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Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 28: PHI 2, MTL 3 (SO) – Playoff Absentsphere


Even with no fans in the stands due to COVID, Laurent Dauphin still celebrated his first goal since 2016 with the emotion of a series-winner. It sparked a comeback victory for Montréal, their first win since late November. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Graham Hughes / Associated Press)

Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR4) Gm 28: PHI 2, MTL 3 (SO) – Playoff Absentsphere

Ok, so maybe my accidentally coined 2021-22 Flyers mantra of “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is more negative than positive after all. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 3-2, shootout style, to the Montréal Canadiens. The loss marks a failure to take a step towards crafting a new message against the Eastern Conference’s worst team. It wasn’t just that Philadelphia’s three-game win streak ended in front of zero fans due to tightening COVID protocols; their play largely failed to match the hope that the post-Alain Vigneault era would immediately vault them back to their ceiling. From the stands to the sheet of ice, this game was almost all of the worst of Flyers hockey in 2021 combined into one night (except for Carter Hart, who continued his stellar play tonight.)

To say the momentum from Tuesday’s dominating victory over the Devils didn’t make it to the Centre Belle on time would be an understatement. Montréal’s 1-0 lead after 20 minutes didn’t reflect the pace of the opening period; the Canadiens outplayed the Flyers by a much wider margin. After spending the first five games under Mike Yeo trying to find the proper between pace and structure, the Flers lacked both in the first period. The Canadiens skated circles around them, outshooting the Flyers 18-5, drawing the period’s only two penalties and striking first on a textbook deflection by Artturi Lehkonen just after the first of those two Montréal man advantages expired. A horrid 9.73% Expected Goals rate further highlights Philadelphia’s universal struggles.

But after yet another dominant Canadiens shift to start the second period, the Flyers finally started getting their act together. Two great chances by Max Willman of all players briefly turned the tide; a redirection off a nice Keith Yandle set-up that was stopped and a wrist shot off a scramble in front that wasn’t. The Flyers finally showed some energy, testing Voorhees, NJ native Cayden Primeau (son of former Flyers captain Keith). But their defensive structure remained sloppy. Montréal was still generating the vast majority of chances; Philadelphia’s 30.52% expected goals rate in the second was both much better than the first and nowhere near good enough. Montréal had them right where they want them. It would take a colossal Habs mistake to shift the game.

And there it is. Somehow in 251 consecutive Flyers game recaps (I was too tired from finals to mention my recap of Tuesday’s game to remember it marked the 250 FFR milestone), I’ve never mentioned my pet peeve for playing another team’s goal song in a different building; especially when it’s your opponent’s.

Mere minutes after Kungs & Cookin’ on 3 Burner’s “This Girl” played in the Centre Belle, it played in the minds and houses of Flyers fans everywhere. Travis Sanheim, with the confidence boost of his first goal of the year on Tuesday no doubt still in his mind, made a perfect stretch pass from his defensive zone to the Montréal blue-line, creating a 2-on-1. We’ve seen Sanheim make plays like that before, but the result was a first; Jackson Cates beat Primeau five-hole to light his first NHL lamp with less than 60 seconds left in the second.

After being heavily outplayed in the first forty, the Flyers actually took it to the Canadiens to start the third. Philadelphia had an expected goals rate of over 90% in the first half of the period. And though Montréal started making a push shortly thereafter, it didn’t seem like the strongest one at first. Against an offensively challenged Canadiens team, taking a page out of their playbook from the 2020 playoffs and holding the 2-1 lead until the clock hit zero seemed like a sound plan.

Unfortunately, the only energy stronger than playing your opponent’s goal song is a player with a multi-year goal drought facing the Flyers. Remember last week when I wrote I was so mad at myself for not betting the farm on the over of last week’s Avalanche-Flyers game? You know, the one that featured seven combined goals in the first period and twelve in total? Well, I said the same when Jim Jackson mentioned Montréal’s Laurent Dauphin hadn’t scored a goal in over five years in the first period. The spidey senses were engaged, folks.

