Well, that one was certainly… interesting, to say the least. Kind of a tale of two games, in a lot of ways. We’ll be getting into that soon. Also it was another case of nobody knowing what goaltender interference is. Nobody knows. It’s one of the great questions of the universe. Which is cool and good for a thing that’s just supposed to be a thing in a rule book. But I digress…
All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com
1. Not exactly a banner start…
Is that too generous? To say that this wasn’t exactly a banner start to a game for the Flyers? It was straight up bad. The Lightning are a fast team, we can’t really deny that, but the Flyers still came out a few steps behind, looking slower and less decisive than we might have even expected against this opponent. It was, to be blunt, pretty brutal. They were turning the puck over with force, couldn’t string together a series of completed passes if they tried. And then there was an instance of Andrew MacDonald staring at a loose puck right in front of him, unsure of whether he wanted to make a play on it to keep it in the offensive zone or just let a Lightning player collect it and go the other way with it (unsurprisingly, it was the latter). And then a weird deflection goal to get the Lightning on the board. And then a penalty called on the Flyers. And that’s just in the first two and a half minutes.
The Flyers looked out of sorts, and two more goals in the first period didn’t have their looks improving. It took an intermission to reset, but, really, by then the damage was done.
2. Killing penalties
But we noted that there was that early penalty killed (when Phil Varone was called for delay of game from a faceoff violation), and when that hit, we worried that the spiral would deepen from there. But, perhaps curiously enough, the penalty kill was their most effective piece through the early part of the game. They killed off Varone’s penalty, and then Wayne Simmonds’s first of the night (but couldn’t kill the second). It wasn’t their prettiest showing, as they did find themselves collapsed and left to focus on blocking shots a fair bit, but, all told, they held a very potent Lightning power play to one for four on the night, with only five shots. Not perfect, obviously, but perhaps respectable, given their opponent. It’s not nothing.
3. Starter Hart
We’ve got a pretty brief Starter Hart section this morning, as Carter Hart’s night was also pretty brief. The Flyers came out, as we said, playing poorly, and largely suffering the consequences was Hart. He gave up three goals on nine shots in the first 10:23 of play, and was pulled as Scott Gordon tried to do something to stop the bleeding. It wasn’t the best we’ve seen Hart look down this stretch, as his tracking didn’t seem to be quite up to its usual level, and again he showed weakness one on one with a shooter on a breakaway. And we know that the Mikhail Sergachev shot on the first goal took a bit of a stranger bounce, but it wasn’t that dramatic of a deflection, and Hart probably should have had that post sealed up, to begin with.
But, that said, to use Scott Gordon’s words, they didn’t give Hart a chance in this one. Him being pulled was less about his individual play as it was a wake up call to the skaters in front. Hart certainly struggled in this one, but he didn’t have an easy job, either.
4. The power play
If it was a decent night for the penalty kill, it was… well, it was not a very good night for the Flyers’ power play. They got three chances in the final two periods (well, two and a half, with about a minute of carry over from Adam Erne’s hooking penalty from the end of the first), when they were pulling things together and looking like they might otherwise be able to generate something, but they just couldn’t. And perhaps the largest contributor to this was the fact that their first unit—which has tended to do well in at least generating chances—was largely ineffective. They struggled to get a clean entry into the zone, and when they finally were able to make it past the blue line, their passes weren’t connecting. And this, in short, is disconcerting. There is a disconnect somewhere, perhaps it’s handedness - as our pal Charlie pointed out - maybe it’s something else. But something has to give, especially if the issue persists.
5. Signs of life
Taking the rough start into consideration, we came out of the first intermission not feeling terribly optimistic. But the Flyers came out and buckled down, seeming to have reset during the break. They couldn’t convert on that half of a power play, but they were at least generating something. It was a sign of life, and they kept that rolling through the rest of the period. Indeed, the Flyers actually got the better of play in the second period, nine shots and a score adjusted 49.08 CF% (14 shots, 26 attempts, and a 65 CF% in all situations), and seemed to be building up a bit of buzz. There weren’t any goals to be had in that second period, but the mood all but reversed. They were still in a pretty deep hole, but it also felt that they were building towards something. They were working on swinging momentum back in their favor, rather than just rolling over and dying.
6. Welcome back, Brian Elliott!
It might have come as a bit of a surprise to see Elliott recalled yesterday, after the second game in his conditioning stint on Sunday saw him give up four goals on 11 shots, but back he was, and backing up he was, and then he was in the game. It was all happening.
The job of a backup coming in cold to try and stop the bleeding isn’t an easy job, particularly when it’s your first NHL game back after a long stretch on IR, but, all that considered, Elliott was solid. He had a respectable workload, with 22 shots and four high danger chances to face, and he turned aside all but one (which saw a puck squeak through somehow after it hit him in the palm, he said after the game). It was another one of those steady Elliott showings that we’ve more or less grown accustomed to. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a fine enough return, all things considered.
7. Oskar Lindblom is still doing his thing
The Flyers played another game, and Lindblom had another very good game. We don’t want to say that it’s become something of a foregone conclusion that Lindblom is going to show up and produce and do all of the things, but he’s been playing some very good hockey, of late, and that stretch continued into last night’s game.
He put up a team-high six shots and two high danger chances, and registered an adjusted 51.46 CF% at 5-on-5, putting him third among skaters. And then, of course, there was the matter of the goal that finally got the Flyers on the board.
Raffl ➡️ Couturier ➡️ Lindblom pic.twitter.com/DRVOweW6FV— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 20, 2019
And there really isn’t a more quintessentially Lindblom goal than that—crashing the net and being in just right the spot to pick up a deflection. He’s been sticking to his game, really as he has been all season, and he’s continuing to get results.
8. Travis Konecny, hello
And we’ve got some more offense to talk about! That push wasn’t over just yet! With just over nine minutes left to go in the third period, Konecny was able to cut the Lightning’s lead in half with a goal from a tough angle (something he’s been trying a good bit, of late). It was pretty nice, let’s have a look.
What a shot by Konecny! pic.twitter.com/vFXydpkXFR— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 20, 2019
The rest of the numbers, for Konecny, weren’t as solid. He put up three shots on the night, as well as an adjusted 39.25 CF% at 5-on-5 (which was somehow only a -3.47 CF% Rel). And perhaps part of this was because of the matchup, but it’s still not stellar. We like the goal, but also aren’t too worried about the underlying numbers.
9. A moment to contextualize
This one doesn’t feel very good. Between the slow start and the almost comeback and the disallowed goal, there was a lot going on that should leave us dissatisfied. But, that said, even without some of their key pieces missing, the Lightning are still a very good hockey team. They’re not the best in the league for no reason. Their depth is what makes them, and that what came up big for them. Does that make us feel any better about how the Flyers played last night? Absolutely not. We’ve seen them play that team much tighter, and across a full 60 minutes. But this is still an outcome that was well within the realm of possibilities. This was a litmus test to see if they could hang with a team that’s little short of a juggernaut, and they failed. But not they know what they need to do to get closer for next time, whenever that is.
10. The only damn thing I know
So I know it should have been a blessing for the Flyers to have not had to face Brayden Point last night, and we should be happy about that, but I find his scratching to be a personal attack on me. And my fantasy team. Because it always seems to work out that, no matter who it is, if a player on my team is facing the Flyers, they’ll get me some points. And I need them. This is important. I’m trying to beat Craig this week.
So thanks a lot, Jon Cooper (and Brayden Point for missing his dang team meeting). Thanks a lot.