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Hurricanes 5, Flyers 2: Hello, Draft Lottery

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Five things we learned from the nail in the coffin of the Flyers’ playoff hopes.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers scored first, but watched the Hurricanes storm back (sorry) with three-straight goals in route to a 5-2 win on Saturday afternoon from PNC Arena in Raleigh. Claude Giroux opened the scoring and Oskar Lindblom followed up in the third period, but Carolina found the Flyers’ empty net twice to end all comeback attempts.

The loss officially eliminated the Flyers from playoff contention, though their chances were quite low entering play and just in general. With that portion of the season now over and down with, it’s time to move on and pick out what we learned from a pretty defined road loss to a playoff team in Carolina.

Officially, officially eliminated

It has finally happened and the Flyers have mercifully been eliminated from playoff contention in 2018-19. It’s pretty wild to think that around January 1 the Flyers were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and yet here we are with four games left and they’re just now being eliminated from postseason play.

Truthfully the playoffs really were never that far in reach for this team, but it will hopefully serve as a lesson that letting the first few months of the season slip away represents a hard hill to climb up later on. This isn’t the first time the Flyers have punted on the first few weeks of the season and something that Chuck Fletcher and the next coach are going to have to address going forward.

Though they weren’t eliminated until yesterday afternoon, the Flyers dug their grave early in the season and couldn’t climb out of it. That has to change next year or we’ll be right back here writing about another spring without postseason hockey at the Wells Fargo Center.

Flyers founder Ed Snider set a higher standard for this hockey team, and frankly their recent history just hasn’t been good enough and shouldn’t be tolerated as such.

Bryce bomb

Yeah yeah the Flyers, but did you see Bryce Harper crank that baseball yesterday? I mean dude sent one into absolute orbit. That was fun as heck.

Cold goalies gonna stay cold

Cam Talbot, acquired back on February 15 from Edmonton for Anthony Stolarz, has now played just three times since the trade and has looked rusty in at least two of those games. This one was no exception with the veteran struggling with rebound control in the first half of the game and watching the Hurricanes take advantage.

Though Talbot would likely tell anyone who’d listen that he expects more of himself, the reality is that giving him such little NHL game action in the last two months has been puzzling from the Flyers’ perspective. Yes, Carter Hart has been incredible and has earned the mass of the starts in goal, but playing Brian Elliott over Talbot has been an odd surprise.

On one hand, the Flyers didn’t give up much to get Talbot —who is pretty tight with Hart— but they also have no reason to play Elliott at all given his age and bleak future with the team going forward. Talbot, on the other hand, could factor in as a backup to Hart going forward, so one would think the Flyers would like to get a good look at him when possible down the stretch but that just hasn’t been the case.

Credit Talbot for hanging in there and turning the day around, making 27 saves on 30 shots before the Hurricanes went to town on the Flyers’ empty crease. Neither the Oilers nor the Flyers have done the veteran many favors this season, and though I’d love to see him back as the guy behind Hart a year from now, I’m not sure he might want to test the waters elsewhere given his usage since coming to town.

So about the defensive rotation experiment

Much ado was made out of Flyers coach Scott Gordon going with seven defenseman in recent weeks, but he ditched the plan in favor of a rotation along the blue line today with Shayne Gostisbehere of all people, getting a seat in the press box.

Now this move was to get Sam Morin some playing time, and giving out ice time to seven defenseman proved to be difficult, but sitting the Flyers’ best offensive defenseman in favor of a guy who has played a handful of NHL games ever is just plain stupid. Yes Ghost has had a down season, and yes there are things he needs to work on, but keeping him out in order to play Morin is just absurd…especially when Robert Hagg keeps getting a concrete spot despite consistently being the Flyers’ worst defenseman.

Unsurprisingly, Morin got killed all day by the possession dominant Hurricanes, and posted a 25% Corsi For despite getting some sheltered minutes from Gordon against a good club. I’m all for seeing what the Flyers have —or don’t have—in Morin, but playing him at the expense of Ghost is terrible and frankly scary given that the staff didn’t just identify that Hagg is the one that needs to sit regardless of a rotation or not.

It’s also worth noting that the Flyers and Ghost could be headed for quite an interesting offseason. The Flyers are loaded on defense with Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Philippe Myers. There’s also the under contract bodies of Radko Gudas, Robert Hagg, and Andrew MacDonald. Ghost is better than most of these guys, but perhaps he’s the asset that general manager Chuck Fletcher uses to try and upgrade at forward.

Penalty kill returns to earth

The Flyers surrendered just two power play goals all month, but watched Carolina double that total in this one alone.

First it was Blackhawks cap casualty Teuvo Teravainen hopping on a loose puck after a Talbot rebound to tie things up in the first. After Talbot couldn’t corral the initial chance, the Flyers penalty kill couldn’t find and clear the loose puck in front, but Teravainen did. It was somewhat of a broken play, but stronger sticks from the Flyers would have won the puck battle that eventually led to a puck in their own net.

On the second one, a more traditional setup from the Hurricanes with good puck movement along the blue line and then a blast from Justin Faulk with bodies in front to screen Talbot. On replay the Flyers’ netminder wasn’t totally screened off, but there was enough traffic in front to move his eyes away from the launch point from Faulk. That said, this is one that Talbot would probably like to have back, and his mates in front weren’t exactly clearing the loose sticks from his sight-lines either.

It’s been a strange year for the Flyers’ penalty kill having gone from one of the worst units of all-time to a wild second half run that has helped propel them back out of the basement of the conference, but on this day they returned to the mean.

They really are a bunch of jerks

So Carolina is finally pretty good eh? After years of dazzling those in the analytics community, the payoff is finally here for the Hurricanes. They’re actually good, and not just in charts or on paper.

Throughout the afternoon it was clear that the guys in red were just the better hockey club. The Flyers were chasing most of the day and had issues with the Canes’ speed and puck movement. They were often first on the puck, and even when they weren’t they were able to win puck battles to create their own offense or defuse Flyers attacks.

If the Flyers won’t be part of the postseason, it’s rather refreshing to see a team like Carolina back in the dance. The Canes haven’t sniffed the playoffs since way back in 2008-09 when they were rudely swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by Pittsburgh. Here’s to hoping that the Canes can return the favor and dispatch the Penguins this time around.