The Flyers lost to the Washington Capitals yesterday and have all but mathematically been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoff race. It was a game unlike the Montreal game, or the Islanders game, but a loss nonetheless. Let’s talk about it.
1. The Flyers did a lot of good things in this hockey game.
Yes, we’re going to lead off with the positives. The Flyers did essentially everything right in the first two periods of this game besides scoring goals, and well, that is something you kinda have to do in the sport of hockey! But again, the positives. The shot attempt/Corsi battle was almost entirely in the Flyers’ favor through 40 minutes and they held a slight edge in raw Corsi For (CF) at 5-on-5 after the first with a 15-9 lead, but then blew them out of the water in the second. The Flyers out Corsi’d the Capitals a staggering 37-9 in the second period, but managed no goals at 5-on-5. A goal was scored however, but on the power play by Jakub Voracek which at that point brought the Flyers to within a goal after Tom Wilson and Travis Boyd scored for Washington.
The third period would be another story, but for now let’s continue to talk positives. Not only were the Flyers generating a ton of shot attempts, but they were getting them in high danger areas to boot. Overall in this game, the Flyers held the edge in scoring chances-for by a good margin of 33-24; what that stat doesn’t tell you is that the Flyers got 30 of those SCF in the first two periods. They absolutely dominated Washington for 40 minutes of this game and just couldn’t put the biscuit in the basket as they say. It was 11-2 in the first period and 19-5 in the second, putting the Flyers up 30-7 in SCF after the second period.
Oh, you thought we were finished? The high danger chances-for were just as dominant as Washington was held to just two HDCF through 40 minutes and none in the first period. The Flyers on the other hand had six of them in the first period, and nine in the second giving them a 15-2 margin heading into the third period. But that my friends is where the wheels fell off, and shit hit the fan.
2. The third period ... oh it was not pretty.
Whether it be frustration, exhaustion, or something else entirely, the Flyers fell apart in the third period. The Capitals dominated the Flyers with a 22-9 CF in the final frame, and it only gets worse when looking at the quality of those attempts. Keep in mind, the Flyers were trailing 2-1 as the third began, which should mean that they would be throwing everything they got at the Caps in effort to tie the game. Instead, the opposite happened. Washington went on the offensive and man did they ever. Although they only scored one goal in the third, a Jakub Vrana breakaway goal, they controlled the puck for the majority of the final 20 minutes.
The Caps had 17 SCF to the Flyers’ measly three in the final period. We can name any of those excuses at the top for why that happened, but simply put, it just can’t happen. As the trailing team you have to be at least breaking even in the third period when it comes to these metrics, otherwise you’re relying on sheer dumb luck (if you didn’t read that in Professor McGonagall’s voice you should feel shame). The Flyers would not be a recipient of said luck, and fail to score in the final minutes. Washington also had nine HDCF to the Flyers one in this period, creating an almost impossible task for the Flyers to tie the game.
There was a lot to like from the Flyers in this game, but the entire third period was not one of them, and unfortunately for them that was the one period where they truly needed to bring the firepower.
3. The third line. * chef kiss *
Alright back to a positive, the third line of Travis Konecny, Ryan Hartman, and Scott Laughton were on fire in this game. This line is one that I don’t think stays together into next season, given that Konecny simply needs more minutes, but for right now they are pretty damn fun to watch. The amount of speed and skill that this line can bring along with the physicality is a great combination and what the Flyers need to build the bottom six around. These three lead the team in raw CF all over 80 percent.
They also were key contributors in shot quality as the only one of them not over 80 percent in SCF was Konecny, at 76.92 percent. This kind of line is something that I would love to see the fourth line look like, but with Nicolas Aube-Kubel in Konecny’s spot. Sure, he’s not as skilled as Konecny, but he brings a high level of energy and isn’t a bad hockey player by any stretch of the imagination. He’s not known for his skill but he’s absolutely capable of scoring points and with his speed and physicality, I think he’d be a perfect fit on this line moving forward.
4. The inability to clear the porch strikes again.
I don’t know how many times over the past couple of seasons that we’ve complained about how horrific the Flyers are at clearing the net front area. Regardless of how many times it has been, it still holds true and especially in yesterday’s game. The first two Capitals goals were via the deflection and both times there was little to no effort to tie up the Capitals forward who would tip in the point shot. On the Wilson goal, Radko Gudas was the man taking responsibility for tying up Alexander Ovechkin directly in front of Brian Elliott, but both Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux did not go to tie up a darting Wilson and it was money in the bank from there.
On the Boyd goal, both Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov just ... I don’t even know, just kind of stood there as Boyd positioned himself directly in front of Elliott for the tip. Boyd had just missed a great scoring chance down low as he snuck behind the defense, so one would assume the Flyers wouldn’t forget about him twice, right? Well, so much for that. Boyd went around the net, behind Provorov and Sanheim, and got into perfect position to deflect the puck by Elliott giving the Caps a 2-0 lead at the time. This isn’t just a one-time issue with the Flyers, it’s been a recurring theme.
I don’t think Samuel Morin is ever going to be a great defenseman in today’s NHL. However, at this stage, one thing I think we can count on him doing is clearing the porch and that is something that essentially no one else is doing for this team right now, so why not play him? We’ve reached the point of no return and it would take a miracle greater than 2010 for this team to make the postseason. Get him into a game, what is the worst thing that could happen?
5. Speaking of the playoffs ... maybe next year, huh?
This season has been such a frustrating and wild ride, and now with the Flyers all but mathematically eliminated, it sure as hell looks like they will miss the postseason for the third time in the past five seasons. This is a tough pill to swallow when looking back on the expectations for this team. We were told in the offseason that mediocrity was not going to be accepted, that last year wasn’t good enough, etc. What happened was, the team fired their general manager in November, followed by the head coach, traded Wayne Simmonds, started EIGHT goaltenders, and stayed in the playoff race until the final 10 games.
I’m not usually the one for moral victories, especially when it comes to this team, but this is one that kinda needs to be taken. A team that fires their general manager and head coach in the same season typically doesn’t make the playoffs, and that is exactly what happened. Should things have been different this year? Absolutely, no contest. But they weren’t, and now a new regime is here. This offseason is going to be monstrous for Chuck Fletcher and co. as they attempt to right the ship and make the Flyers consistent contenders yet again. It’s almost insane to call this a make-or-break offseason for Fletcher, since it will be just his first offseason with the team, but there’s a lot at stake here.
All data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick