Despite the heroics of Claude Giroux and an early 2-0 lead, the Flyers couldn’t contain the powerful Lightning, falling to 0-2 in shootouts this season. (Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 15: TB 4, PHI 3 (OT) – Stammered

Everything’s prettier in pink, even shootout losses. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 4-3, shootout style, to the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning improve to 7-0-2 in their last nine games, coming from behind early only to blow a late lead before recovering in the shootout, spoiling Philadelphia’s bid for a second straight emotional victory.

Over the last three weeks, the Flyers have been on a collision course towards regression in two different categories. On one hand, the team was receiving unsustainably great goaltending; both Carter Hart and Martin Jones entered Thursday with a save percentage over .930. Bouncebacks for both goaltenders after horrid 2020-21 seasons were possible, if not probable for Hart. But even if you’re incredibly high on the Flyers’ young starter, he’s probably not going to put up Vezina front-runner numbers. And it’s unlikely Jones is going to post a save percentage 35 points higher than the mark he put up the previous three seasons.

On the other hand, the Flyers have been plagued with a comically low on-ice shooting percentage during their three-week goal famine. Yes, the team hasn’t always done enough offensively to deserve to score more goals. And the Flyers’ porous power-play, which is now 1 for its last 24 and 2 for its last 36, is certainly playing a major role in their scoring struggles.

But it’s also true that from October 28 to November 17, the Flyers held a tragic 4.26 5v5 shooting percentage. That’s almost a full percentage point lower than the next worst team, the actively tanking Arizona Coyotes. In the last 82 game season (2018-19), Arizona also held the league’s worst 5v5 shooting percentage at 6.61%. After shooting an unsustainably high 13.91% in their first five games (the highest mark in the league), Philadelphia spent their time in finishing purgatory. And they were certainly hoping to exit sooner rather than later.

Both of these forces were destined for regression; they have been for a while. The only question was which would break first. Would Philadelphia find themselves flying high on another shooting bender, or would their goaltending break first?

The answer turned out to be both at the same time, to an extent. The Flyers scored their first first-period goals since October 28 on just four shots. The Flyers bearhugged that cushion for the next 48 minutes, as the Lightning looked to turn a lopsided amount of offensive zone time into tangible results. The damn inevitably burst, even though none of their goals were truly special; Brayden Point made a nifty backhand move to break the goose-egg, but that might’ve been a broken play, plus Philadelphia was short-handed. Mathieu Joseph’s goal was simply being in the right place at the right time; that and Justin Braun whiffing on the bouncing puck before it reached Joseph. And with another great performance nearly locked up, Carter Hart allowed his first truly bad goal since the season opener; a sharp angle shot from Steven Stamkos with just under two minutes left.

If that goal indeed marks the beginning of the Flyers goaltending falling from dominant to merely solid, it could prove very costly. It was only somewhat tonight, a reminder of what can happen when pucks start finding twine. After scoring a dazzling goal resembling his near beauty from Tuesday night to start the scoring, the Giroux one-upped his captain counterpart’s heroics with a perfectly placed wrist shot with just over 10 seconds to play. The Flyers were unable to push that momentum over the edge in overtime, which was as back-and-forth as it could get with both sides trading A+ chances. And just like in their first shootout of the year, Hart was beaten by each of the first two shooters, while Sean Couturier and Giroux were stopped at the other end to seal the defeat.

The next stretch of the Flyers season feels like it’s going to be a battle between these two forces. While it’s not worth getting into a full-on panic yet, it does feel like the Flyers are primed to give a little bit of ground in the immediate future.

The PK has actually been at 85.7% over their last 8 games, but a lot of that has to do with Hart.

For me, it all comes back to their overall 5-on-5 play. Yes, the power-play has been worse, but it’s far easier to overcome struggles there than at 5-on-5. Tampa Bay was on a different level than the Flyers there especially in the first forty minutes, finishing the game with a 64.23% Expected Goals rate. The Flyers now have a 46.97% mark in that department over the full season, 6th worst in the league.

