Bruins 2, Flyers 1
Once again, a late Boston rally turned the Flyers inside-out, leading to a second straight disappointing defeat. (Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

I’m numb at this point, just add it to the list. For the eighth and ninth times in the last seven seasons, the Boston Bruins score a lead changing goal in the last eight minutes of the third period against the Flyers. Yes, I keep moving the goal posts on the time to make this stat as painful as possible The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 2-1, in regulation, to the big, bad, Boston Bruins.

Beating the Bruins is always a challenge. But doing it without your starting goalie, first-line center, and a top-four defenseman? Good luck. The Flyers were planning to start Brian Elliott in this game, but just in case Alain Vigneault needed a sign from the hockey gods to affirm that, Carter Hart left practice early with an injury. Less than an hour before puck drop, defenseman Phil Myers joined the injury list. Thankfully, the prognosis doesn’t sound terrible for either player, but that meant nothing to the Flyers’ efforts on Friday.

The Flyers have drawn a lot of emotions from their fans during this confounding start to the season. But Friday’s contest brought out that hasn’t been seen very much this year: apathy. Ok, maybe that’s too harsh; is boredom better? But here’s what I mean. Basically every single game up to this point has fit into three categories: dancing through the raindrops to victory, heartbreaking collapse, deserved blowout. And they’ve added a “still getting points while getting closer to peak form” file lately.

In other words, every loss before this one came in incredibly heartbreaking fashion or was an embarrassing effort. Friday’s game, however, was an absolute slog-fest. But it felt like both teams were skating in quicksand this game. There weren’t an abundance of quality chances for either side, especially in the first two periods. It was a game full of dangerous looking plays that resulted in fairly routine shots or overpassing. Elliott and Tuukka Rask were mostly sharp when they had to be, but that wasn’t all that often.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. Alain Vigneault and the Flyers coaching staff will certainly trade excitement for structure. Philadelphia’s forecheck is cementing itself as a strength after a six-game hiatus to start the season. Some of the Flyers best chances and a lot of their offensive-zone time resulted from just that.

Some of the lack of chances can be attributed to defensively conscious forwards that did a lot of help on the back-check. The Flyers defense isn’t exactly a strength even with Myers in the line-up; without him, it’s usually going to be a weakness. Missing Myers meant the Flyers had to be extra responsible to have a chance at victory. They were that and then some Friday night.

This may not have been a crisp game, but it was a chippy one. Nicolas Aube-Kubel got into the Flyers first scrap of the year in the first. The Bruins had four players in the penalty box at one point. Joel Farabee was called for a suspect tripping call on Jakub Zboril, who hooked Farabee on a breakaway immediately after he exited the box. Somehow, even Farabee’s penalty shot lacked excitement, or at the very least pizzaz; Rask easily stopped his 5-hole writer. This is what the NHL was hoping the baseball series like schedule would produce this type of hate.

Even when the goals started flooding in to start the third period, the sloppiness remain. Special teams were a prime culprit for Philly’s disappointing defeat on Wednesday. The power-play fired blanks and the game ended with three Boston power-play goals on as many attempts. So how would they make up for it?

Beginning with a perfect penalty kill is a pretty good way to do that. Then the Flyers started the third frame on the power-play thanks to an ill-advised retaliatory call on Chris Wagner in the second’s closing seconds. When Erik Gustafsson launched a point shot towards the net, Flyers fans could already see what was coming. The red hot James van Riemsdyk stayed that way with his league-leading 49th career re-direction goal 27 seconds into the period!

For a while, it felt like the Flyers were on their way to a storybook triumphant victory over adversity. Silly you, perhaps you forgot the Flyers were playing a Boston team. Boston’s deadly perfection line, bottled up most of the night, finally broke through. Elliott kept a point shot out, but Brad Marchand sniffed out the rebound like a rat looking for cheese in a maze. His seventh of the year ties the score with less than eight minutes to go.

Well, at least the Flyers will get a point out of this; it’s what they do, after all. Just make a few plays to get it there and… oh no. MOOSE. Buddy. What was that?

Brian Elliott, who has played so well all season and was having a pretty good game, muffed a shot at the worst possible moment. Sean Kuraly fired the most innocent wrister possible from high out on the left circle, and Elliott just plain missed it. It isn’t fair to pin this loss entirely on Elliott, but he shoulders all of the blame on the goal itself. Past the glove, off the post and in, and in a 27 second span, the Flyers went from knowing they were going to blow another lead to Boston to actually blowing it.

