I’m going to be honest with you, gang. Heading into this game, what I absolutely was not expecting us to get was a low scoring affair. Even knowing what we know about both of the goaltenders in this matchup, I figured some more offensive firepower would be on display beyond just *checks notes* Pat Maroon. But that’s what we got. Let’s talk about it.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
How’d they look out there?
5-on-5: 38 CF, 16 SF, 38.47 CF%, 32.31 xGF%
The numbers don’t really like this showing and neither do we. The Flyers played a pretty even first period, even with all of the time they had to spend killing penalties, and we hit the first intermission feeling like neither team really had pulled away with an edge in that first period, and that was probably for the best. We’ve seen the Flyers get better as games go on and while their first period wasn’t perfect, the pattern should suggest that they would get better.
Except that didn’t happen. Tampa picked up some steam and the Flyers’ early pattern of turnovers just seemed to get worse. The Flyers really struggled to generate much of anything in this one, and it seemed equal parts due to the Lightning playing just a bit faster than them and having their goalie come up big for them, and the Flyers just not really executing well on many of their plays. It’s a pretty deadly combination, and it’s no surprise that the numbers look as bad as they do. They just didn’t have it.
Power play: 6 CF, 5 SF, 2 HDCF
We’ve got something of a mixed bag on the power play from this one. On the one hand, we can look at the numbers and say that they did at least get some chances in this one, which is more than we can say about some of their recent attempts. So we thank the second unit and James van Riemsdyk for those high danger chances specifically.
But what still remains concerning is how they’re getting next to nothing from that top unit. They keep shuffling the personnel around—in this case, Jake Voracek was tried at the netfront—and nothing seems to be working. The idea there, that Voracek should be able to work at the netfront because of his size and his hands, isn’t wrong, but it also ignores the much larger sample of him being successful playing opposite Claude Giroux on the wall for what feels like forever. What we’re getting at here is that the Flyers seem to be doing everything to avoid putting together the obvious, most logical setup, even when that’s what’s been working for years. And I’m just tired, gang.
Penalty kill: 9 CA, 2 SA, 1 HDCA
On the bright side, we got another really solid showing out of the penalty kill last night. There were a couple of moments where Tampa got a good look and we got a little nervous that they were going to hurt us—as we’ve seen them do to teams time and again—but they didn’t, and the Flyers’ penalty killers handled it. Again they were aggressive against a fast puck moving unit, and it paid off for them. The Lightning weren’t able to generate a whole lot in their eight minutes of power play time (including a four minute double minor), and the Flyers even matched them in proper shots on goal during that time (though they only recorded four shot attempts). They were able to get the puck out of their own end pretty effectively, and the Lightning didn’t have much to work with.
And that’s two games in a row where the Flyers have been able to take apart some of what can be the league’s most dangerous power plays. And it’s hard to complain about that.
1. Carter Hart
Considering how the Lightning were able to really steal away just about all of the momentum and offensive zone time as this game went on, it’s almost a bit of a surprise that this score didn’t end up more lopsided than it did. Hart made 27 saves on 28 shots, just giving up that one goal on Maroon. And that wasn’t a great one, he didn’t seem completely ready for that shot, but also when your defenseman had the puck right in front of you, maybe you’re not really expecting that he’s going to turn it over like that. In any event, Hart did get some help from the skaters to limit the number of high danger chances that he faced on the night, which almost certainly helped, but all in all, he had a pretty solid game. Even though the offense wasn’t really gelling for the Flyers in this one, Hart gave them their best chance to come back in this one, keeping it close.
2. Mark Friedman
If we’re looking for positives, Mark Friedman continues to be one in his second look with the big club. He’s still being somewhat limited, playing just 13:28 and only at 5-on-5, but that’s more or less to be expected, and he’s continuing to show positively since his recall. Generally his positioning has been good, there’s been nothing too major to complain about on the defensive side. But where he’s really stood out so far is in transition—he made a couple of nice breakout passes last night and could have had a nice scoring chance if he’d gotten the puck on the rush, he’d opened himself up nicely for it. All of this shouldn’t really be a surprise, and Friedman showed flashes of looking sharp while activating on rushes and transition play proved to be a pretty consistent strength of his in Lehigh Valley, but it’s still nice to see his game looking like it’s translating to the next level. He’s off to a good start, if we do say so ourselves.
3. Matt Niskanen
We sometimes feel a little guilty singling out a single player here as a negative standout, but we’re going to do it. And, to be clear, it wasn’t as though Niskanen was the only player, or only defenseman who made some ugly turnovers in this game, but it’s also true that because of his very typical steady and reliable play, it makes the ugly bits stand out even more. The turnover leading to Pat Maroon’s goal was probably the most notable miscue, but Niskanen in general seemed to be fighting it a bit in this one. He wasn’t a complete disaster, we wouldn’t go that far, but this certainly wasn’t his best showing.
Like I said, we feel a little guilty singling him out like this, but, we also feel okay making this point because, at the end of the day, this was an uncharacteristically poor game for him. We fully expect that he’ll bounce back soon. This one was pretty brutal, but we imagine he’ll be back to his usual form in not too long.
Two loose observations
1. Messy, messy, messy
We alluded to it already, but this game was pretty brutal from a puck management standpoint. We’ve already talked about the One Big Turnover that gave way to the only goal scored on the night, but this wasn’t exactly an aberration. The Flyers were making some messy and somewhat questionable plays throughout the night, and their passing really wasn’t as sharp as we know it can be, and a fast team like Tampa was feasting on it. They made a good number of their turnovers high in the offensive zone, which made for a quick turnaround for the Lightning to get the puck moving back up-ice in transition, which also means the Flyers didn’t get a whole lot of offensive zone time of their own because they kept shooting themselves in the foot. Messy is the best way to describe what was happening, and it was pretty tough to watch. We’re hoping this was ends up just being an outlier of a game and they can buckle down for their next one, because they really didn’t give themselves a chance in this one.
2. Sometimes it’s not your night
This was a tough one. No one likes getting shut out and having the team look a little rough at home where they’re supposed to be good. But, as the section title says, sometimes it’s just not your night. Sometimes you meet a surging opponent, with a goalie who plays just about lights out, and you just aren’t executing as well as you ordinarily would. Sometimes the pieces all come together like that and you get an ugly game like this one. The Flyers, still in the mix for a wildcard spot in the standings right now, don’t really have the luxury of being able to put up too many more games like this one, and that maybe makes us feel even a little worse about how this one panned out. But it does happen.
That said, they have a very good Bruins team coming to town on Monday, and the Flyers are going to have to have a short memory and get back to their details in this one. Even more important will be how they respond to this.
The only damn think I know
I’m almost certainly a little biased here, but Travis Konecny taking a high stick to the mouth, having his tooth chipped, and only drawing a two minute penalty out of that just seems wrong. I know teeth don’t bleed, but I feel like there should be some sort of exception for cases like this? Four minutes for drawing blood and/or chipping teeth? I’m just saying…