Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR3) Gm 11: TOR 3, PHI 0 – In Pursuit
When you’re not in control of a game, you’re stuck — you guessed it — in pursuit. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 3-0, pursuing the Toronto Maple Leafs from start to finish to no avail. While the Flyers outplayed Toronto handily by Corsi and Expected Goals at 5v5, they sure didn’t look or feel like a team who deserved to win on Wednesday. In front of their home crowd for the first time in eight days, the Flyers delivered one of their worst offensive performances of the year.
If that’s where the scoring woes ended, there wouldn’t be much to talk about. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. One of the biggest surprises at the start of the Flyers season was how potent the team looked offensively. Philadelphia scored a gaudy 24 goals in their first five games, including four-plus goals four times. Considering the Flyers aren’t built like a goal-scoring juggernaut at full strength and the injuries they’ve dealt with, it was a welcomed development. Of course, the question was how long would their early goal-scoring blitz last?
The answer: Not long enough. Over their last six games, the Flyers have scored just nine times, including two shutout defeats where they entered the 3rd period down just a goal. Most of that stretch felt like the team’s talent (or lack thereof) showing; Derick Brassard reestablishing himself as a quality 2C for the first time in years was extremely unlikely. The third line still hasn’t fully been able to convert their bevy of excellent chances into a bundle of goals. Without Kevin Hayes and Wade Allison, the fourth line is built more for checking and defense than building off the top-nine’s chances.
Tonight was a different story. The Flyers generated less than two expected goals in all situations, not just at 5-on-5. Jack Campbell (who you can read more about here) had to make some difficult saves, of course. But for the second time in three games, the Flyers made life too easy for the opposing netminder. A quick look at a heat map of tonight’s chances tells the whole story. Philadelphia simply didn’t get enough chances from the high-danger areas of the ice (or do enough to take away Campbell’s eyes on the shots they did manage).
There’s no shame in losing to the Maple Leafs, of course, even with John Tavares out due to injury. And maybe the Flyers would’ve broken through if they were deflated by William Nylander’s fluky game-winning goal, a deflection off his skate that was originally called off for a kick (before correctly being overturned, in my opinion). But it would have been nice for a game that felt less like the game two weeks ago in Calgary, where the Flyers more or less hung Carter Hart out to dry despite another excellent performance from their netminder. Wednesday’s performance wasn’t quite as punchless, but it was far below the Flyers ceiling. And it certainly was disappointing to see the team fail to build on the momentum they seemed to be building in their most complete performance of the year on Saturday.
But the problem for Philadelphia is that not only might this issue not be going away but it could also easily be magnified in the very near future. Their next opponent, Carolina, has allowed the fewest goals per game in the league (1.91). Two games later, they play Calgary, who’s already shut the Flyers out once and is second in goals-against (2.17). An eleven-game in twenty-one-day gauntlet that kicked off tonight leaves a team with nowhere to hide; and precious time to find an answer.
Of course, that answer could fall into their laps before long. It’s possible Kevin Hayes could be back as soon as that Calgary game on Tuesday (and Ryan Ellis even sooner). But those two (probably) won’t completely solve this issue on their own. Philadelphia doesn’t have to become the league’s highest-scoring team to achieve its goals. But they do need to reverse course on this concerning trend.
Tonight was Military Appreciation Night at the Wells Fargo Center. Additionally, it was a nice gesture by several Flyers players to wear poppies pre-game, a token associated with Remembrance Day, the Canadian equivalent of Memorial Day.
One player whose offensive showing tonight was positive? Surprisingly, Justin Braun. Braun looked like a defenseman who has seven points in eleven games this season; or at least not one with a career-high of 33 points (the only time he’s ever eclipsed 23 points). He was jumping in the play, getting in on the forecheck, and nearly set up Couturier for a game-tying goal early in the third with a backdoor slap-pass. Braun will never be a long-term offensive dynamo, but he did what he could to snap the Flyers out of their scoring funk tonight.
Don’t let the final score or his unassuming .906 save percentage distract from how well Carter Hart played tonight. Hart once again looked dialed in tonight, with his excellent position and especially sharp glove hand keeping. the game from getting out of hand. Imagining what a functioning Flyers offense with the goaltending Hart and Martin Jones have produced so far this year is a scary good thought.
After two consecutive disappointing power-plays, the Flyers swapped Keith Yandle and Ivan Provorov, returning the former to the top unit. Following another poor showing, James van Riemsdyk flipped with Cam Atkinson, restoring the Flyers’ opening night PP units. The Flyers man advantage was 1/12 with Provorov and Atkinson on PP1 (the duo combined for 0 power-play points) after starting the year 5/18 (6th in the league). The fourth man advantage looked like the Flyers’ best, but it still failed to light the lamp. Why the Flyers switched their formations when the PP appeared to be clicking always confused me; hopefully they regain their old chemistry and scoring touch in short order.
Toronto’s Core 4 is red hot; Ondřej Kaše’s 3-0 goal (his 100th NHL point) ended a run of sixteen straight Toronto goals scored by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Nylander, or Tavares. Nylander is the hottest of the bunch; he’s riding a five-game point streak and has now scored seven times in thirteen career games against Philadelphia.
This game is Toronto’s first regulation victory in Philadelphia since January 19, 2016, when Matt Hunwick broke a 2-2 tie with seven seconds left in the third period to propel the eventual last-place Leafs to victory. The Flyers were 5-0-2 at the Wells Fargo Center against Toronto in the interim.
3rd: Carter Hart (PHI) – .909 SV% (30 Saves/33 Shots)
2nd: Jack Campbell (TOR) – Shutout (1) on 36 Shots, 1.95 Expected Goals Against (All Situations)
1st: William Nylander (TOR) – 2 Goals (6, 7), 5 Shots
TOR: 11/12, 7 PM vs. CGY (7-2-3,
PHI: 11/12, 7 PM @ CAR (10-1-0, W1)
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*All Advanced Stats are 5v5 and via Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise stated