To their credit, the Flyers stayed with the game until the bitter end. A late power-play and outstanding puck movement with the goalie pulled gave them a chance. But Tuukka Rask did as the goalie with the second lowest GAA against the Flyers of all-time does, and sixty minutes was enough tonight.

If nothing else, these last two losses have knocked the luster right off the Flyers. The idea that this teamed might just be destined for greatness, poor 5-on-5 play and injury barrage be damned, is all but dead. The good news is that there’s still a good chance they will be good once those injuries clear up. Their underlying numbers weren’t great tonight (42.5% Corsi, 40.78% xGF at 5-on-5), but they certainly looked better. Or at least not worse. There is a difference.

For the first time all year, the Flyers have suffered consecutive losses. They’ll need to pick themselves up quickly with a strong Capitals team waiting for a nationally-televised Sunday matinee. In the moment, this loss feels half spirit-sapping, half inspiring. After all, not many teams can go toe-to-toe with Boston with as much firepower missing as Philly had tonight. And the Flyers did have one more shot on goal than the Bruins (24-23). Only time will tell which narrative prevails.

Check out how the Bruins, Flyers, and the rest of the NHL faired in Vendetta’s first ever NHL Power Rankings!

Lindies

Here’s injury updates on Hart and Myers. A little more ominous than I anticipated. I wonder if Myers’ injury is an extension of the rib injury he’d been playing through the last few games.

Realized in the gap between Wednesday’s game and this one that this is the second straight year the Flyers have blown a two-goal lead in three consecutive games within their first fifteen contests of the season. The Flyers blew 2-0 leads to Montreal, Toronto, and Boston on November 7, 9, and 10 last season. Miraculously, they won all three.

Of course, the same thing happened this year (twice to the Islanders last weekend, then to Boston on Wednesday), and the Flyers emerges 2-0-1. After dancing through those rain drops, the storm caught up to the 2019-20 Flyers for a bit; they went 0-2-2 in their next four games. Hopefully this year’s group rights the ship sooner.

James van Riemsdyk already has more power-play goals this year than last. For the first time in his Flyers career, he has a six-game point streak. And he’s tied with Joe Pavelski for the most PPGs in the league (5). He was the Flyers most noticeable player in this “series”. JVRn’t you glad he’s got his swagger back?

You may have noticed it in the recap, but Erik Gustafsson actually replaced Ivan Provorov on PP1 for the third period. Provy’s a great defender, but I don’t think he’s a truly elite power-play quarterback. Gustafsson has some nice skill there, and of course he earned the big assist on the JVR goal. I’d like to see Shayne Gostisbehere get a look there at some point, though.

Brad Marchand has been absolutely buzzing lately. His eight-game point streak is tied with Edmonton’s unstoppable Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for first in the NHL. And he has a 9-game point streak against the Flyers dating back to 2019 (4 goals, 8 assists).

Something interesting to note in the Phantoms pre-season opener: Sam Morin started as forward, but took some shifts on defense as the game went on. Most of them were on the PK, but he took at least one shift there at 5-on-5. The Flyers haven’t wavered from the “Morin is a forward for good now” narrative yet; it will be interesting to see where this goes.

The Flyers have picked up where they left off in terms of 3rd period dominance last year. Philly’s 18 goals in the final 20 minutes of regulation are third most in the league. The only problem? Boston’s two quick strikes give them 19 on the year, tied with Vancouver for first. A stunning eleven of them have come at the Flyers expense.

Tonight was the Flyers all season they pulled the goalie for an extra attacker in the closing minutes of the third period.

Philadelphia’s PK responded from their late collapse Wednesday with a perfect 2/2 showing tonight. Unbelievably, the Flyers PK has been great against the other six East teams (25/30, 83.3%). But the Bruins have dragged them down to middle of the pack league-wide thanks to a 4/13 (69.2%) performance in four meetings.

The Flyers have not earned a regulation win against the Bruins in each of their last eight regular season meetings. Their last one came on January 16, 2019.

All right, enough sadness, let’s laugh a little and end this one with a who did it better segment.

This is not from tonight, obviously.

3 Stars

3rd: Tuukka Rask – .958 SV% (23 Saves/24 Shots)

2nd: Brad Marchand – Goal (7)

1st: Sean Kuraly – Goal (2)

Next

BOS – 2/10, 7 PM @ NYR (4-4-2, W2)

PHI – 2/7, 12 PM @ WSH (6-2-3, L2)

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