Flyers
David Pastrnak celebrates one of his three goals as the Bruins dominated the Flyers outdoors at Lake Tahoe. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

We would’ve won if they played it at 2 PM. Eh, probably not. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 7-3, to the Boston Bruins. This game was a rout, plain and simple. Of course, Philadelphia is still lacking plenty of firepower due to COVID. But they certainly could’ve done a little bit more, right?

Playing in a game like this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The NHL has had plenty of outdoor games before (I attended the last one the Flyers played in), but none have been quite like this. The absence of fans stinks, but it increases the focus on the gorgeous scenery and the frequent cursing pure sounds of the game we love.

The cursing on the Flyers bench was a little stronger in the early going. On the very first shift of the game, a Phil Myers shot was blocked into the perfect area to set up a 2-on-1. And not just any two-on-one, a Perfection Line 2-on-1. Myers’ incredible recovery ability nearly saved the day again, but Brad Marchand quickly set David Pastrnak up for a tap-in before Myers could get back. Incredibly, that’s not even the quickest into a game Pastrnak has scored against the Flyers this year, and the odds of a long night increase.

But not for long! With so many key players out up front, the Flyers have to get creative when it comes to generating offense. Michael Raffl nearly buried a goal Thursday on a perfectly calculated dump-in that caromed right to him in front. Well, Sean Couturier calculated the same play six and a half minutes into this one, but with a different target. No offense to Raffl, but not many people are as hot as Joel Farabee right now. The sophomore sensation deposited his 8th goal of the year all alone in front, knotting the game 1-1.

For a brief moment, it looked like the Flyers might actually not be just competitive, but potentially dominate. Sean Couturier returned from the box after a successful penalty kill and lit the lamp on a net-mouth scramble in front of Rask. The Flyers outshot the Bruins 11-8 and dominate the chance battle, generating an outstanding 70.18% xG% at 5-on-5. Through fifteen minutes, things were actually going great.

But a late long-range Charlie McAvoy bomb ensured the Bruins wouldn’t go into intermission with their heads hanging. Then Pastrnak scored another goal in the first minute of a period with Hart off his angle 46 seconds into the second. Charlie Coyle copy-and-pasted that exact same play to double the lead late in the second. And then Trent Frederic scored on the most innocent shot ever. Andy Andreoff took an ill-advised cross-checking penalty after the whistle; Nick Ritchie deflected in a John Moore point-shot on the ensuing man-advantage.

Did I mention the Flyers managed an ugly 30.3% Corsi and unacceptable 20.55% xG% at 5-on-5 that period? That they were outshot 15-3? That they’ve given up over ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY more shots than they’ve taken this season? Maybe the five goal blitz (with the last three scored in a 99 second span) was enough of an indictment for you.

The Flyers were absolutely outmatched in this game, plain and simple. Even though the Bruins were missing David Krejci, Jeremy Lauzon, and Matt Grzelcyk, they had the clear advantage on paper. Philadelphia just simply doesn’t have enough forward talent to drive play, let alone score goals. Losing this game was the most likely outcome. Getting blown out certainly wasn’t out of the question, and for good reason.

But that didn’t make it any easier to watch. This third period was one of the least fun moments in my fandom, and probably yours, too. The late JVR PPG didn’t garner much if any cheer. David Pastrnak finishing off his second hat-trick of the year against Philly was more numbing than anything.

Coming into the night, it at least felt possible the Flyers would be able to put up a fight, and yet the Bruins schooled them. This game certainly doesn’t do anything to shake the narrative the Bruins are in their heads. Boston has laughed the Flyers out of the building twice. They’ve dealt them brutal, heartbreaking, soul-sapping losses three times.

Even more concerning? Carter Hart delivered an absolute clunker; he’s given up six goals three times in his career, and the Bruins have done the honors twice. Yes, Boston dominated the second period, but every goal except the Ritchie tip was very stoppable. Maybe the conditions played a factor, but they didn’t seem to effect Rask when he was at that end.

The good news is that it sounds like the Flyers will be closer to full strength by their next game. It’s nearing two weeks since their season was paused players like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek went on the COVID list. Getting them and the others back will give the Flyers a shot to be great. Even in that early flurry, there was little hope for the Flyers to control this game. A gutsy, nail-biting victory seemed possible for about 36 minutes. And then the game fell apart.

