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Canadiens 4, Flyers 1: Can’t Hab it all (sorry)

Some observations for your morning…

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

This was a tough one, gang. The Flyers defeated the reigning Stanley Cup champs on Wednesday and then came home and pretty decidedly dropped the ball. They didn’t altogether play very poorly, but it felt a lot like a game of missed opportunities. Let’s talk about it.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

How’d they look out there?

5-on-5: 43 CF, 30 SF, 42.14 CF%, 44.89 xGF%

By the numbers, it wasn’t a great night for the Flyers. It feels a little strange to be saying this about a game where they also put up 30 shots at 5-on-5 alone, but that’s what we have here. The Flyers did generate a good number of chances, and some very good ones at that, but they just gave up a few more, and that’s part of what did them in. We also might have liked to have seen them generate a few more high danger chances or get more traffic in front of the net, to really test a Carey Price that was playing quite well, but that wasn’t all the way there.

We might have expected to see a bit of fatigue, with them having played in St. Louis the night before, but the energy level wasn’t really lacking, it was just the execution that wasn’t all the way there. The Flyers came out a little flat, and while they tightened up a bit as the game went on, they never really found it, as we’ve seen them do even after some tougher opening frames. They just didn’t have it.

Power play: 15 CF, 9 SF, 5 HDCF

More so than we’ve seen recently, the power play was able to get a handful of really good looks last night. Our main takeaway from this one—outside of that one look where the Flyers tried Travis Sanheim on the top unit was neat and maybe we should give that a more serious chances?—was that the double-netfront structure is giving us some initial promise. They put up five high danger chances in their four attempts, with James van Riemsdyk accounting for four of those, while also making a perfect pass across the crease to Travis Konecny for what would have been a tap-in, if Shea Weber hadn’t just barely gotten enough of a stick on it to have it change direction. But the point here is that they were really knocking on the door.

And of course, those chances are going to have to start turning into goals at some point, or else this all becomes irrelevant, but we’ve at least got some positive initial signs here.

Penalty kill: 4 CF, 4 SA, 1 HDCA

It was something of a mixed bag that we got from the penalty kill last night. On the one hand, they played just over five minutes and were able to pretty well limit the number and quality of chances that the Canadiens’ power play was able to generate, and that part we can feel pretty good about. That part of the process was working. But they did still give up the one goal and that wasn’t great. A rebound making its way to a wide open Ilya Kovalchuk right in front? He may not be the player he once was, but that’s an ill advised strategy. So we’ll take that as an area that needs a bit of improving on, making sure coverage in and around the crease is better locked down, and hope that that can do a little better in that area tomorrow.

Three standouts

1. Joel Farabee

There obviously wasn’t a whole lot going on for the Flyers last night in terms of tangible offense with points on the board, so first and foremost, credit goes to Joel Farabee for actually breaking through and getting one past Carey Price. It was a pretty great shift as well, leading up to the goal, starting out with Farabee trying to set up Connor Bunnaman with a great chance that just wasn’t quite there, him then being able to regain control of the puck to keep working, and then ultimately putting up this neat goal.

We liked Farabee’s energy across the board, and maybe he did benefit some from not having played the night before, but all the same, he just seemed to be on last night. And more than anything else, it was nice to see him get that goal, and hopefully that can help him build back up his confidence and get some momentum going.

2. James van Riemsdyk

The next closest thing we have to getting points on the board is who was closest the most, and that goes to van Riemsdyk, who registered six individual high danger chances last night. He picked up four of those on the power play, and just looked really close to breaking through there, as we sort of alluded to earlier. The power play hasn’t been generating an excess of high danger chances recently, and that’s likely not helping out their conversion rate, but last night they had that going for them, and we really have van Riemsdyk to thank for that. Really, across the board he was doing well to get to the front of the net to look for more dangerous chances, because with how well Price was playing last night, that was how you were going to beat him. Shots from the circles and the top of the slot weren’t going to cut it. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to convert on any of those chances, but credit to him for doing some solid work, process-wise, and we’re hoping this can turn into something of a trend. More of this please!

3. Alex Lyon

Since the injury to Carter Hart, Lyon was called back up from the Phantoms to back up Brian Elliott, and he made his season debut last night. it was the first time we’d seen him since last December, and, well, he did okay.

Vigneault said it best in his post-game presser, that “”He did what you want a goaltender to do- he gave us a chance.” Lyon wasn’t perfect last night, he even admitted that “his brain went to sleep” for a bit in the second period and that cost them a couple of goals, but we’re not fully willing to place all of the blame in him there. He could have used a bit more help from the defense, it was more of a group effort there. That said, Lyon did just about what you would ask for from an injury call-up who we haven’t seen play in the NHL for more than a year. He played a fine enough game and did his best to keep the team in it, if they could work on rallying back. He didn’t lose this game for the Flyers. He had a fine enough return.

Two loose observations

1. First period struggles are back (did they ever really leave?)

It’s been a little bit since we’ve made time to specifically complain about first period play, but here we are again, back for more. The Flyers hadn’t completely fixed their first periods, but they had hit a stretch there where they looked to have tightened up at least a little bit. That came to an end last night. The Flyers looked sloppy again, full of turnovers, and just couldn’t really seem to put together a whole lot. They picked up some steam as the period went on and that helped pull the numbers up and have that side not look quite so ugly, but we couldn’t escape the feeling that they just hadn’t really done anything.

The Farabee goal was great, and that should have injected some life into them, but instead they immediately gave up a goal against, and then it was all a wash. They had a chance to hit the first intermission with a lead and they just weren’t able to do anything to capitalize there. Alas.

2. Avoiding the hangover

Several of the players mentioned after the game that, coming off a big emotional win like the one they had against the Blues on Wednesday, there can be a bit of a hangover the next day, and it can be tough to get up and bring that same level of intensity, especially if it’s a back to back and travel’s involved. And implicitly, this makes some sense—you expend a lot of energy doing a big thing, and then the next day you feel a bit of drop-off.

Alain Vigneault, though, called bullshit on this—well, he didn’t say the word, but made sure that we all knew that was the word he was going for—explaining that he understood what the players meant from their standpoint, but he didn’t buy into it.

And whether the emotional hangover is real or not, here’s the thing—it can’t be. With how tight things are in the East right now, the Flyers can’t afford to be giving away games to teams that, on paper, they should be. So whatever the issue is, it needs fixing, and fast.

The only damn thing I know

Not to pile on here, but I’ve got to say, Robert Hagg’s “fight” last night was pretty brutal. Personal stance on fighting aside, that one was just tough. Not landing a single punch against, respectfully, a child who’s never recorded a fight in his NHL career? Not awesome. Just. Not awesome.