Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 28: PHI 1, WPG 7 - Goal Home
You know it's a bad day when the Flyers lose by the same amount as the Eagles.
The Philadelphia Flyers prove my last title to be spot in, losing in epic fashion, 7-1, to the for the Win-nipeg Jets, once again wasting another chance to finally get going in a season that has seen the Flyers stuck in quicksand.
Granted, Sunday's contest would not have been an easy contest for any team to win. First of all, the Jets are a good team, coming in #6 on my monthly power rankings Sunday with a 17-9-2 record entering play. The Flyers were on the second half of a back-to-back, while the Jets were well rested. Add in the fact that Dave Hakstol wisely didn't force Anthony Stolarz to start both halves of the back-to-back, opting for Michal Neuvirth to make his first apperance since October 27th, and yeah, the Flyers didn't have a great shot on paper in this one.
The Flyers did everything they could early on to change that. An early power play seemed to set a pro-Flyer tone, as the Flyers struggling man advantage pumped 6 shots on goal, most of them very dangerous. Unfortunately, it set the tone in a different way - struggling special teams and Connor Hellebuyck standing on his head.
But it was goaltending that took the wind out of the Flyers sails in this contest. Philadelphia's goaltending has been subpar, but rarely has it cost the Flyers in a game where they were otherwise playing very well. Kyle Connor and Josh Morrissey recorded 2 tallies less than 3 minutes apart on shots that Michal Neuvirth simply needed to stop. Connor may have a good shot and Morrissey's shot may have been through a bit of traffic and on the power play, but with the team starting so well, they needed their goalie to help them out by not allowing a gut puncher. He did just that, and not once, but twice.
The game was not over yet, of course, because you never know when the Flyers will decide to start scoring. They were able to flip that switch with just under 3 minutes left to go in the frame, looking like they had brought the same script from Buffalo with them up north. Jake Voracek deflected in shot from the red-hot (and recently promoted!) Travis Sanheim to cut the Jets lead in half at the end of one. Philadelphia was still playing well, they just needed their goalie not to put them out of the game.
They didn't get that. Instead, Neuvirth dropped a routine glove save on a far-out, unscreened Morrissey shot that Brandon Tanev poked home with ease. To his credit, Dave Hakstol made the absolutely right call, pulling Neuvirth right then and there with his team still in the game, hoping for the usual boost of energy a goalie pull provides.
Instead, it had the effect of sapping the Flyers energy. Philadelphia was outshooting Winnipeg 24-10 when the Tanev goal went in, only to be outshot 25-13 the rest of the way, including 15-3 the rest of the 2nd. Special teams once again fell apart, as Byfuglien and Little PP tallies were separated only by a short-handed goal by Blake Wheeler. Tyler Myers added another one mid-way through the 3rd, but by then the rout was on. Once again, Dave Hakstol failed to get his team to show up for a full 60 minutes, and the result was another embarassing loss. He likely has until the end of the road trip to show some serious progress in this (and other) regards, or else he could very likely be shown the door. By then, Chuck Fletcher should have enough time to properly evaluate Hak and realize the team is going nowhere fast under his reign. If you thought the change was ending, you are wrong - it has only just begun.
To put the Flyers inconsistency in numbers, today (Monday) marks the one month anniversary of the last time they won consecutive games. They have also only won multiple games in regulation in a row once (10/30 @ Anaheim, 11/1 @ LA).
While the Flyers have been inconsistent, they've been fairly stable at getting blown out. They have now lost 4 of 28 games (about 14% of their season) by 5+ goals. They had lost by 5+ the same amount of times from December 2013 to the beginning of this year.
Just in case you thought the PK was fixed, not only did their 15 straight kill streak end, they gave up 3 power play goals on 6 attempts.
The time to keep Michal Neuvirth in the plans for the NHL roster has ended. He cannot stay healthy, and in the 4.5ish periods he has played in this year, he has given up 9 goals. Once Elliott is healthy, expect Stolarz to become the permanent backup and Neuvirth to be traded, or more likely, waived.
Like Saturday, hopefully this game served as a wake up for a middling player the Flyers need to get going - Nolan Patrick. In front of friends and family in his home town, Patrick recorded his first point in 10 games with a secondary assist on Voracek's goal. Hopefully he can look more like 2nd-half 2017-18 Nolan Patrick, and fast.
No long droughts broken for Winnipeg in this one (that I know of), but Kyle Connor did score a birthday goal, so there's that.
Hak's lineup choices in this game can be described as the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good: finally giving Travis Sanheim top-4 minutes on a pair with Ghost. The bad: putting AMac on the top pair with Provy as a result. The ugly: starting Neuvirth, although that is more based on Neuvirth's play and not the logic behind the move.
Phil Varone also made his Flyers debut in place of Jordan Weal, but was largely invisible in 9:26 TOI, a lot compared to that of other mid-season callups this year (Nicholas Aube-Kubel, Tyrell Goulbourne).
The Phantoms clearly missed Varone's offense, scoring just 1 goal in their first game after he was promoted. The good news: it was the only goal of the game, as Carter Hart recorded his first career pro shutout, stopping 26 of 26 Hershey Bears shots thrown his way (Washington's AHL affiliate). Please hurry up, Carter. You're our only hope.
1st - C. Hellebuyck (WPG) - .973 SV% (36 Saves/37 Shots)
2nd - J. Morrissey (WPG) - 1 G, 2 A
3rd - M. Scheifele (WPG) - 3 A
PHI - 12/12 @ CGY (19-10-2)
CGY - 12/11 vs. CBJ (16-11-2)