Things started out... not so great. The Islanders did a good job of winning board battles and executing puck retrievals off the forecheck, and ended up netting a pair of goals by warping coverage via plays from behind the net. Rough decision making from a Flyers defense that has had issues with puck watching all year, and a less-than-perfect read by Hart on the second goal on sealing the post. Two goals in the first 7:30 isn’t an easy hill to climb by any stretch of the imagination.
Komarov with the feed and Eberle with the finish pic.twitter.com/s22dhbuk7i— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 8, 2021
Samuel Morin drew some attention for a shove from behind on Casey Cizikas. The contact resulted in Cizikas going head-first into the boards, but if I’m being honest it looked like an incidental play with an unfortunate result. Morin didn’t get the same verdict from the referees, who called the play as a game misconduct. The Flyers killed off the ensuing penalty and actually looked pretty solid down a man, with structure and stick placement more reminiscent of last year’s penalty kill.
Morin assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct for boarding Casey Cizikas. Cizikas bleeding and to the room pic.twitter.com/pPDyULSUbS— NHL Safety Watch (@NHLSafetyWatch) April 8, 2021
Nicolas Aube-Kubel heated things up for Philly with a very lucky goal on Ilya Sorokin. A puck that was headed wide of the net deflected off of the shaft of the New York netminder’s stick and tickled the twine, snapping a 22-game goal drought for NAK. After the successful PK and a goal, the Orange & Black ended the period absolutely buzzing, managing entries with little difficulty and getting quality chances off the cycle. Joel Farabee barely missed a wide open net to tie things up, and the game headed into the first intermission with the score at Islanders 2, Flyers 0.
Joel Farabee’s tough night continued when the young winger took a puck off the side of his head on a deflection. Luckily, Beezer seemed to be fine afterwards and played without hindrance for the remainder of the game. Soon after, a Flyers rush kicked off by Shayne Gostisbehere handed Claude Giroux a primary assist and Jakub Voracek his seventh goal of the year. This tally put Voracek in the lead on the roster for points on the season.
Subsequently, the Flyers swarmed the Islanders in waves, attacking the slot and generally making life difficult for the rookie Sorokin. Aside from an awful shift by Justin Braun where the veteran defender looked every one of his 34 years, everything was heading Philadelphia’s way. Impact plays like a breakaway breakup by Travis Sanheim were assisting the Flyers in their effort to keep the foot on the gas. However, Matt Barzal was having none of it, pirouetting around Flyers skaters and wreaking havoc in the offensive zone. A fantastic shift by the phenomenal center helped the Islanders slow Philly’s roll, and a Robert Hägg penalty made the situation a bit more advantageous for New York.
Thankfully, the penalty kill looked elite again, aside from one slip-up by Shayne Gostisbehere. The offensive defender has had problems with maintaining long speed this year, and he got beat wide again on a dangerous chance. Carter Hart made a dandy of a save to keep Ghost clean, the Flyers killed the penalty, and a Matt Martin hold sent Philadelphia to the power play to end things. The special teams improvement didn’t translate to the man advantage for the Flyers, with failed drop passes and botched entries aplenty. Nolan Patrick looked horrendous, play was contained to the perimeter, and the same frustrations remained for the team at 5v4. Philly headed to the locker room with a 2-2 game.
This was honestly a pretty uneventful period. The Flyers played their worst 20 minutes, but they still looked like the better team for the vast majority of play. New York opened the third by peppering Carter Hart, but a Noah Dobson hook halted the progress that the Isles made. Jakub Voracek had a nice tip on the man advantage, but otherwise it was another flaccid attempt by the power play.
Matt Barzal and Ryan Pulock made some terrifying plays with their skating, but the Flyers managed to keep the puck out of the back of the net. Shayne Gostisbehere made a questionable decision when he avoided forecheck pressure by taking the puck in front of the net, but the Islanders failed to take advantage. Travis Konecny and Matt Barzal both had good looks, but both failed to score (with Barzal hitting the post). After getting pinned for the final minute in regulation, the Flyers took the game to overtime.
After some near misses for both teams (a Matt Barzal pass that just missed the mark, a few odd man rushes for Philly that were stymied by Sorokin), a Kevin Hayes hook on Ryan Pulock put the Flyers into a critical situation, again testing the penalty kill. Mike Yeo’s unit came up huge in the clutch, on the back of some standout individual play from Sean Couturier and smart decision making by... Robert Hägg? With a final dump of the puck, the clock ran out on the New York power play, and this game headed to the shootout.
After some jaw-dropping saves by both goalies, Travis Konecny beat Ilya Sorokin five-hole, but the Russian goaltender got lucky and somehow sandwiched the puck between his legs on accident. Brock Nelson beat Carter Hart in the fifth round, and Joel Farabee couldn’t match him. The Flyers lost a game where they were the superior team. Not ideal.
Three Big Things
- Amazing outing from the PK tonight. Sticks were in the passing lanes rather than floating about, nobody overpursued, and generally that unit was in top form. More of that, please!
- Ivan Provorov had another rough game where he frequently mishandled the puck, but he got better as the game went on. Still, he needs to settle it down. It’s never a great sign when the best performance on the blue line is coming from Robert Hägg (who in the opinion of this writer, is not a very good NHL defenseman).
- Carter Hart looks confident again, folks. That’s a big deal, and it lends further credence to the idea that his awful performance this year is largely due to a weird season where the schedule rendered him unable to adjust. Has he been perfect? No, but he looks like an above-average NHL goalie again. That’s a silver lining in the final stretch of a season that looks more and more likely to end with the Flyers missing the playoffs.
Post Game Tunes
I’m on a jazz kick lately, so let’s fire up some Miles Davis and feel melancholy together.
Good night, good hockey, and as always, go Flyers.