Just 37 seconds into the game, the Flyers had the lead. And eight minutes later, they had a two-goal lead for the first time in their last six games. However they wouldn’t make it out of the first period with a lead, and early on in the second they themselves would be on the wrong side of a two-goal lead.
They were able to climb back and pick up a point in the standings, but in the end it was the Carolina Hurricanes who left with a 5-4 overtime victory.
It may have been the period that contained their longest lead of the road trip, but the first period of last night’s game was flat out awful. Despite getting the early jump thanks to a Travis Konecny goal, the Flyers were unable to match the Hurricanes’ level of play and floundered their way to the first intermission.
Things would improve a bit but the Flyers never had control of the game, and without a shaky performance in goal from James Reimer, this game doesn’t get to overtime. Though to be fair, without shaky performances in their own net over the road trip, the Flyers don’t go 1-4-1.
Structurally, the Flyers had a lot of problems in last night’s content. On the Canes’ first goal of the game, Travis Sanheim forced Brock McGinn to the outside on the rush. McGinn gets a weak backhander off that Brian Elliott can’t control the rebound from, and Philippe Myers loses his man, the eventual goalscorer. Myers is at fault on both of the Hurricanes’ first period goals, and lax coverage in front of the net would become a reoccurring theme.
While plays where goals are scored get analyzed and played repeatedly, sometimes the worst breakdowns don’t end up on the scoresheet. Take this moment from early in the first period, that inadvertently led to an injury scare from Elliott.
After a failed attempt to bat the puck down from Shayne Gostisbehere in the neutral zone, Andrei Svechnikov looked to have an edge. With Gostisbehere already chasing, both Konecny and Robert Hagg begin to chase as well, leaving nobody to pick up the trailer, Warren Foegele. Foegele then almost converts on a quality scoring chance, while also colliding with Elliott’s head. Elliott stayed down on the ice for some time before getting back to his feet and staying in the game.
With Svechnikov being Gostisbehere’s man, and Konecny already ahead of Hagg on the backcheck, Hagg needs to recognize that the second forward in, Foegele, will be entering the zone unchecked.
Konency could look as well, but given their positioning it’s fair to assume that Hagg should watch for the trailer in this specific situation.
A rush in which the Flyers had the numbers advantage quickly turned into an adventure.
Top-pair, Hayes’ line struggles
When the Flyers’ top defensive pair struggles, the rest of the teams tends to as well. You need your best players to play at a high level, and while Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen were on the ice during 5-on-5 play last night the Flyers were out-attempted 23-to-7.
The Kevin Hayes line — Hayes, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, and James van Riemsdyk — had similar struggles, finishing with a Corsi-for (CF) percentage of 33.33, and an expected goals-for (xGF) percentage of 27.63. Both had trouble dealing with the line of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Nino Niederretier the most, with the line putting up a 100% CF against the two defenders.
And in yet another episode of the results versus the process, we turn our attention to that very trio in Carolina.
In just under 12 minutes of time together at 5-on-5, the line of Aho, Teravainen, and Niederreiter owned 76% of the shot share, and held the Flyers to just one shot on target. That shot? A goal. The Flyers kept them off of the scoresheet and picked up a goal against them, but did they really shut them down? Not really.
The Flyers struggled to get much going on their power play yet again, with only two shots — neither qualifying as scoring chances — in four minutes of time. The power play looked to be finally trending up, but after failing to convert on four opportunities in Arizona and another poor showing last night, any momentum they had built up on the power play has come to a halt.
However the penalty kill did do its job again, holding the Hurricanes to just two shots, one on goal, during their only power play of the night. With Justin Braun out, Hagg took over his penalty killing duties.
Goaltending wasn’t good, but neither was team defense
Both Elliott and Reimer had shaky moments in goal, but their nights were nowhere close to easy. We touched on the Flyers’ defensive issues, but it was really much of the same for the Hurricanes. Both teams played a sloppy game in their own zone last night, allowing the offenses a chance to shine.
The front of the net was free real estate, and both teams took advantage, one a little more than the other. The Hurricanes had the better of the play for the majority of the night, finishing with over 58% of the shots and expected goals at 5-on-5.
The playoff race
Lastly, no, it is not too early to look at the playoff picture. That standings cushion that the Flyers had earlier this season has evaporated, and they even entered last night’s game outside of a playoff spot. There’s little margin for error for this team, and with a tough schedule ahead from an opponent perspective, the success that they’ve been able to find in the Wells Fargo Center will be tested.
Their seven-game homestand kicks off with contests against the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and the St. Louis Blues. Just the top three teams in the league by standings points, and the Lightning, who won 62 games last season and seem to have found their groove. It’ll be a big opportunity for the Flyers to prove themselves, one that, while they don’t necessarily “have” to take to make the playoffs, would put them back on track.
Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick