Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 33: NSH 1, PHI 2 - Hart-nell Up
And you thought the Hartsy-Gritty collaboration would be the best thing tonight.
The Philadelphia Flyers WIN their 2nd game of the Carter Hart/Scott Gordon era, beating the Smashville Predators and the NHL referees, 2-1, giving Flyers fans a new reason to be frusturated as hell watching their team play. Seriously, this was some of the worst officiating I've ever, and to top it all of it got someone hurt, and that someone happened to be Sean Couturier.
Philadelphia was fortunate to catch the Predators, one of the NHL's top teams, at this point in the season. Smashville is without several key players (Forsberg, Subban, Ekholm, Arvidsson), and had lost 8 straight road games going into this one. Granted, that's usually the perfect recepie for a Flyers loss, but hopefully the motivation to play well for a new coach and rookie goalie would be enough to lead the Flyers to victory.
The theme for tonight's game was honoring recently retired former Predator and Flyer Scott Hartnell. Hartsy was a little before my time as a Flyers fans, but he holds a soft spot in my heart for being the first Flyers jersey I ever owned. Hartnell was beloved in Philadelphia, his physicality, theatrics, and hilarious wipeouts known simply as "Hartnell Down" made him a fan favorite. So it was fitting this game the way Hartnell did - physical, tight-checking, with all 3 goals scored by former teammates. And oh yeah, a lot of penalty minutes.
For the second straight game, the Flyers were able to ease Carter Hart into the contest, allowing just 8 shots on goal through the first 20 minutes, most of which were non-threatening. Smashville did a good job to limit the Flyers chances too, but found themselves down 1-0 when a low-percentage-Radko-Gudas-point-shot (TM) came to Couturier, who unselfishly found Jake the Snake for a tap-in back door (although he probably could've scored himself) for his 9th of the year.
The Predators benefited from similar luck when a shot took a fortuitous bounce of Calle Jarnkrok, creating a tap-in for Nick Bonino. But the Flyers responded nicely - just a few minutes later, the Flyers stole the puck at center, created a 2-on-1, and watched Captain Claude snipe on Pekka Rinne blocker side, giving Philadelphia the lead again. At that point, the game was fairly even, but the Flyers were the better of the two teams, hoping maybe to pull away.
That's when the teams stopped playing hockey and instead played some ref-puck. The rules are simple: whenever the Flyers do something, they get a penalty. Ivan Provorov battling with someone at the side of the goal, poking him in the chest? High-sticking, and throw on a 10-minute misconduct while you're at it. An innocent clearing attempt from Radko Gudas? Would be a shame if that cleared the glass at the other end of the ice. And clearly AMac didn't learn from that "no touching someone else with your stick" rule, because he takes a phantom high-sticking penalty too, giving Smashville a 2-man advantage, Flyers fans PTSD from last October, and me a paragraph as long as the Flyers penalty sheet.
But then something crazy happened. The Flyers killed it off. They probably should've drawn a penalty or too in the process, but that "everything is a penalty" rule doesn't apply to the Predators apparently. But the stellar work of the Flyers PK, specifically Robert Hagg, along with the stud that is Carter Hart, kept the Flyers lead in tact going into the 3rd. Unfortunately, to quote Malcom Jenkins, the refs came out for the 3rd "still on the bottle."
Scott Laughton got an "elbowing" penalty for a hit that looked clean, but the Flyers killed it off. They got a makeup call out of a blueline scrum later on, but the Flyers power play, which was visually better once again, failed to take advantage. And then, the straw that broke the camel's back.
With the puck behind the Predators net, Sean Couturier went to get it, as one does, directly facing the boards. Ryan Johansen absolutely crunched Coots up against the boards, knocking him down to his knees. A clear boarding call. A borderline major. And yet, no call. This coming after Wayne Simmonds had been held and slashed on the rush to no call. But this was different. This was a dangerous hit by Johansen, the kind the NHL says they want to crack down on. Couturier had to be sent to the room by the concussion spotters as a result, but apparently it still wasn't enough to draw a call. Unbeliveable.
But at least the refs can make up for it by... calling an iffy hooking call on Michael Raffl, what the heck, seriously? And you just know the Preds are gonna score here, right? Right? Wow, they actually killed it off. The clock is winding down, the Flyers are going to avoid the collapse and beat the refs, and take down the Preda-why does Ryan Johansen have the puck all alone in the slot?
Now THAT'S karma, folks! Just minutes after getting away with a dangerous hit on Coots, Johansen catches the post with less than 2 seconds remaining in a bid to tie the game. Philadelphia survives, Carter Hart thrives, and the Flyers win consecutive games for the first time since November 5th-10th, when they won 3 straight. We all expected things to go better with Dave Hakstol gone, but a start like this? It may not be sustainable, but I'll enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Hopefully the Flyers can go into their Christmas break with a strong weekend and maybe see if Scott Gordon can maybe, just maybe, deliver a Christmas miracle to this team.
Starter Hart (shut up, it works) has now stopped 51 of the first 53 shots has taken, including some truly impressive saves in tight, and was once again named 1st star of the game Thursday. He is tied for the 7th youngest goalie to win his first 2 starts (20 years, 129 days - tied with Kari Lehtonen). So far, so good.
79 may not be a traditional number for a full-time NHL goalie, but Hart has said he's sticking with it. Apparently, he was assigned 79 his first rookie camp, and when he came back to Everett, he met an autistic Flyers fan with a #79 Hart jersey, and decided to stick with the number in his/her honor. He may be #79 on the ice, but he's #1 in all of our Harts. Truly awesome.
Is the PK turning a corner just in time to save Ian Laperriere's job? They have been well over 80% over the last 11 games, and killed off more than 2 minutes down 5-on-3. The Phantoms PK was one of the best in the AHL, so hopefully Gordon has been able to apply a few tweaks to Lappy's system to get this much maligned PK going.
The power play? Not so much turning around there. 0-4 tonight, 1 for their last 31, 0 for their last 16. Visually better, but they need to start being statistically better as well.
Tonight was emblematic of Ivan Provorov's season. On the ice for the only Smashville goal, constantly fighting the puck, and a dumb misconduct penalty for shoving the ref aside on his way to the box for a bogus high stick. 33 games in, I think we can officially say there's cause for concern.
Shayne Gostisbehere seems to have his swagger back - after the goal Tuesday, he was shooting the puck more than ever Thursday despite hitting iron twice. That is something defintive right there that could help turn around that struggling PP I mentioned.
Phil Varone was sent down Wednesday, didn't play for the Phantoms (guess they just wanted the spare body), and was ultimately called back up for tonight's game, producing a meh-game in a team-low 6:09 ice-time (second lowest - Oskar Lindblom; please don't do this to us, Scott).
For his efforts on the PK, including a team-high 5 blocked shots, Robert Hagg got the P.O.G helmet tonight.
Highly recommend you check out Elliotte Friedman's 31 thoughts article, which gives some great insight on how the Hakstol firing went down: https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/31-thoughts-happened-philadelphias-messy-hakstol-firing/ (still haven't figured out how to hyperlink)
1st - S. Hart (PHI) - .969 SV% (31 Saves/32 Shots - no, the S is not a typo)
2nd - C. Giroux (PHI) - 1 G
3rd - R. Hagg (PHI) - 5 Blocked Shots, Team High 6:14 SH TOI
NSH - 12/22 @ BOS (19-12-4)
PHI - 12/22 vs. CBJ (19-12-3)