Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 24: OTT 4, PHI 3 - Tka-suck
Firing your GM does a lot of things. It tells your fans the current state of the team is unacceptable. It raises questions about your future. It creates a sense of urgency for players and coaches alike to perform better, or else they could be the next ones to go.
Unfortunately, it can't make the players actually play any better. Thus is the problem for the Philadelphia Flyers, who blew a 3-1 lead with less than half a period to play on Thursday, falling 4-3, in regulation, at that, to the Ottawa Senators. They are 10-12-2. Dead last in the Eastern Conference.
For 40 minutes, the Flyers looked anything but, though. And that's what makes it frusturating. No one expected the lack of on-ice consistency to be solved overnight with the firing of Hextall. But to see it prominently on display like it was Tuesday night? The hockey gods are crueler than we thought.
The Flyers came out with an extra boost on energy to start this game, which was expected but certaintly still appreciated. The results showed up early, not just in the hits column but on the scoreboard - Claude Giroux niftily settled down a bouncing back, dragged it around the back-checking Senator, and found TK for a quick one-timer that deflected off Chris Tierney and past Mike McKenna to give the Flyers the early lead, which, when they've had it, usually means good things for the Flyers.
Unfortunately, it didn't last long. Just a few minutes later, Thomas Chabot snapped a shot off that similarily deflected off an opposing player and in, hitting #23 Brandon Mann-sorry, muscle memory, Oskar Lindblom, to tie the game 1-1.
Despite the deflating nautre of that tally, Philadelphia came back strong in the rest of the first, outshooting the Senators 11-6 in the opening stanza.
Their efforts finally bore fruit early in the 2nd. As the man on a delayed penalty, Jakub Voracek was able to find a hole in the Senators coverage (which is usually about as much of a mess as the Flyers), and take a beautiful feed from Ivan Provorov to restore the Flyers lead. Less than 3 minutes later, a Radko Gudas blast found its way through traffic and past McKenna, giving the Flyers a 2-goal lead.
For the rest of the 2nd, Philadelphia kept up their tenacious approach, generating plenty of chances on McKenna, outshooting Ottawa 16-9 and getting 9 of the first 10 shots of the 3rd. Things were looking good, and it seemed almost certain the Flyers would take 2 points out of this one.
But somewhere along the way, the dam burst. The Flyers fell back into their passive habits, and the Senators started to find their stride. And who else but newly-formed Flyer killer Brady Tkachuk to single-handedly get the Sens back in the game? Tkachuk, whose first 2 NHL goals came against the Flyers back in October, scored one of the weirder tallies of the year when the puck got stuck on Anthony Stolarz's pad, then dropped to the ice when Stollie moved (not knowing where the puck was), and Tkachuk slammed it home. Fine, but it's still 3-2, right? They're not gonna blow this, right?
Oh, but they are. Tkachuk found his way behind the Flyers defense and was able to deflect in a Thomas Chabot shot to tie the game for his 9th goal in just 14 games. Unbelievable.
And yet the Flyers still weren't done. Matt Duchene was able to knock down a Sanheim break out in the neutral zone and skate back in pretty much uncontested. Thankfully his weak backhander was blocked and - oh my gosh, did he just do that?
Duchene, on his backhand, channeled his inner Sidney Crosby and knocked the puck past a stunned Stolarz clean out of mid-air. 4-3 Ottawa. No, I'm not joking. You can't make this stuff up.
Of course the Flyers didn't come back and tie it, because the only teams who do that are the ones playing against the Flyers, and therefore Philadelphia loses after being outshot 8-1 over the final 13ish minutes.
This had all the makings of a classic Flyers choke. The lack of a big save, the passiveness in the final minutes, the goals against in bunches, Dave Hakstol trying something that works (bringing back Provorov-Gostisbehere) all of it, with a Flyer-killer in Tkachuk right at the center of it.
The fact of the matter is that firing the GM was going to do little to change the short-term on-ice product. Things will only change once a new GM is brought in, and with him he brings new philosophies, likely new coaches, and maybe even a big trade. All of the Flyers flaws were on full display in this game. So were their strenghts, but as they have all season, the Flyers just found a way to lose. The roller coaster keeps on churning.
If there was any doubt that Dave Hakstol was a dead-man walking going into tonight, it's gone now. Paul Holmgren said he'd let the new GM decide Hakstol's fate, but it feels like the writing is on the wall. It's not a matter of if Hak (and some of the assistants, notably Lappy) go, it's when.
In fairness to Lappy, the PK was a perfect 3-for-3 and looked as aggressive as, probably generating more scoring chances than the Sens power play in this one.
The PK got a pretty big boost in the return of Michael Raffl (although he received just 0:51 shorthanded TOI), who was one of the Flyers best PKers early on before getting hurt. This was his first game since 10/22 vs. Colorado.
Andrew MacDonald also drew back into the lineup in place of Christian Folin. He looked ok, I guess. Lot of those low percentage point shots that every Flyers bottom-pair caliber defenseman love to
Brady Tkachuk has 2 career 2-goal games and 2 career 3-point games. Guess which team he has done them against?
Dale Weise got into a fight against Ben Harpur, the Flyers 3rd scrap in their last 4 games. Who said the Flyers don't know how to play old-time hockey anymore?
The Senators were just 1-10-0 this year coming into play tonight when trailing after 40, and entered the game on a 4-game losing skid, which only makes this loss hurt more.
Don't let the stats fool you - this wasn't Anthony Stolarz's fault. The first goal was a deflection off his own man, the second a weird one where his defensemen didn't communicate, the third another tip, and the fourth was just the will of the hockey gods. I honestly don't know what else to say. I feel bad for Stollie, who did all he could in mop-up duty Saturday and looked pretty good through the first 50 minutes, but I guess the latter sentiment goes for pretty much the whole team.
The top line of Giroux-Couturier-Konecny was dancing - they got the scoring started and continued to generate quality chances all night. Giroux and Couturier were dynamic on the PK, creating several short-handed chances (one set up by a perfect stretch pass from Stolarz).
If there's one offensive criticism I have for the Flyers - shoot the puck! The Flyers had plenty of odd-man rushes in this game, and many times tried to force a pass that either wasn't there at all or was made painfully obvious (looking at you, Sanheim and Coots).
Wondering if there was an off-ice reason for the Hextall firing? Just look at all the empty seats. Philadelphia is losing interest in this team fast, and it's going to take a major shake-up to avoid damage that might not be repairable. Things have truly taken a turn for the worst.
1st - B. Tkachuk (OTT) - 2 G, 1 A
2nd - M. Duchene (OTT) - 1 G
3rd - C. Giroux (PHI) - 1 A
OTT - 11/29 vs. NYR (13-10-2)
PHI - 12/1 @ PIT (9-8-5)