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Blue Jackets 5, Flyers 2: So much for momentum

Fell victim to the trap game.

Philadephia Flyers v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images

Well folks, Tortorella’s first return to Columbus with the Flyers was ... one that they’re likely going to want to forget about. The Flyers, despite coming off a pretty nice win over the Blues on Tuesday and looking to carry some momentum over from that, came into this one looking a bit flat, a bit disorganized.

They dropped the first goal of the game before we even hit the four minute mark, care of, you’re never going to believe this, Johnny Gaudreau, after a turnover by Owen Tippett sprung the Blue Jackets for a counter rush. That wasn’t the only time a turnover (and a turnover by Tippett, to boot) ended up in the back of the Flyers’ net—a similar breakup sparked another Blue Jackets rush, and Zach Werenski capitalized on that one, and set them up to carry a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. And when it looked like things couldn’t get much worse, they immediately kicked off the second period by committing yet another brutal turnover, which culminated in a goal for Boone Jenner (an another point for Gaudreau).

But if we’re looking for a bit of good news, it’s that the Flyers were able to pick up a bit of steam as the game went on, and take advantage of the fact that, after losing Zach Werenski and Erik Gudbranson, the Blue Jackets were forced to play about half of this game with only four defensemen. They got themselves on the board in the back half of the second period, with Tony DeAngelo capitalizing on a bit of chaos in front of the Blue Jackets’ net to knock the puck in, and then were able to build a bit more momentum from there still, culminating in a nice little goal from Ivan Provorov on the rush to get them back within one.

That is, unfortunately, about where their push ended. They went for an early goalie pull and while the gamble was an interesting one, it resulted in them giving up not one but two empty netters to the Blue Jackets. And that’s all she wrote.

Three stars

1. Johnny Gaudreau

I mean, how could we not? You had to imagine that Gaudreau would have come into this game wanting to make a real statement, had something to prove, and because of how the universe loves to punish us, he was going to accomplish just that. He was buzzing tonight, and he picked up Columbus’s first goal of the night, and then forced the turnover to setup their second. What a fun hockey player. Wouldn’t it have been nice to see him doing that kind of thing for the Flyers? So it goes.

2. Carter Hart

This wasn’t the absolute best game we’ve seen from Hart on the season, but it was a difficult one, to be sure. He got hung out to dry by the skaters with all of those turnovers they were giving up, so it was bound to be a tough outing for anyone, much less Hart who is just coming back after missing Tuesday’s game with an illness. He did just about all he could to take care of whatever was in his control, but he’s not a wizard, and he wasn’t able to pull off any miracles in this one to steal a win. Still, a solid enough showing for him, despite the end result.

3. Noah Cates

Cates has been on a nice run of play, of late, and he put together a somewhat quietly solid game to tack onto that tonight. He was able to get himself on the scoresheet again tonight, picking up the primary assist on DeAngelo’s goal, but beyond that, we also saw the smaller details in his game continuing to click. He got a couple of looks of his own, brought good energy, and was driving play well, on the whole. It was a bit of a slower start to the season for him, but he’s starting to really look like the player that popped so much at the end of last season again, just effective in all areas, and that’s been a real treat to see.

Two loose observations

1. Turnover city

We alluded to it already, but this was a messy game for the Flyers. There’s been a lot of talking from the coaching staff recently about how individual players will do well to cut down on the East-West play and focus on playing in a straight line, and tonight we saw why that’s the case. The Flyers were caught trying to do a bit too much lateral passing, and caught a looking a bit lackadaisical in even that, and this opened them up to commit some really brutal turnovers, and finding the puck in the back of their own net as a result. It was a shame to see, because Tuesday’s win over the Blues saw them looking like things were trending in the right direction, but this felt like a real step backwards.

2. Fights are getting a bit stale

Nic Deslauriers fought again tonight, and that’s starting to feel a bit like clockwork. It happened just before the six minute mark, after the Flyers had fallen behind 1-0, and it was ... something. We’re not sure that we’d call it particularly thrilling, and it didn’t move the needle a tremendous amount, in terms of sparking the team to tighten up and start creating more offense. They settled in a bit as the period went on, but, as they say, correlation does not equal causation.

It’s a minor quibble, in the scope of everything that did and didn’t happen tonight, but the sort of lame fights kicking off and trying to spark something before the team even really has a chance to get their legs under them in a game feel a bit strange, and the novelty is starting to wear off a bit.

Play of the game

Sorry to rub salt in the wound, but this was nice.