Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 6: FLA 5, PHI 6 (SO) - Call Your Shot
Go to the Flyers game, they said. Have a good time, they said. They won't give you a heart attack, they said.
At least the end result was worth it.
The Philadelphia Flyers win, just not the way you expected, 6-5, shootout style (a rarity in Philadelphia), over the still winless Flo-Rida Panthers.
We all complained about how the Flyers schedule had them starting off on the West Coast again, but what we really should have been focusing on was how the Flyers first 3 home games were against teams that seemed destined for a win. The juggernaut of the Sharks were just 1-2-0 coming into Philly, fresh off a 4-0 loss to the Islanders. The defending Western Conference champion Golden Knights were just 1-4-0 despite controlling play for the majority of their first 5 games. And the Panthers came into Tuesday night as one of just two teams left without a win (Detroit is the other) despite being picked by many to leapfrog New Jersey for the final playoff spot in the East.
That didn't excuse yet another poor start for the Flyers, however. The team lacked crispness coming out of the locker room once again and struggled mightly in the 1st period, as they spent the majority of the opening frame in their own zone and were heavily outworked, evident by their 12-5 shots on goal deficit at the stanza's conclusion.
However, it looked like the Flyers were going to get out of it unscaved. Strong special teams in the back half of the period (an aggressive penalty kill and textbook cycling on the power play) gave the orange and black some momentum. That was zapped by an angle shot from the left half boards from Frank Vatrano that beat Michael Leighton-check that Brian Elliott. A screen in front made the goal a bit less aggregious than it first appeared, but still one Elliott would like to have back.
But the Flyers clearly took some lessons from the Mites on Ice at 1st intermission and went back to the basics, as Claude Giroux said following the frame. Travis Sanheim's offensive instincts were on display early on, as he hit Wayne Simmonds for a perfect tip-in as Simmer was gliding through the crease to tie the game. Yes, folks, I think it's safe to say it - Wayne Simmonds is back. Simmonds was a guy last year who you almost felt sorry for - you knew what he could bring and saw him trying so hard to do it, but he just couldn't get it done consistently.
You know who else meets that description? The same person standing in front of the Panthers net to tip home a Robert Hagg point shot, the Weal Deal himself, Jordan Weal! Weal was unable to keep the momentum of his hot finish to the 2016-17 season going through last year, but needs to have a strong season for the Flyers to consider resigning him (also like Simmonds). His first of the season helps his case, and made it 2-1 Flyers in the process.
But the Flyers were far from done. Aaron Ekblad, the former Calder Trophy winner who had a rare off-night Tuesday, tried to make around Sean Couturier through the middle of the ice, which is something you should almost never do as a defenseman. Captain Claude took the gift and calmly deposited it past a helpless Michael Hutchinson to extend the lead, the 2nd of the year for the Captain and his first goal at home since his hat-trick in the playoff clincher last year.
Then, as they tend to do in high-scoring games, things got dumb. An innocent dump-in hit the side of the Flyers net, Brian Elliott let it go by, and in doing so returned Ekblad's gift to Frank Vatrano (again) for a tap-in goal. This may have simply been miscommunication between Elliott and his defenseman, or perhaps Elliott thought the play was icing, but it was a sloppy goal for sure that cut the Flyers lead back to 1.
Thankfully, the Flyers decided that this time they would respond to adversity instead of cowering to it. Christian Folin made an incredible pass (yes you are reading that correctly) to Michael Raffl, who turned a 2-on-1 into a Wayne Simmonds breakaway, and Simmer made a gorgeous move, burying a backhander past Hutchinson for his 2nd of the night and team-leading 5th goal of the season to restore the 2-goal lead.
And yet the Flyers just kept coming! Shayne Gostisbehere turned what could have been an odd-man rush the other way into one for the Flyers with a diving play at center and a shifty move at the blue line. Ghost's pass missed Jordan Weal but found Captain Claude instead, who buried the unintended pass past Hutchinson for the Flyers 5th goal of the stanza, and Giroux's second of the night. How Dave Hakstol restrained himself from telling the team to go into full turtle mode after Simmer's second is beyond me, but that just goes to show what you can accomplish when you keep your foot on the gas.
Unfortunately sometimes another driver breaks into your car and tries to rip your foot off it. This came in the form last night of the 3RD time this season where there was a big scrum at center ice with 2-3 players on EACH side pushing and shoving and the Flyers wound up short-handed. Not only that, Simmonds and Alex Petrovic both got 10 minute misconducts, clearly a benefit for Florida. The power play proved more important - just 10 seconds in, Mike Hoffman's centering attempt went off Ivan Provorov's stick and in, giving the Panthers the lucky bounce they needed to cut it back to a 2-goal game going into the 3rd.
Still, you should be able to defend a 2-goal lead, no? Especially with the motivation of your first home win of the season as a reward? You absolutely should, but then again this is the Flyers, who have proved largely incapable of remembering basic defensive structure so far this year. Sure enough, Shayne Gostisbehere got lost covering a rush, and Evgenii Dadanov got behind everybody and got Elliott to bite off the short-side post, making it a 5-4 game just over 5 minutes in.