Granted, two of the teams behind them in that metric are the injured by still surviving Golden Knights and a Rangers club that sits four points above them in the Metropolitan Division standings; it’s not like that mark guarantees certain doom. But with Ryan Ellis out long-term, plus Kevin Hayes unable to play tonight due to injury, the Flyers simply aren’t icing a great team right now. Their current roster is capable of playing better than they have so far, but they haven’t shown that consistently even as the number of games played keeps increasing. The Flyers learned the perils of putting too much of the load on your goaltender’s shoulders first-hand tonight. They must do more to lessen that load; their shooting percentage should increase regardless, but that will only take them so far.

Lindies

For the second straight game, the biggest story of the game didn’t involve anything on the ice. The Flyers celebrated Hockey Fights Cancer Night with special pre-game jerseys, some special guests to help with pre-game ceremonies, and of course, all of the love for Oskar Lindblom. Hard to believe it’s been almost two years since Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. #OskarStrong Forever.

Giroux’s beautiful opening goal snapped a six-game goalless and four-game pointless streak. It was also Philadelphia’s first goal in the first period since October 28, ending a nine-game drought. In each of the six first periods where they have scored, the Flyers have scored multiple goals five times; two goals thrice, three goals twice.

After scoring in the season’s first three contests, tonight was just Travis Konecny’s second goal in his last twelve and his first in six games.

With Hayes out, the Flyers used an emergency recall to bring up Max Willman from the Phantoms. Since his early-season NHL stint ended, Willman has gone on to lead the Phantoms with 7 goals in 11 games. He had one good chance tonight, but it was a tough night overall for the Flyers’ fourth-line (19.08% Expected Goals). As for Hayes’ status, Alain Vigneault basically punted on the question when asked post-game. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious. You have to wonder if Philadelphia would consider promoting Morgan Frost if that’s not the case. He does lead the Phantoms with 11 points (albeit with just 1 goal).

Incredibly, the Lightning is now 3-0-1 when trailing after the first period. Philadelphia has still earned at least one point in every game they’ve led after one; their .929 points percentage in such games entering the night was second in the league behind Edmonton.

Brian Elliott returned to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time as a visitor since the 2016-17 season, backing up Vasilevskiy. In four years with the Flyers (the first one and a half or so as the starter), Elliott provided steady goaltending before transitioning into a solid backup to Carter Hart with a .902 save percentage in 130 appearances in Orange and Black (plus 4 playoff starts). Lou Nolan gave him a shoutout in the game’s first minutes. The fans responded pleasantly by serenading Elliott with “Moose” chants (if you’re new, that’s Elliott’s nickname).

Philadelphia has now lost eight straight games to the Lightning, a streak that dates back to December 29, 2017. Rather than sitting on Tampa Bay’s bench then, Brian Elliott was actually in the net that night for the Flyers. That doesn’t count their dominant round-robin victory over the Lightning in the bubble, of course.

We might just have to start getting used to seeing Justin Braun jump up in the rush. The usually defensive-minded defenseman fired wide on a breakaway chance, then jumped up on the play later on to nearly set up a rebound goal for Zack MacEwen.

For the second straight game, Hart was at least sensational when it came to besting a New Jersey native. Ross Colton, who grew up a Devils fan in Robbinsville Township, NJ (about an hour from the Wells Fargo Center) was arguably Tampa’s most dangerous forward tonight. Twice the second-year center found himself alone in front of Hart. But twice Hart denied his backhand bids with a lightning-like left leg.

It’s all bad for Philadelphia teams tonight. Congrats, MV3! It was a pleasure to “cover” his epic second half.

Finally, I saw this on Flyers Twitter tonight and figured a share couldn’t hurt.

3 Stars

3rd: Carter Hart (PHI) – .906 SV% (29 Saves/32 Shots)

2nd: Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB) – .900 SV% (27 Saves/30 Shots), 2/2 On Shootout Saves

1st: Brayden Point (TB) – Goal (7), 5 Shots, 24:38 TOI, Shootout Goal

Next

TB: 11/20, 4 PM vs. NJ (7-5-3, L1)

PHI: 11/20, 7 PM vs. BOS (8-5-0, W2)

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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick