If you were wondering if the Flyers would start this game well, the answer was no, as they got the first chance of the game, but then the Canadiens went the other way, and just 62 seconds into the game, Tomas Tatar found himself wide open in front of the net and got the Canadiens on the board. The Habs would get a chance to extend their lead, as Nate Thompson was whistled for a penalty, sending them to the power play. The good news is that the Flyers escaped this one unscathed, and got their best chance of the game so far on a shorthanded chance by Kevin Hayes, and the Flyers lived to fight another day, as it were.
The successful penalty kill didn’t give them much in the way of momentum, and their struggles at 5-on-5 continued until the Canadiens struck again. This time it was a defensive breakdown, and Carter Hart without a stick, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi there to knock the chance home.
The period closed out with some more weirdness, still, as first the Flyers were called for too many men, killed off 58 seconds of that, then the Canadiens were called for a penalty, so we got a bit of 4-on-4, and then an abbreviated power play. During that power play, the Flyers finally got a bit of something going, with a nice controlled entry into the zone and a couple of pretty good chances. That set the tone for them for the rest of the period, and the Flyers looked to settle in a bit, but they couldn’t make it to the first intermission without any more drama. With under 15 seconds left in the period, Shayne Gostisbehere got into a foot race with a streaking Maxi Domi, and was able to break up his chance, but was also somehow called for holding by the official in the neutral zone, so the Habs would get seven seconds of power play, and then some carryover into the second period.
That carryover ... did not go well. The Flyers were able eat up a bit of time early, but ultimately the Candiens were able to get the puck into the zone and get to work. And with Justin Braun screening Hart, Tatar was in perfect position to send the puck in from past the left circle for his second of the game.
The Flyers seemed to be picking up some steam as the period went on, but given how the rest of this game had gone, we should have known where this was heading. That’s right, with a failed clear by the Flyers opened up a chance for the Canadiens, with Braun losing his man along the boards, and Joel Armia trying for a cross-slot pass that ended up deflecting in off of Gostisbehere’s skate. And chased was Carter Hart, and in came Brian Elliott.
The Flyers closed out the period with a bit of power play time, as Max Domi was called for goaltender interference. The Flyers got a couple of decent almost chances, and then one more with the goalie pulled with six and a half seconds left in the period, but they still couldn’t get anything past Carey Price.
The remaining power play to start the period didn’t yield a whole much, as the Flyers still looked a little flat, struggling to pass cleanly and make much of anything happen. The intensity picked up for a bit back at 5-on-5, and we had a quick back and forth with a near miss chance for Derek Grant, and then the Habs going right back and Armia getting a chance that hit the post and stayed out. They would get another chance on the power play not long after, and Travis Konecny was called for cross checking. The good news is they were neutralized well, and the Flyers got a couple of nice looks shorthanded from Hayes and Travis Sanheim, but still they couldn’t break through.
The Canadiens had more scoring in them and at this point we don’t know what else to say. Derek Grant was called for goaltender interference and the Habs got another power play, and after Scott Laughton, without a stick, was able to just clear the puck over the line, the Habs were able to rush right back into the zone, and Kotkaniemi picked up his second of the game.
And more bad news. Travis Konecny took a shot to the ankle and left the ice not putting much weight on it.
And the period ended without much consequence. The Flyers got a bit of power play time, couldn’t do anything with it, and the Nicolas Aube-Kubel took a slashing penalty and negated the rest of that. The Flyers killed off the subsequent power play, and that just about did it for regulation. And with a bit of skating around, the game was mercifully over. See you all on Sunday.
1. You, dear reader
This game was absolutely brutal and you and I and all of us deserve first star honors for tuning in and sitting through this nightmare game. So first star goes to you, friends. You’re welcome.
2. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
It’s not a secret that this was just really not a strong game for the Flyers’ skaters, so the strong performances are admittedly few and far between. That said, Aube-Kubel was one of the Flyers who stood out as looking more dynamic and was able to bring a bit of jump and look like he was working to create something out there, which on its own feels like a low bar to clear, but was still pretty remarkable in this one.
3. The goalies
Despite the outcome of this game, we’d be hard pressed to say that either of Hart or Elliott played poorly in this one. The skaters really just did not give them much support at all, and it isn’t hard to imagine that this game could have gotten much more seriously out of hand if those two weren’t playing well. It’s a shame that they weren’t rewarded for their efforts, but at the very least, we can head into Game 3 knowing that goaltending was not the issue, and we shouldn’t be worried about that.
Two big questions
1. Can the Flyers ramp up the intensity?
The answer, unfortunately, is a pretty hard no. They came out flat in the first period and didn’t really have anything to match the Canadiens’ forechecking pressure, and while they did show some flashes were they looked more dynamic and were able to get some good chances, they did look markedly better. Even their absolute best from this game wasn’t an improvement over their Game 1 showing. Does this mean that they’re positively sunk, that they can’t ever have an answer for the Canadiens as the series goes on? No, not really. But if anything, this has shown us pretty clearly that the Flyers are going to have to make some changes heading into Game 3 if they want to rebound in a meaningful way.
2. Will the big guns step up?
The answer to this one as well, unfortunately, is no. To be fair, it would be hard to pinpoint a Flyer, big name or small name, who stepped up in a big way in this game, so maybe we don’t get disproportionately fussed with the Flyers’ bigger producers. That said, it does remain another game where we didn’t see much from the top line or the top power play unit, and they will need to make their presence known at some point. The clock is ticking.