No matter how much territorial dominance the Flyers exhorted in the third period, no matter how close Willman came to all but putting it out of reach with his second of the night, there was never a world where Dauphin didn’t score a meaningful goal in this game. His jab at a loose puck in front of Carter Hart tied the game with just under six minutes to play.

Despite total territorial dominance from the Flyers in the last two minutes of the third, the game remained deadlocked. Despite a Flyers power-play and a crossbar strike from Mike Hoffman, overtime solved nothing. The shootout started with a goal; Jonathan Drouin chipped a nice shot over Hart’s glove. It was the last red light of the night; each of the next five shooters was stopped, the game fittingly ending on an ugly note with Cam Atkinson running out of real estate and into Primeau to stop the Flyers’ three-game win streak and Montréal’s seven-game winless streak (0-6-1) at a halt.

Tonight’s outcome doesn’t halt all optimism about the Flyers. But it is a reminder the daunting ascent towards returning to the playoff picture, let alone ending the year in a playoff spot, won’t come easy. It’s legitimately possible the Flyers are on the road back towards their pre-season goals; tonight’s outcome (and the process behind it) could be just another speed bump in a road full of them. The odds, and tonight, the eyeballs, didn’t see that on Thursday. The Flyers have already made things so hard on themselves this season. Losing games to teams like the Canadiens does just that. Unlike Montréal, the Flyers haven’t hit their breaking point yet this season. But playing like they did tonight will lead them there eventually.


Don’t know what this says about me, but the Flyers have gotten a pity point in each of their first game after every time I’ve returned home from college this semester. Hopefully, my return trips in the spring (as well as my winter break in general) are a bit more successful in terms of Flyers outcomes.

Congratulations to Flyers prospect Elliot Desnoyers on making Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championships! The 2020 5th round pick is both a great two-way player and T-13th in the QMJHL with 36 points. Not bad for a 135th overall pick, nearly the exact same selection that Oskar Lindblom (138th) was in 2014.

This was the first Flyers game in Montréal since November 30, 2019, when the Flyers capped off their best November in franchise history on a highlight reel end-to-end OT winner by Ivan Provorov. Sanheim nearly scored the exact same goal to earn the Flyers the extra point, but Primeau stood his ground.

Tonight’s game also involved a key moment surrounding Provorov, but unfortunately not one nearly as heart-warming. Early in the third period, Provorov had a Canadiens shot ramp up his stick and catch him around the throat/face. It would have seemed Herculian for anybody else to return to the ice shortly after such a scary situation. But for Provorov, who’s fought through any and all pain so far in his career, it almost felt expected. Still, anytime play is stopped for an injured player, there’s quite a bit of concern. Good to see Provorov seems ok.

Kevin Connauton also suffered an injury scare when he went awkwardly into the boards in the third. He too returned. to the game in short order.

Laurent Dauphin’s last NHL goal: December 10, 2017, back when he was a member of the Arizona Coyotes. Of course, it was.

Let’s switch it up tonight: here’s a flashback to the distant, much happier time for Canadiens fans of *checks notes* June.

Let’s end this on a positive note: the Flyers’ current four-game point streak is a season-high. I still believe this team is trending in the right direction. Is that mainly because the first twenty-three games set the bar so low? A lot, yeah. But not quite entirely. In my opinion, their effort against Ottawa on Saturday will be crucial in determining which direction the rest of the season goes. I believe I’ll be there in person to see it up close.

3 Stars

3rd: Ben Chiarot (MTL) – Assist (2), 7 Shots, 25:00 TOI

2nd: Laurent Dauphin (MTL) – Goal (1)

1st: Jonathan Drouin (MTL) – Shootout Winner, 3 Shots


PHI: 12/18, 7 PM vs. OTT (9-17-1, L1)

MTL: 12/18, 7 PM vs. BOS (14-9-2, L1)

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