Then, Dave Hakstol did a thing. A thing he has been reserved to do. He pulled Brian Elliott. With the lead.
To be honest, while Hak's has been overcautious with managing goalies during his tenure and Elliott wasn't playing well, I'm not convinced that it was the right move. With the lead down to just 1 goal with Calvin Pickard coming on, it would only take one shot to beat Pickard and tie the game up.
Aaron Ekblad was the first guy to beat Pickard, but failed to redeem himself and even the score as his shot glanced off the crossbar and carommed away. Pickard should be settled in after that, no?
The problem is settled or not, an Alexsander Barkov breakaway is difficult for any goalie to stop. After Ghost couldn't get a puck through to the net, Keith Yandle sprunk the newly minted Panthers captain, who stepped around a sprawling Pickard and backhanded home the tying goal.
Flyers: Hey guys, we've got a 3-goal lead!
As any competent NHL head coach would do, Dave then actually called a timeout - seriously, a goalie pull and a timeout before it's way too late, can someone check that man for a fever?
To Hakstol's credit the latter of the two worked, as the Flyers recovered to shut down the Panthers for the remainder of regulation and avoid another heart-breaking last-minute loss like the one they suffered on Saturday. 3-on-3 provided a golden chance to win the game, as Mike Hoffman was boxed for a tripping infraction about 2 minutes in, but the power play (which looked terrific on their 1st try) was a little off this go-round, and the game went to a shootout.
I'm obviously happy with the result of the game, but I'm especially happy the 1st shootout of the year was a win so I can say this without seeming incredibly biased - the shootout is garbage and should not be a thing. 3-on-3 is far more entertaining and would almost never go past 10 minutes if it was stretched out indefinitely. Not to mention 3-on-3 has basic hockey mechanics that the shootout eliminates, such as defense, and skating backwards.
The Flyers are historically awful in shootouts, evident by their 2-7 record in shootouts last year, but got it done tonight. Jake Voracek deked around Hutchinson for the early lead in the 1st round, and after Barkov beat Pickard with another backhander to tie things up in the 2nd, Jordan Weal beat Hutchinson 5-hole to finish his hot night. Pickard stopped the Panthers hot-hand Vatrano and sealed an important 2 points for the Flyers. Anything less would have gotten them lots of booing and maybe a few crab fries thrown their way.
Correction from last game's notes - the Flyers did win a 1-0 game last year, when they beat the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 in a shootout on February 26th, which moved them to 1st place in the Metro at the time and was the final game of their 12-game point streak (10-0-2) that month. In fairness, I tried to wipe all of Petr Mrazek's starts as a Flyer from my memory in the offseason.
Sound the alarm folks, for the first time since early 2016-17, Andrew MacDonald was healthy scratched! Well, healthy in the sense he's not going on IR or anything. MacDonald's wife did have a baby last night (congratulations to them), but Hakstol said the scratch had nothing to do with that. Meanwhile, MacDonald himself said tht he may have rushed back from the injury he was supposed to miss 6 weeks from too soon. In fact he still hasn't reached the end of that 6 week timeline given when the injury was first reported just before training camp.
Replacing MacDonald in the lineup was Christian Folin and dare I say it but Folin had really good game. He was physical, smart with the puck, didn't make any glaring mistakes, and recorded a beautiful assist with an aerial breakout pass that created Simmond's second goal.
Final note of the defense - Tim Saunders and Steve Coates mentioned (off-air - I'll get to how I know that on the last point) that Hakstol had split up the Provorov-Gostisbehere pairing, which has struggled to get going this year, at the end of the 1st. However, the fact that they were back together to start the 2nd indicates to me the seperation was likely due to managing their workloads, as the Panthers and Flyers had power plays almost in immediate sucession. We'll see if anything changes on Thursday.
The last 2 times the Flyers and Panthers have gone to a shootout, Jordan Weal has had the winner.
Florida's 3rd goal was their first all season on the power play, which went 1/3 tonight. They became the 29th team this year to score on the man advantage, beating out Vegas and LA.
Travis Konecny continues to create chances, and continues to be snake-bitten, but at least he got a secondary assist on Weal's goal.
Last night was the first time March 30th, 2017, that the Flyers scored 5 or more goals in the same period. They did it in the 1st period at home against the Islanders.
The Flyers victory helmet got some new swag in the form of a P.O.G (player of game) sticker. Last night it went (surprisingly) to Scott Laughton.
This game was unlike any I have ever seen before, and it had nothing to do with how the Flyers played. My dad happens to be good friends with Tim Saunders and Steve Coates, the Flyers radio announcers, and they were kind enough to have me in the booth for last night's game. The view was absolutely incredible, but more importantly, Tim and Coatsey were extremely nice as well. It was a unique experience that I wouldn't have traded for anything else. And case you don't believe me:
1st - C. Giroux (PHI) - 2 G (0/1 in Shootout)
2nd - A. Barkov (FLA) - 1 G (1/1 in Shootout)
3rd - W. Simmonds (PHI) - 2 G
FLA - 10/19 @ WSH (2-2-1)
PHI - 10/18 @ CBJ (3-2-0)