Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 2: PHI 2, COL 5 - A Tale of Two D's
You can say what you want about the Flyers defense, but at least we haven't bodychecked our own goalie.
This year (remember when AMac did it against the Wild 2 years ago? Oh well).
The Philadelphia Flyers lose for the first time in the 2018-19 season, 5-2, to the Colorado Avalanche. I remember going to the Flyers-Avs game at home last year and being upset the Flyers lost in a shootout to what I, and the rest of the NHL considered, a very bad team. This was also at a point in time where the Senators were doing just fine so that's how you know things have changed.
Unfortunately, tonight was just not the Flyers night. With Calvin Pickard just arriving with the team prior to the game, it was no surprise that Brian Elliott received the start. What was a surprise was the first episode of the fourth season of one of my favorite shows coming early. Yes, my friends, it's time for another episode of: Dave Hakstol, What Are You Doing?
On today's episode, Radko Gudas became the latest Flyer to be Hak'd. Coming off a solid performance in the season opener along Travis Sanheim, Gudas found himself in the Pepsi Center press box Saturday night, with Robert Hagg playing alongside Sanheim and free agent signee Christian Folin making his Flyers debut alongside Andrew MacDonald. It may not be Hakstol's most agregious error as Flyers head coach (in fact it's not even close), but it's frusturating that Hakstol broke up something that was working just for the sake of doing so. Hak admitted the pairing had done well but had preplanned that all 7 defenseman would play. So then why didn't Jordan Weal play as well? Alas, such frusturation is all but guaranteed under Dave Hakstol's regime.
Once again, the Flyers got off to a sluggish start, but this time it bit them much sooner. Only about 90 seconds in, a bouncing puck in front of the net found Colin Wilson's stick for a tap-in goal on the FIRST SHIFT for the MacDonald-Folin pair, with at least two Flyers lying down behind the net when the puck went in (one of them was AMac). That's what's called "foreshadowing" in the literary world, and the sports world its what we call a 1-0 deficit.
But the Flyers were not about to go down easily. After having a unspectacular season opener, the Flyers top line showed what they are capable of. Giroux hit Konecny for a perfect break-in pass, creating a mini-breakaway. TK couldn't quite get a clean shot off, but the puck stayed in front of the net for...
ELITE 1st line center Sean Couturier. Fresh off a career high 31 goals last year, Coots gets on pace for 41 this year, depositing the garbage in front, tying the game 1-1.
After a failed Flyers power play, Folin made his first glaring error of the night, throwing a blind pass up the boards when he had plenty of time to just handle the puck. Samuel Girard kept it in and fed J.T. Compher for a beautiful snapshot, giving the Avalanche a 2-1 lead going into the 2nd.
When something funny happened.
Now, I didn't get to see a ton of the game live as I was busy watching my Notre Dame Fighting Irish handle Virgina Tech instead, but I did see this goal live. It all started like the Avalanche 2-1 goal: Christian Folin misfired on a pass that looked like it would be an icing and an ordinary offensive zone face off for the Avs.
Then, Seymon Varlamov touched the puck with his stick, canceling the icing. Bit of a curious decision since it looked like Mark Barberio was the first guy back but Mikhail Voroboyev was close. That was fine; what wasn't fine was Barberio deciding he should play like the 2016-17 Avalanche instead of the 2017-18 Avalanche and body slammed Varlamov to the ice, taking them both out of the play and leaving the puck all alone in front. And after all the BS the Hockey Gods pulled on Oskar Lindblom not being able to buy a point to start his NHL career, you already knew which Flyer was going to be the recepient of this gift.
Mikhail Voroboyev with a beauty off a first goal, showing off slick hands and an incredible wrist shot to get Varlamov down and out while fooling the defenseman Barberio in the process before firing home a highlight reel goal.
At least that's what he'll tell his grandkids.
Vorobyev keeps his point-per-game pace up, putting the Flyers even again 2-2, but unfortunately that didn't last for long. After the Flyers killed off an Avalanche power play, the two teams went to 4-on-4. This was a perfect setting for the Avalanche - it's where skilled players like Nathan McKinnon and Mikko Rantanen thrive, and they had Travis Konecny in the penalty box. Sure enough, a harmless shot by MacKinnon was tipped home by Gabriel Landeskog, as Travis Sanheim continued the team's recurring problem from last year of not being able to clear the crease, and the Avalanche took the lead for good.
You could make the argument that there should have been goalie interference here; in fact, it was strong enough that Dave Hakstol challenged the play. Landeskog's leg prevented Elliott from moving his stick over in the direction of the puck. In my opinion, it was borderline, and since is the Flyers you know if there's any chance the call is going against them it will, and the goal stood.
Unfortunately, the Flyers were never able to sustain an attack that looked like it would have a chance to tie things back up in the final 25-30 minutes. There were a few chances; the Flyers top unit did a good job creating chances on a power play early in the 3rd, but Seymon Varlamov held his ground. The fatigue of playing in the thin air of Colorado caught up to the Flyers - shortly after killing off an abbreviated 5-on-3, Colin Wilson took advantage of a lucky bounce off Elliott's pad for the preverbal dagger. Nathan McKinnon added an empty netter to ice it, securing the 5-2 win for the Avalanche, their 2nd in as many games to start the season.
This doesn't qualify as a bad loss for the Flyers, but certainly a disappointing one - they were in this game for 55 minutes despite being outplayed and had a chance to gain some real momentum going into the home opener. Not as big of a gut punch as the Flyers choke in their final game of the opening road trip in Nashville (a 5-3 lead with half a period left didn't survive regulation), but this one stings a little bit.
The Flyers are 1-1-0 to start a season for the first time since (checks history books) oh yeah, last year. They have not been 2-0-0 to start a season since 2011-12, the last year they reached 100 points and won a playoff round.
James van Riemsdyk was hit by a Mark Barberio clearing attempt late in the 1st and did not return to the game. As I'm going to cover in a separate article, it's not good.
Brian Elliott may have only had a .882 save%, but he was probably the Flyers team MVP in this one. Elliott made several great saves throughout, most notably a 2-on-0 save on Alexander Kerfoot and a mini-breakaway pad stop on Erik Johnson. He was the only reason the Flyers were in this game until the late 3rd. The concerns of Elliott not being 100% coming off core surgery in February have been quitted, at least for now.
The Flyers penalty kill may have gone 3/4, including killing some 5-on-3 time, but watching things back they weren't as good as the numbers suggest. They were just too passive, which combined with poor entry defense allowed for several Avalanche chances.
Christian Folin should never see the ice again. No this is definitely not an overreaction. First we didn't think they could find anyone worse than Chris VandeVelde and they brought us Jori Lehtera, now Folin's gonna be the same thing with Brandon Manning.
Oh yeah, Brandon Manning apparently went bar-down last night against the Maple Leafs. Just in case you were wondering.
Watching the highlights back, Nathan MacKinnon's speed and skill are at a level I didn't even know was possible. I'm upset with myself for not paying more attention to him when I saw the Flyers play the Avalanche at home last year. He is truly an elite offensive player in this league.
Stars of the Game
1st - C. Wilson (COL) - 2 G
2nd - J.T. Compher (COL) - 1 G, 1 A
3rd - E. Johnson (COL) - 3 A
PHI - 10/9 vs. San Jose (1-1-0; PHI Home Opener)
COL - 10/9 @ Columbus (1-1-0)