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Canucks 5, Flyers 4 (SO): Like last year, but somehow more entertaining

Flashes of brilliance, frustration, incredible misfortune, a furious rally to tie it, and a shootout loss. We’re back, babies.

Vancouver Canucks v Philadelphia Flyers
I don’t like using celebration photos after losses, but we’ll allow it this time.
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Prior to the events that took place in the final two and a half minutes of regulation in the Flyers’ season-opening 5-4 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks, this paragraph here (which I, as many do when they write a recap, had already written most of as a placeholder) said the following:

The first game of the Flyers’ 2021-22 season brought new faces, excitement, a full crowd, and a hot start, and then ... a lot of hockey that looked like it was played by the 2020-21 Flyers. One game is just that, and it’d be silly to read too much into one game just because it’s the opener, but a lot of the things that we’re about to say about the Flyers’ ____ loss to the Vancouver Canucks are things we could have said about who knows how many of the Flyers’ losses last season.

Little did I know that the Flyers had one more 2020-21 trick up their sleeve: a furious last-minute rally that ultimately ended up in defeat. But hey, at least this time they had the courtesy to get an OT point out of it.

Let’s jump right into it. Since it’s a loss, we’ll start with ...

Some Things That Were Bad:

  • The penalty kill. Things fell apart for the Flyers in the second period, when a pair of penalty kill goals helped the Canucks quickly turn the tide of this game. A weird shot by Elias Pettersson bounced off of the back boards, off of Carter Hart, and into the net to give the Canucks the lead they’d hold until the Flyers’ end-of-regulation heroics. A 5-on-4 turned into a 5-on-3 when the Flyers incredibly managed to take a too many men on the ice penalty whilst killing a penalty, and the Canucks would double their lead there when Alex Chiasson got multiple whacks at the puck alone in close before Hart could cover it up or before he could get any help. Some unfortunate bounces in there, and some truly idiotic penalties that preceded them, but not a good early omen for the question of “can the penalty kill bounce back after another bad year”. Cam Atkinson said after the game that some guys maybe let their emotions get the best of them at points (which, well, more on that in a moment), but if this is the end result, something’s gotta get fixed.
  • Carter Hart’s second period. Listen. This pains me as much as it does you, and all of us, and Carter Hart. But things snowballed here after those two unfortunate power play goals, both of which were pretty unfortunate (and which were preceded by a beauty of a shot by Vasily Podkolzin that beat Hart high-glove to tie the game at one early in the second), and the Canucks’ final goal prior to the shootout, while arguably one where the whistle should have been blown before JT Miller tapped it into the net, was a sharp-angle shot that any NHL goalie has to be able to cover and control better than he did. Hart bounced back in the third and made a couple of huge saves in the 3-on-3, which certainly helped lower the temperature of discussions about him from where they were after the second period (it wasn’t pretty!) and helped re-write the story of his game a bit. But for a moment there, that fourth goal looked like the culmination of a series of bad breaks that came before it. Credit to him for not letting it get worse, but let’s hope that’s as bad as it’ll be going forward.
  • The general trajectory of the first 56 minutes of the game. The Flyers, with what was a pretty amped home crowd behind them, jumped out to a strong start and straight-up ran the first period of the game, getting out to an early 1-0 lead on a Joel Farabee goal and controlling play throughout the first period. And then, as the game went on and the Canucks grabbed that lead, things ... snowballed. As it seems like they tended to a lot last year. A good shot leads to a stupid penalty, which leads to a flukey goal, which leads to nothing much offensively, which leads to another penalty, which leads to another penalty while on that original PK and a 5-on-3 goal, which leads to the bad goal, which leads to a frustration penalty at the end of the second, which leads to a very, very slow third period where the Canucks dictated a fairly slow-paced period ... the kick has to come sooner than the last possible minute. This game is harder than “they did a good thing, now let’s do a good thing of our own,” but far too often last year when this team had a crappy bounce go against them it would take far too long for them to actually put it behind them and make something happen, and that was the story of this game between Podkolzin’s goal and the moment the Flyers pulled Hart for the extra attacker. Maybe it’s a coaching thing, maybe it’s a mentality thing, a leadership thing, a scheme thing ... I don’t know. But this is often a sport where every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and the Flyers’ opposite reactions tend to be a bit too delayed, as they were tonight.

Those were the big stories about the loss. But! In slightly more brief form:

Some Things That Weren’t Bad:

  • Joel Farabee. Still good.
  • The new guys. Ryan Ellis looked good next to Ivan Provorov (who was also good). Keith Yandle had two secondary assists that both actually helped set up the goal. Cam Atkinson scored a goal and was buzzing throughout. It didn’t lead to a W, but the big acquisitions that were on the ice seemed to help matters.
  • The first period. For everything that was like it was last season, this was certainly new! Good push by everyone involved early on.
  • The final push to tie it. Not just because of the actual act of tying the game, though that was fun too. (Hell of a job by Couturier and Giroux, who had an awesome first period but were very, very quiet after that until this moment, to connect on the game-tying goal. Giroux seemed to know exactly what he wanted to do there, and it worked.) But man, the crowd, which had been successfully lulled to sleep by what had happened the entire two periods prior, was alive when the Flyers got it within a goal, and the dang roof almost came off when they actually tied the thing. These people want to love this team. They really do. Just give them reasons to. Ideally, prior to the final minutes of regulation, but whenever’s cool, I guess.

More to talk about here, and we’ll have more tomorrow. Seattle on Monday. Let’s go dunk on Dave Hakstol. Until then ... one down, 81 left. Go Flyers.