Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 26: CBJ 4, PHI 3 (OT) - Quicksan
Good to know the Flyers treated Chuck Fletcher to the full Flyers experience right off the bat.
The Philadelphia Flyers lose, but in overtime at least, 4-3, to the 'Lumbus Blue Jackets, as everyone called them in the 90s (it was 90s night). And in honor of that, the Flyers played most of this game like they were in the early 90s before theoretically adding Eric Lindros for the 3rd period, only to see him trucked by Scott Stevens 10 seconds after puck drop in overtime.
Yes, I know the Stevens hit was technically in 2000 but you're gonna have to work with me.
Thursday's game qualified as a lot of things. It was the Flyers first game since their impressive effort on Saturday in a 4-2 win over Shittsburgh, and final home game until December 18th, which was grounds alone to make this a big game. Add in the fact that it's against a divisonal rival (and a pretty good one at that), and that it's the first game since the hiring of Chuck Fletcher and yeah, I'd say this was pretty important.
Which gives us the perfect excuse to watch our favorite 90's show...
DAVE HAKSTOL, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
I forgot to mention the Jorald for Weal swap last game, but that combined with AMac replacing Folin for more than 1 game at a time certain qualifies. Not to mention putting Wayne Simmonds and JVR, who are basically the same person, on the same line, and demoting the effective Oskar Lindblom to a sentence worse than death - playing on a line with Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise.
But success masks all questionable decisions (or at least most of them). And it looked like Dave Hakstol's squad, led by the return of the Provy-Ghost pairing, might just be crazy enough to work. Just under 6 minutes in the game, with a 2-on-1 opportunity, Claude Giroux did something no Flyer has done since the 90s (probably) - shoot the puck! G sniped on his former teammate Sergei Bobrovsky, giving the Flyers the first goal in both meetings with Columbus thus far.
Despite the first goal, it was clear that the Flyers were NOT off to a good start, clearly reflected by the 13-6 shot discrepancy that favored the Blue Jackets after 20 minutes. It didn't take long for the Blue Jackets to tie things up - less than 70 seconds after Giroux's tally, Seth Jones threw a puck in front and ok seriously Stollie? That goes through your 5-hole an in? So much for that whole "Stolarz will be the answer this team needs in net!" narrative. Which got about as far as the Lyon and Pickard narratives.
Columbus' 2nd goal could hardily be blamed on Stolarz though. After another failed clear by the Flyers defense, Brandon Dubinsky broke through for his 1st goal in 9 games with a deflection past Stolarz, giving the Blue Jackets a justified 2-1 lead going into 1st intermission...
"Not so fast!" screams elite 1st-line center Sean Couturier, throwing a bad-angle toss off a Blue Jackets defenseman and off a scrambling Bobrovsky to tie the game 2-2, now going into 1st intermission...
"Not so fast!" equally quickly screams John Tortorella, nullifying Couturier's goal with an offsides challenge. There was never a replay of the goal shown on the jumbotron of the Wells Fargo Center, but from the brief replay I saw on Twitter, it looked pretty blatant. TK was clearly in the zone well before the puck came in - the only argument you could make for the goal to stand was that Columbus pushed the puck in the offensive zone, but the referees didn't see it that way.
The thing is though, as we've seen time and time again, you never know when this team is going to turn it on. Unfortunately, that time wasn't the 2nd period, as the Flyers got their teeth kicked in again for a second straight stanza, being outshot 12-5 and relying on Stolarz and, surprisingly, their PK, to keep them in the game.
Yet when the Blue Jackets scored 5:15 into the 3rd, it looked like the game was done. Boone Jenner's quick shot from the right circle beat Stolarz, a shot that Stollie wouldn't be 100% expected to stop, but one that the Flyers could've used. From my perch almost directly above where Jenner shot, I could see most of the crowd head to the exits. They knew the Flyers were done. And despite being down 2 goals, the Flyers play over the next 7 minutes seemed to suggest that.
And yet I knew never to count them out. Because apparently a 2-goal deficit in the 3rd period is (checks notes) TRAVIE SANHEIM'S MUSIC.
