Well, at least that’s over. The Flyers had their first meeting of the season against the Maple Leafs last night, and they dropped this one in pretty spectacular fashion. The offensive woes we’ve seen over the last few games carried into this one in a big way, as did the overall sloppiness of play, and things got ugly pretty quickly. The Flyers were shut out and the Leafs made off with a 3-0 win, cruising away with it pretty easily, even as they were missing John Tavares to injury. Not great! Let’s get through talking through this one quickly, then move on to the next one, yeah?
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
Nothing doing offensively
To say across the board that the Flyers struggled to generate any and all offense last night is probably an overstatement. The Flyers out-chanced the Leafs in both shot attempts (57-40) and shots on goal (31-25) at 5-on-5 last night, so there was that going for them. But where they ran into trouble is in the fact that they were forced to play overwhelmingly on the perimeter, struggling to cycle the puck down lower in the offensive zone, and having the Leafs blocking a good portion of their shots. The Flyers came out of this one with just four high danger chances and 1.66 xGF at 5-on-5, and while that’s still better than the zero they ended up with on the board, the process overall was not a great one. Jack Campbell was leaving a ton of rebounds in this one, particularly early, but the Flyers weren’t able to exploit that.
But it do be like that sometimes
We’ve seen some messy games from the Flyers so far this season, but we could probably feel pretty comfortable saying that this was the messiest. It went beyond the chemistry not really working in this one, and we can’t really say that it was all a product of the Flyers making poor decisions, but more so it just seemed that the Flyers were really fighting the puck. They were getting weird bounces, struggling to complete five foot passes, falling down for no reason, delivering hits on opponents that were definitely by accident, it was a whole mess. And it’s an 82 game season, you’re bound to get a couple of weird games like that thrown into the mix. What can you do?
Now, it does feel a little difficult to take this one in isolation, through, given how the offense has really seemed to dry up over the last few games. We have legitimate concerns about how this team is generating chances and when they can get their offense back on track. That still remains true. But we can take that with the knowledge that this game was probably extraordinarily weird, and they can get better in the next one pretty easily. Both can be true.
Power play struggles continue
Death, taxes, the power play struggling. It was a particularly ugly showing last night, to the point that Alain Vigneault talked after the game about how it drained them, and it goes without saying that this is not the takeaway that you want your coach, or anyone, to have. The Flyers had a cool eight minutes of power play time, and they had virtually nothing to show for it. They put up just seven shot attempts, four shots on goal, and zero high danger chances in that time. They struggled to connect on passes and were pretty easily chased out of the offensive zone, and forced to do a good bit of defending against Leafs shorthanded pushes.
If we want a bit of good news, the coaching staff did a good thing and moved Keith Yandle back onto the top unit later in the game, but it was so late and the Flyers were so deep in a hole at that point that we didn’t really see that paying dividends just yet. But the idea was a good one, and we’re hoping that it isn’t immediately abandoned for the next game.
To give credit where it’s due, the Leafs did a very nice bit of penalty killing last night, that’s not to be overlooked, but the Flyers did give them some help by simply not being at their sharpest.
At least Carter Hart was good again
If we want to spend some time on a good thing to keep this all from getting too doom and gloom, the biggest positive takeaway, once again, was Hart’s play. This game pretty easily could have been a blowout, the Leafs were getting some very good chances throughout the game and struggling to break through, and Hart was the reason for that. All told, he faced 33 shots on the night and he stopped 30 of them, including nine of the 10 high danger shots he faced. He was tracking pucks very well through traffic, and even though the Leafs got quite a few very good looks in this one, Hart was able to keep them largely contained. All in all, we really don't have any complaints about his game.
And it may sound a little strange to look at a 3-0 loss and say with confidence that the losing goalie played well, but that was certainly the case here. Hart was the only reason that this game stayed within reach, on paper at least, for as long as it did. He just didn’t get a whole lot of help this time around.
Fresh faces are good?
Despite the outcome of this one, I have to say, it was really nice to see a team other than the same bunch we saw a million times last year. The Leafs aren’t the first new team we’ve seen obviously, so this feeling of gratitude isn’t exactly the a new one, but all the same, the feeling was extra strong last night. Maybe it’s just the fact that I personally (generally) enjoy watching the Leafs and had been looking forward to this one that was the difference, but it was a nice thing, still. There were a bunch of Leafs jerseys in the crowd and that was neat. We’re not quite there yet, but it really almost felt like normal.