. Gordon and the rest of the coaching staff agreed with me, and challenged this call. They lost this challenge, of course. That is just the way it goes in this life. It just is like that sometimes.

There was an empty net goal. I think it was Ryan McDonagh. It doesn’t really matter. The Flyers lost and somehow it feels new to me. Have I already forgotten?

AFTER THREE: 5-2 Lightning, shots 33-30 Lightning; Flyers goals scored by Oskar Lindblom (1:03) and Travis Konecny (10:51); Lightning goals scored by Yanni Gourde (7:42) and Ryan McDonagh (19:23)

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