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Islanders 3, Flyers 2: Close, but no cigar

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This was a pretty enjoyable game. Didn’t know that was allowed anymore.

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

First Period

The game started with a bit of feeling out from both sides. Nothing much happened as everyone kept to the perimeter, the forecheck for both teams struggled, and entries were hard to come by. Then, Sam Morin and Ross Johnston dropped the gloves, and everything got a bit wild. By the way, it’s notable that Morin kicked Johnston’s ass. Rooting for the kid, even if I’m unsure he’ll stick in the long term.

The pace picked up a bit when Oskar Lindblom got beat covering the trailer, simply because he lacks elite foot speed. Carter Hart stood tall and made the save on the partial breakaway look easy, letting everyone breathe a sigh of relief. The Flyers pushed play in the other direction briefly, but it didn’t last too long. Slammin’ Sammy Morin hit J.G. Pageau in the numbers when he didn’t have the puck, and the resulting interference call led to an Islanders goal. No chance for Hart on that one.

James van Riemsdyk didn’t help the team much on the subsequent shift either, getting tangled up with Oliver Wahlstrom before taking a roughing call (to be fair, JVR basically facewashed Wahlstrom, who threw his head back and baited the far-side ref into the soft call). The Flyers killed off the man advantage before getting an opportunity of their own. A Cal Clutterbuck penalty was closely followed by a Cizikas high stick that gave Philly a golden ticket to the game-tying tally.

The power play stunk out loud, but it was particularly hampered by Ivan Provorov’s lack of movement at the top of the umbrella. When running the 1-3-1, you need the man up top (usually a defender) to walk the line and open up space for the wingers on the half wall to attack the slot and warp coverage. Provorov stood still before firing a puck into the shins of an Islander, again cementing why he’s not an ideal fit for that role. While he can occasionally get pucks through traffic, the lack of dynamic skating at the blue line is hurting the unit as a whole (though to be fair, the forwards needed to show more off-puck movement as well).

Kevin Hayes concluded the period with a pair of spectacular set-ups, but Nolan Patrick was stuffed in the crease both times by Ilya Sorokin. The Flyers exited down 1-0 against a team that was 14-1-2 on the season when they scored first. Less than ideal, to say the least.

Second Period

Carter Hart made some outstanding saves as New York ratcheted up the pressure out of the locker room. The Flyers generated a number of shot attempts, but few came from the home plate area and there wasn’t much in the way of pass attempts to the slot. Cal Clutterbuck put Philadelphia in an excellent position to take back control with an elbow on Claude Giroux, but the penalty kill was less waterlogged and more “chained to a block of concrete and tossed off a bridge.”

Still, the Flyers actually controlled play for a little bit, tilting the ice and keeping Carter Hart clean. Few dangerous chances manifested, but territorially the team was playing the right way. That all changed after Nick Leddy almost went coast-to-coast for a goal that was barely stuffed by Hart. The Islanders took over the game, and Anthony Beauvillier snuck one past Hart from the high slot to make it 2-0 heading into the third.

Third Period

The Islanders produced a few looks from in tight early, but Carter Hart said no and shut the door. The Flyers still floated around the perimeter for the most part and failed to attack the slot with any gusto, a disappointing development in a game where having some offensive support was crucial. With Hart playing well, it would be a nice boost to his confidence to get the win.

After Ivan Provorov took a boneheaded penalty and took himself out of the play, Hart made another stunning stop to keep the game 2-0. The Flyers killed the penalty successfully and almost had a great play from Joel Farabee on a shorthanded break, but Pulock managed to get a stick on the puck and broke up the chance. A successful Travis Konecny forecheck handed Claude Giroux the puck outside the slot, and the captain did not miss.

After the Giroux goal, the Flyers looked energized, with a flurry of looks for Travis Sanheim barely missing the twine. That momentum wasn’t helped by Provorov, who continued one of his worst games of the year from a decision making standpoint by falling down, taking a penalty and conceding a 2-on-1. Hart made a dandy save to erase the mistake, and the resulting swing back in favor of the Flyers culminated in a beauty from Claude Giroux to tie the game 2-2.

After some more rushes that ultimately didn’t result in much, this game went to overtime. Free hockey!

Overtime

The overtime period saw a few looks from both sides, but Carter Hart clearly got the heavier workout. The young goalie continued his bounce-back performance with a few jaw-dropping stops, including a sweet glove save on Josh Bailey.

Philly got some work from Travis Konecny and Claude Giroux, but the Orange & Black couldn’t solve Ilya Sorokin in time. The game headed to the shootout. Carter Hart and Ilya Sorokin traded fantastic stops, but Matt Barzal put it away and Jake Voracek ended things with a failed attempt that was, in all honesty, pretty weak.

Three Big Things

  1. It’s too early to say anything with certainty but Carter Hart looked pretty, pretty, pretty good tonight in goal. This was his best performance in net by GSAx since late February, and from a visual perspective one of the best outings he’d had since the playoffs. It’s encouraging to say the least, but I need to see more before I’m fully convinced. One thing is for certain, though; Hart showed he could halt his skid to some degree under normal circumstances (IE, when given a break to adjust).
  2. Let’s stop the Claude Giroux discourse, folks. The disappointment of this year has little to do with the captain, who has played good hockey all season. He played well tonight, potted two goals and was inches away from ending things before Ilya Sorokin robbed him. Giroux might need a compliment to his leadership or something of that nature, but there’s only so much he can do. It’s on the players around him to follow his example, shape up and execute. Don’t let the lack of team success mask that.
  3. Ivan Provorov had maybe his worst game of the year, and certainly one of the worse games of his career. Taking two penalties in the third period when the Flyers were in crunch time wasn’t a good look, and there were a number of occasions where he either took himself out of the play or simply failed to make a smart decision (the epitome of this being when he shot the puck directly into an Islander penalty killer after standing still and waiting for him to arrive). If he’s going to be relied upon in big minutes, he needs to clean things up in a hurry, along with the rest of this defense.

Post Game Tunes

Losses like this one hurt in a different way. Thankfully, there were at least some silver linings. It’s time to keep on truckin’ until the end of the season.

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