The Flyers entered tonight’s match-up with the Toronto Maple Leafs looking to win two in a row for the first time this November following a strong all-around performance against the Washington Capitals in DC. The Leafs have been one of the most impressive teams in the league this year even when the process has not always resulted in wins and they brought that dynamic offense into Philly tonight, even with the game-time news that Toronto captain John Tavares would not be in the lineup.
The Flyers matched that vitality well, outshooting the Maple Leafs overall and at 5-on-5, and Carter Hart and his new mustache stood tall, getting beaten only by a fluky goal and a pair of power play tee-offs, but the pucks ultimately did not bounce in Philly fashion*. Natural Stat Trick’s expected goals stats had the Flyers with 0.76 xGF in the first period and .69 in the second and held the Leafs to 0.71 in the first and just 0.46 in the second. Even the entire game’s expected goal numbers were strong for the Flyers at 5-on-5, as they lost that battle just 1.84-1.66.
It’s a shame when your team plays well and you don’t win, especially when you’re facing a strong opponent at the start of a long string of strong opponents and are in the toughest and deepest division in the league, but it’s also something that happens quite a lot in hockey, and us Flyers fans will have to swallow that pill here and look ahead to the red hot Carolina Hurricanes in two days.
*By Philly fashion, I mean the puck was not wearing jean cutoffs, a thrift store tee, a beanie and sipping a Kenzinger under the el.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
The first period mostly felt like 20 minutes of two teams trading clean zone entries with each other without many huge scoring chances. A Scott Laughton hooking penalty just two minutes in gave us a good look at that high powered Maple Leafs power play and gave the Flyers penalty kill a chance to shut it down — which they did with some serious help from Carter Hart and a near breakaway chance from Patrick Brown. The Flyers had their own man advantage opportunities thanks to two penalties drawn by Claude Giroux — one a holding penalty on Jason Spezza and the other a tripping penalty on first year Leaf Ondřej Kaše. Both Flyers units looked relatively toothless, underscored by some shaky stickhandling from Carter Hart out of his net. They finished with as many shots on goal as they allowed (1) thanks to an inability to gain the zone with possession and aggressive forward play by the Leafs, with Mitch Marner looking as offensive-minded on the kill as he did elsewhere.
Toronto won the shot battle 12-10, including 9-8 at 5-on-5; won the CF battle 18-15 (13-13 at 5-on-5); and the teams split officially recorded high danger chances, with two apiece. Also of note, the Sanheim and Ristolainen pair received the most ice time among Flyers defensemen, with Ristolainen laying a few solid hits, and the Farabee-Atkinson-Brassard line were getting some good offensive zone time, even looking a little dangerous a few times, trying to break out of that half-dozen game slump they’ve found themselves in.
Those zone entries eventually mutated to more dangerous scoring chances in the second period, as both teams were trading the tilt of the ice back and forth, this time inspiring a little more rapture from fans and broadcasters alike with their offensive zone time. A roughing penalty called on Nick Ritchie after he separated Ristolainen from his helmet put the ineffective Flyers power play back on the ice, this time with veteran Keith Yandle back on the top unit in place of Ivan Provorov, to no avail. Eventually, a sort-of-blocked Jake Muzzin centering pass deflected off the foot of the boy we all secretly want to ask us to prom*, William Nylander, passed Carter Hart and was immediately waved off by referee Dan O’Rourke, but after review was determined to have legally crossed the line and gave the Leafs the 1-0 lead.
The Flyers’ top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny were getting beat territorially by the Auston Matthews, Nylander, Michael Bunting line, but Philly was making up for it with lines two and three, taking good advantage of the Leafs lack of center depth with John Tavares out. The Flyers outshot Toronto 12-7 and left the middle stanza with a 24-14 5-on-5 CF advantage, and Carter Hart once again looked great in moments of danger, but they nonetheless found themselves down a goal.
*He’s cute and still looks like a teenager.
A Provorov slashing penalty away from the puck led to another Nylander goal, this one much cleaner and less dubious than the first, as it came off a slot snapper at the end of a string of quick passes around the horn.
The Flyers made some pushes towards a comeback, but an errant stick from Giroux caught Marner in the face, and the Leafs were able to capitalize again with a one-timer from Ondřej Kaše that put the game out of reach except for the formalities of Lou Nolan’s minute warning and the final buzzer.
- Justin Braun has gained some serious confidence on offense, jumping in to join the rush multiple times tonight and frequently appearing around Jack Campbell. Maybe it’s the offensive success he’s had so far this season (one goal and six assists) or an increased amount of ice time with the Flyers best offensive players or both, and who knows if it’ll keep up when Ryan Ellis returns and he’s back on the third pair, but it’s exciting to see for now.
- Travis Konecny rode some contact with a Leaf into a linesman with approximately Rav4 minutes left in the game, and did not return. We can only hope that the Flyers coaching staff were being extra cautious with the game all but out of hand. Atkinson moved up in his absence.
- No matter how much hockey I watch, play, or coach, I’ll really never have any idea how to judge goaltending performances. It didn’t feel like Jack Campbell played out of his mind tonight, and I don’t recall any highlight-worthy saves, but his team did get outshot and he didn’t allow a single goal, so I guess he played well.
- Congrats to Chris Stapleton (and only Chris Stapleton) on winning at least three CMAs tonight.
- All three of the Flyers top lines outshot their Leafs opponents at 5-on-5: Giroux-Couturier-Konecny had 7 shots for, 6 against, plus were 16-11 in CF for a CF% of 59.26%. Farabee-Brassard-Atkinson had 8 shots and allowed 2, plus played to a 14-5 CF advantage and created two high danger chances. Lindblom-Laughton-van Riemsdyk had 5 shots and allowed 4, plus a 11-4 advantage in CF. All three lines were also positive in xGF% through two periods, with only the top line dipping below 50% before the end of the game.
- This was Wayne Simmonds’ fifth game against the Flyers since he was traded at the 2019 deadline, but his first as a Maple Leaf, thanks to the inner-division scheduling of the pandemic-affected 2020-21 season. The Flyers are now 2-2-1 against Wayne. Meanwhile, the Leafs also reach hockey .500 against a former player, as James van Riemsdyk is now 3-3-1 against Toronto in his second stint in Philadelphia.
- Every Flyer but Justin Braun, Zack MacEwen, and Nate Thompson recorded a shot on goal tonight, not counting a few whacks at a rebound that Braun took off a Konecny wrister. The games shot totals reached exactly 69.