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Capitals 5, Flyers 4: Sickos’ Game of the Year

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My bones hurt after watching that mayhem.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers were on the ice for a hockey game tonight, and it was certainly... a hockey game. Goaltending was optional, sadness abounded, and lots of high-event hockey was played. What happened, who did what, and what are the big takeaways? All this and more below.

First Period

Things didn’t start swimmingly for the Orange & Black, with Brian Elliott allowing this spectacularly awful goal to Daniel Sprong to kick things off. Elliott’s rebound control looked shaky even in the opening minutes, something that would become a theme.

The Flyers had issues establishing their forecheck and generally looked pretty sluggish. The top line of Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee and James van Riemsdyk was about the only positive going on to start. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) Justin Schultz took an interference penalty on Shayne Gostisbehere, giving Philly an opportunity to get back in the swing of things.

The power play failed to score, the Capitals generated momentum the other way, and yet another missed attempt at corralling the puck led to Washington’s second goal of the evening:

Speaking of notable struggles, Nolan Patrick continued to hand the puck to the opposition with a series of brutal turnovers. The second overall pick hadn’t scored a goal in seventeen games coming into this matchup, and while he’s still getting back up to speed post-migraines, his trials and tribulations have been to the team’s detriment. Hopefully he gets back on track sometime soon.

Second Period

The Flyers came out with a bit of jam in the second, peppering Ilya Samsonov with shots before a shot from the slot by JVR made it 2-1. Any momentum the team built from that goal was abruptly halted when Nick Jensen powered through Shayne Gostisbehere and beat Brian Elliott (who overcommitted to the short side) cleanly. Not the best night for the Moose, who got the hook on goal number three.

In came Carter Hart, and just like that, the Flyers decided to keep it interesting. After a great keep by Travis Sanheim, Nolan Patrick buried a pass from Jake Voracek to make it 3-2. The Flyers completed a stretch where they outshot the Caps 10-3 in dominant fashion, proving that this team can control play when everything is clicking.

A holding penalty on Nic Dowd set Philly up for what felt like the killing blow, but a holding call on Travis Sanheim sent the two teams to four-on-four. After failing to sustain any pressure, the Flyers went to the penalty kill, where an egregious gaffe by Justin Braun directly led to an Alex Ovechkin power play goal.

The Flyers exited the period deflated and disheveled, but not before Alain Vigneault hit the in-game line blender. Provorov ended up being paired with Gostisbehere instead of Braun after the gaffe, but more importantly Giroux’s power play unit featured Provorov, Patrick, and the inexplicable decision of putting Travis Sanheim on the half wall. My patience for Michel Therrien’s antics has long evaporated, but at this point the mismanagement of personnel is borderline comical.

Third Period

It didn’t take long for another leak in the already porous dam to spring. Carter Hart gave up a trickler to make it 5-2 Washington, effectively sealing the deal. The Flyers had a chance to get one back soon after, but Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Claude Giroux overpassed the puck on a two-on-one and failed to score.

A slashing penalty sent the Capitals back to the power play with around eleven minutes left to play. While Hart had looked small in goal for most of the game, he made a few key saves on the penalty kill. Alex Ovechkin and TJ Oshie both got wide open looks (Oshie off the post), but the Caps were thankfully held off the scoresheet on the man advantage.

A Nick Jensen interference penalty on Travis Konecny sent the Flyers back to the power play, where Shayne Gostisbehere managed a long range goal thanks to a TK screen. Konecny was credited with an assist for his 200th career point. With the goalie pulled, the Flyers flashed brilliant puck movement to set up Claude Giroux for a beautiful one timer, pulling them within one.

The remainder of the game can only be described as lunacy. The Flyers moved in the offensive zone with the jittery energy of college student hopped up on Monster, Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier both had ridiculously close chances for goals, but Ilya Samsonov denied each try. The Orange & Black dropped their third straight game to Washington despite a great end to the third.

Three Big Things

  1. Where the hell is the urgency we saw in the last three minutes when the Flyers have the man advantage on the power play? The lack of drop passes, the bursts of speed and vicious attacks on the slot; they’re all more characteristic of what this team looked like last year when everything was clicking, yet they only flash it when in the most dire of situations. I need to see more of that kind of speedball energy on a game-by-game basis, rather than solely in desperation time.
  2. The goalies were rough tonight, and if they’d been anywhere close to competent the Flyers probably end up winning. Carter Hart is still making himself small in the net and looks shaken, Brian Elliott is starting to fall apart with his newly increased workload, and the team doesn’t really have another good option in net that’s immediately available. It’s a frustrating place to be.
  3. Michel Therrien needs to get canned. A lot of the breakdowns I’ve seen on the penalty kill have been of an individual nature, but the power play as a whole is poorly constructed in both personnel and process. Therrien hasn’t even earned the leeway he’s been given by Chuck Fletcher; the Flyers were constantly in flux last year on the power play last year, and this season has only been more of the same. If Fletcher is going to make a firing to shake things up, he’s the clear guy to oust.

Sad Time Tunes

I don’t know why, but this song fits my vibe. Hope you enjoy.

Good night, mediocre hockey, and as always, go Flyers.