But remember, it’s not like the Flyers were playing that great before this. They’ve been outshot by a larger margin than any team in hockey. It’s not particularly close, either. Both special teams units are underperforming. A quick look at the standings and you’ll see the Flyers are barely in a playoff spot.

Enough pieces are in this organization to be a great time. But this shortened season is getting late fast. And the step forward we all hoped if not assumed the Flyers would take seems more and more like a pipe dream with every performance like this.

Gavin Daly gives insights on the Maple Leafs, Penguins, Nathan MacKinnon and more in the latest addition of Three Majors and a Minor.

Lindies

First ever FFR TL; DR: 2, 3, 1, 4

Four players that dressed in the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park between these clubs played it this contest. From Philadelphia: Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk. From Boston: Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask (David Krejci would be five, but he’s out with an injury). Boston also won that game, 2-1 in OT (though the Flyers got revenge with a reverse sweep in round 2 of the playoffs five months later).

David Pastrnak has led the charge against the Flyers all season. Six of his nine goals (in only 9 games) have come at Carter Hart’s expense. Three of them have come in the first minute of a period. That guy is hotter than the coffee in those Dunkin Donuts commercials he does against the Flyers.

(Yeah, I know he’s drinking a cold brew — just let me have this one.)

Speaking of, is it time to be concerned about Carter Hart? His .891 save percentage is 29th out of 36 goalies with at least eight games played. Hart has allowed 4+ goals as many times as he’s allowed fewer than three. He’s been pulled three times. The Coyle and Frederic goals were particularly egregious. This game was going to be a tough win regardless, but his play tonight gave them virtually no chance. Hart can be better, and probably will, but it needs to start soon.

Pastrnak joins Tyler Toffoli as the only two players to record a hat-trick outdoors.

Boston’s seven goals ties the Rangers output from the 2014 Winter Classic for most in an outdoor game ever.

The Nick Ritchie goal would’ve been off-side every year before this one; Ritchie’s skate was over but not touching the blue-line when the Bruins entered the zone. But because of the new rule, since Ritchie’s skate was over the blue-line, the entry was legal and the goal good.

Nineteen shots for the Flyers tonight. Even with a short-handed lineup, that’s just not good enough. And it’s not the first time, either. Philly’s been held under 20 shots four times this season, twice by Boston. Pathetic.

Trent Frederic is the third player ever and first-non Flyer to score their first NHL goal outdoors. Danny Syvret (2010 Winter Classic) and Brayden Schenn (2012 Winter Classic) are the others.

It’s no secret the Flyers are looking to upgrade their defense. A player that could be on the block and would be of help? Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun wrote about the possibility of the Flyers and others acquiring him. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Ekholm isn’t one of the three untouchable Predators. It would complicate the expansion draft, and Ekholm plays the left side, which isn’t ideal. But he’s a great player and certainly a name to keep tabs on. After tonight’s game, it’s clearer than ever a little more defense couldn’t hurt.

Ok, let’s get a little bit of positivity in this. The beat goes on for prospect Zayde Wisdom. The 2020 4th rounder registered his second straight two-goal game in the Phantoms’ 3-0 win over Hershey yesterday. An 18-year old like him usually wouldn’t be eligible for the AHL, but is able to play there since the OHL season is suspended due to COVID. He’s certainly making the most of the opportunity.

I’m happy the Flyers stayed to shake hands (barely) after the game. It’s a cool tradition usually for the end of a playoff series but often shows up in outdoor games. The Golden Knights didn’t grant that to the Avalanche Saturday night. It’s not the biggest deal in the world. But the Flyers don’t need to give the Bruins any more motivation for the next matchup.

3 4(?) Stars

4th: James van Riemsdyk – Goal (8), 2 Assists (12, 13)

3rd: Brad Marchand – 2 Assists (10, 11)

2nd: David Pastrnak – 3 Goals (7, 8, 9)

1st: Snowboarding Gritty

Next

PHI – 2/24 vs. NYR (6-7-3, W2)

BOS – 2/25 @ NYI (8-6-3, L2)

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