Despite his outstanding offensive talents, Sanheim's goal totals didn't seem to suggest a player as good with the puck as him. He scored just twice in the regular season last year and had not scored in over 30 games entering play tonight. Which made him the natural choice to be Thursday night's hero.
Claude Giroux of course set up Sanheim's first goal, as he had been the most active Flyer all night long. G sprung Sanheim for a mini-breakaway, and Sanheim made no mistake, beating Bobrovsky with a beautiful backhand finish.
But he wasn't done! Just 2:05 later, Travie took a cross-ice feed from Jake Voracek, closed in on Bobrovsky, and San-sniped on Bob to tie the game 3-3! The Farg, which had been pretty quiet all night, exploded in euphoria, and the Flyers sent the game to overtime!
10. Seconds. Later.
With the vaunted Couturier-Konecny-Provorov trio on the ice, the Flyers successfully completed the first step of winning games in 3-on-3 by winning the opening faceoff. Step 2 was not making a dumb pass to loss possession, and Step 3 was certainly not giving the puck right to Seth Jones in the slot to snap home a perfect shot to end the game. Whoomp, there it is: good night, good comeback, but a pathetic finish. In fairness, the 90s didn't have 3-on-3.
The fact of the matter is that tonight's game was another classic example of the rollercoaster that the Flyers are. Inconsistent goaltending, a horrid power play (0-for-3 tonight), and a lack of energy at 5-on-5. The game was horribly boring for the average fan for 50 minutes of play, and the lack of fans in attendance reflected that. Chuck Fletcher's job is to somehow find a way to fix this. And fast.
The Flyers special teams have taken two separate turns over the last few weeks. On the one hand, the penalty kill. They went 5-for-5 tonight, are 14 of their last 14, and haven't allowed a PPG against in their last 4 games. They are still 30th in the league, but they are finally "visually better." Sorry, Hexy.
The power play is a whole different story. According to Jordan Hall, the Flyers are 6 for their last 55 since October 13th, the lowest rate in the NHL since then. Wayne Simmonds replaced JVR on the top unit by the end of the game, but it didn't change much.
Sergei Bobrovsky is not playing like a goalie that wants to be paid this offseason - he entered play tonight with a .901 save%, and worsened it a .885 save% tonight. Pricing himself right into Philly, I see.
Travis Sanheim may have had his first career 2 goal game and been responsible for the Flyers comeback, but it didn't do much for his ice-time - just 12:06, the lowest of any Flyers defenseman by far. He's a top-4 defenseman whether you want to admit it or not, Dave.
Speaking of ice-time, really disappointed Oskar Lindblom hasn't been receiving more playing time and better linemates. Yes, he's on the 2nd PP unit now, but Lindblom is an effective play-driver and someone who should be given top-9 minutes every night, not stashed on the 4th line with Jorald and Dale. Please flip him with Raffl, Dave.
James van Riemsdyk is on pace for about 6 goals this year, and even with the injury, that is concerning to say the least. He just hasn't found his stride yet, even though he's several weeks removed from his injury. Hopefully he hits it soon - for his sake and the team's.
I try not to complain about this too often, but I thought the refeering was awful. Columbus had 5 power plays to 3, which is fine in theory. But most of the Flyers penalties were ticky-tack calls and the refs missed several blatant penalties on Columbus, notably several cross checks on a Flyer in front of the net in the 2nd and an interference penalty on Dale Weise late in the 3rd. Not to mention a stuff play by Konecny that looked like it crossed the line early in the 3rd didn't even garner an announcement to the crowd as to why it was no goal, when the replays made it look pretty darn close.
I am now a lifetime 9-5-3 at Flyers games, and have gotten at least a point in 3 of the last 4 games I have gone to (all of which have been decided by one goal). Not too shabby.
1st - S. Jones (CBJ) - 2 G (GWG), Game-High 27:23 TOI
2nd - T. Sanheim (PHI) - 2 G
3rd - B. Dubinsky (CBJ) - 1 G, 1 A
CBJ - 12/8 vs. WSH (16-9-3)
PHI - 12/8 @ BUF (17-8-4)