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What we learned from the Flyers 3-2 shootout loss to the Canadiens

Some observations for your morning...

NHL: DEC 16 Flyers at Canadiens Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Flyers made a quick trip up to Montreal for last night’s game, looking to keep cruising through what should be an easier stretch of the schedule, and keep building on the good work that saw them put away the Devils handily on Tuesday. It was a strange one from the hop, as just a few hours before puck drop, the province of Quebec decided they wouldn’t be allowing fans in the building, so this one was going to be like a blast from the past, played in an empty arena. It was also a blast from the more recent past, as the Flyers took a step back and looked like the messy, struggling offensively team of just a few weeks ago, and despite managing to hold on for bonus hockey and a point in the standings, ultimately lost this one in the shootout. Not great!

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

A tough start

The Flyers after one, presented without comment.

The Flyers were looking to keep picking up momentum after a nice win over the Devils on Tuesday, and this was not the way to do it. They came out looking sluggish and disjointed. They couldn’t make a clean breakout to save their lives. They turned the puck over seven times before we even hit the midway Pooh the of the period. They were outshot 7-12 in the first period alone, but even more ugly, they gave up 14 scoring chances and 10 high danger chances at 5-on-5 while registering just five and zero, respectively, of their own. The one goal against from a breakdown and failure to clear the puck out of the defensive zone felt like it was a long time coming, and it was a small miracle that they made it to the first intermission only down by one.

The numbers at large

After the pretty brutal start, things did improve some for the Flyers, but we wouldn't go so far as to say it was in a huge way. They still came out of this one with an adjusted 49.57 CF%, and a 47.6 SCF% and 32.34 xGF%. In short, the Canadiens got the better of play in this game pretty much from start to finish. The Flyers slipped back into this space where everything seemed to be a struggle for them—they were turning a ton of pucks over (Natural Stat Trick has them with 14 giveaways on the night), their passes weren’t clicking, they were getting pushed off pucks easily, and that all meant that their transition game, which had been fueling them well in their last few games, was all but dead in the water again. The energy wasn’t great, and while they did take some steps forward from period to period, they still looked listless on the whole, and were struggling to pull themselves out of the possession hole they dug themselves. They were giving up a lot in this one, and it was making their jobs a lot more difficult.

Carter Hart does it again

We've said it before and we’ll say it again: this was not a good game for the Flyers and they probably deserved to get blown out in this one, but a big reason why they didn’t was Hart’s play. After an easier night against the Devils, his workload picked right back up in this one, as he faced a cool 40 shots against, including 19 high danger shots, The Canadiens certainly had some buzz in this one, and we can say what we want about their finishing talent at the moment (it is not great), but they still did have some looks and were getting a lot of offensive zone time to work with, and that more often than not felt like it was going to spell disaster. But Hart did well to keep steady and keep the game in check, and even though he wasn’t getting the support from the skaters to have it pay off in the overall results, he put in some really good work and we can recognize that. It’s not new, but we still appreciate it.

The kids chip in

The Flyers did get some production in this one, though, and it came from a couple of somewhat unlikely sources. The Flyers two goals on the night came from Max Willman and Jackson Cates, both of whom are Phantoms regulars, and for them these were their second and first ever NHL goals. And while this is a bit of an indictment on how things were going offensively for some of the bigger names on this team, it shouldn’t be a dig at Willman or Cates, because they both did some very good work on their goals—Willman got good angry and an initial shot on goal that didn't go in, but stuck with the play and kept creating some pressure, and got to the front of the net to receive a pass for the quick shot that did go in, and then Cates got his on a clean zone entry rush, picked up some speed, and then beat the goalie with a sneaky shot. That was all good and we don’t want to besmirch that work. There was not a lot clicking for the Flyers in this one, but those were very good looks.

Two steps forward, one step back

The Flyers still managed to salvage a point out of this one, but this is not a game that we come away from feeling very good about. After Tuesday’s win over the Devils, we talked about the step forward the Flyers took in being able to, at the very least, take care of business and beat the teams that they should be beating, but the progress seems to be short lived. The Canadiens are last in the Atlantic division, and coming into last night’s game didn’t have a single win in the month of December. The Flyers should have been able to beat them pretty handily, but instead they fell back into the same old bad habits that have plagued them for much of the season—lacking energy, struggling on breakouts, and failing to play cohesively as a five man unit. They were able to keep this one close, but more than anything, that feels like a testament to how poorly the Canadiens were also playing, because they should have been able to blow out the Flyers in this one, with how they were controlling play. It was, suffice it to say, not a great look for the Flyers, and it’s clear that they have a whole lot more work to do.