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

Some observations for your morning...

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images

Well, this sure was an interesting one. For a break in this run of three games in one week against the Bruins, the Flyers took a trip up to Long Island to face off against the Islanders, and as has been the case in just about all of their meetings so far this season, it was a tight and interesting game. With two goals against early in the first period, the Flyers found themselves with a significant hole to climb out of, but with a little luck and a little more hard work, they were able to tie up the game and force overtime, but once again they were beaten in the shootout. Whomp whomp.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

A strong 5-on-5 showing

Dipping first into the 5-on-5 numbers from this game, we see that, well, they’re quite good. Despite a rough start and finding themselves in a hole early, the Flyers rallied well and put together a pretty complete effort for the duration of the game. They came out of this one with a pretty comfortable edge in both the shot quantity and quality differentials, putting up an adjusted 58.86 CF%, 60.95 SCF%, and 60.88 xGF%. They carried an edge in possession for just about the whole of the game, and while they were generating a good number of chances of their own (41 shot attempts but only 17 shots on goal), they were doing just as well to limit the number of chances the Islanders were generating, which is to say that the defensive side was also working pretty well for them, as well.

It was a solid performance, but the lingering feeling is a little less positive—with how the Flyers were able to turn it on and dominate the game after their rough start, there’s a good chance that they would have won this game if they had brought at least close to this level of play from the hop. They certainly deserved the win with their play after the second Islanders goal was scored.

The penalty kill came up big

No, you didn’t read that wrong, and no, we didn’t slip into the Twilight Zone (at least, I don’t think we did). The Flyers got a really good showing out of their penalty kill last night, and they did it with only five defensemen to choose from.

The Flyers decidedly did not start this game off on a high note, and they had a five minute major penalty to kill a little over seven minutes into the game (already down 2-0), when Samuel Morin got five and a game misconduct for boarding. And with the penalty kill’s history so far this season, we weren't exactly heading into that brimming with confidence. But the good news is that they turned around and gave a really solid performance there, doing well to chase the Islanders out of the offensive zone a few times, keeping their chances to the outside, and even generated a few chances of their own, and killing the whole of the penalty in pretty tidy fashion. Their second (which they were even able to cut it a little short, drawing a penalty on a shorthanded rush at the tail end of it) and third (in overtime) kills of the game followed in similar fashion, and really helped to keep the Flyers in this game.

There was a lot to like here, and if this is a sign of things to come, well, that’s certainly good news.

Notes on goaltending

Carter Hart got the start last night, and while he didn’t have a massive workload in this one, he still brought a really solid showing. All told, he faced 23 shots in total (including 11 high danger chances) and stopped all but two of each of them. It wasn’t a perfect showing, but he was steady here, and when the team really needed him to make a big save, he was right there with it.

It’s something that we’ve mentioned before, but we have to say it again, as it’s really hard to overstate just how great it is to see Hart not just making saves again, but looking more like his steady, confident self again. It remains an open question whether he’s all the way back, and can keep playing like this for the rest of the season, but this certainly is still a refreshing sight.

This was a weird one

It’s been a weird season full of weird happenings, there’s no denying that, but this game probably has to be towards the top of the list as far as strange ones goes. Like really, let’s do a quick roll call:

  • Two goals against in just over a minute early in the first period
  • The second goal against coming as a direct result of Ivan Provorov falling down for some reason and losing the puck
  • A mere 14 seconds later Samuel Morin earned himself a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct for boarding and the Flyers had to (and did!) kill that penalty
  • The Flyers still managed to make it a one-goal game before the end of the first period on a shot by Nicolas Aube-Kubel that saw the puck deflected in off of Ilya Sorokin’s stick, popped back out, and then Sorokin tried to cover it up like nothing happened

This was, yeah, a strange game in a lot of ways, and very much not a pretty start for the Flyers, but we should give them credit for not panicking when they went down 2-0, sticking to their game and just taking care of their detail, and then when they got a little bit of luck of their own, running with it. There’s something to be (and has been) said for the Flyers not starting on time in this one, and that’s a real issue, but it was refreshing to not see them deflate after things very clearly were not going their way early. That’s a big step in the right direction.

Does this change anything?

The question of the Flyers’ playoff chances and the status of the team is something we’re paying particularly keen attention to as we quickly approach Monday’s trade deadline. With last night’s shootout loss, the Flyers are now six points behind the Bruins (who put up a 4-2 win over the Capitals last night, and who still have those two games in hand). It’s not an impossible situation for the Flyers, but it certainly is a difficult one. The Flyers played a pretty solid game, on the whole, once we got past the early bit, but they still fell a little short, and that did hurt them.

Does this help to sway Fletcher either way regarding what to do at the deadline? Indeed, perhaps it muddies the waters even further. The takeaway from this game was, to put it simply, that the Flyers played well and showed a bit of progress, but the reality is that the hole they dug themselves might just be too deep to climb out of. This weekend is going to be crucial, if they can pick up a bit more ground, that would be huge. This performance, if nothing else, may have left us with a glimmer of optimism, and now it’s up to the team to build from there.