Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 45: PHI 2, NJ 3 - Devil's in the Details
The tank Weals on.
No trade can stop my Jordan Weal puns, just like the Flyers can stop no team. On Saturday, it was the New Jersey Devils rolling past the Flyers in regulation by a 3-2 score, handing Philadelphia their 9th loss in their last 10 games.
When these two teams met for the first time this season back in October, things could not have been more different than they are now. The Devils were 4-1-0, the last team in the NHL to suffer a regulation loss. Despite a sluggish 3-4-0 start, the Flyers were still feeling good about their playoff odds. Philadelphia won 3-2 on a late-game winner from Jake Voracek and a strong performance from Brian Elliott in goal.
Since then both teams' seasons have taken a nose dive. New Jersey's lack of forward depth and the equally rapid and sudden decline of Cory Schneider have pushed them towards the basement. The Flyers are already there, likely to fall to the bottom as LA looks to close out a win against Shittsburgh at the time I'm writing this. Instead of hoping to copy their playoff births from last year, both teams can only dream for a replication of their lottery luck in 2017.
As they have for most of the season, the Flyers came out looking especially flat. In fairness, New Jersey wasn't that great either. Damon Severson scored on a one-timer from the left faceoff circle, somehow getting lost in the Flyers defensive coverage. Starter Hart played well despite the crap show in front of him, holding the Devils to 1 goal on 12 shots in the first.
A Travis Sanheim mistake cost the Flyers early in the 2nd. Sanheim tried to make a cross-ice pass in the neutral zone that was picked off by Nico Hischier, who beat Hart 5-hole on the insuing breakaway (like that's something Nolan Patrick could ever do), giving the Devils a 2-0 lead.
With the game in danger of getting out of hand, the Flyers were able to respond for once in their lives this year. JVR was frusturated after not finishing off a 2-on-0 with TK last game, saying he felt like they overpassed the puck. He made sure he wouldn't make the same mistake, taking it to the hoop himself with a good finish off a 2-on-1 with Giroux, cutting the Devils lead in half with his 3rd goal in the last 6 games.
And yet as they so often do, after working so hard to get back into the game the Flyers let it slip away. After Oskar Lindblom took a penalty late in the 2nd, Miles Wood potted a puck amidst a net-mouth scramble with Sean Couturier flat-footed, all but putting the game out of reach considering the Flyers lack of fortitude. Coots redeemed himself a bit with a late breakaway goal, but it came with just 2 seconds left, making this game look closer on the scoreboard than it actually was. The Devils snap a 3-game losing skid and the Flyers improve their lottery odds. Everybody wins!
Believe it or not, the Flyers actually have earned fewer points (4, going 1-9-0) over their last 10 games than they did during the 10-game losing streak last year (5, going 0-5-5).
This was MacKenzie Blackwood's first start since returning from a lower-body injury on January 4th, and he was up to the task, especially early. It also marks the 6th time in this 10-game skid the Flyers have faced a team's backup goalie, going 0-6-0 in those contests, compared to 1-2-1 against starters. There's evidence of that "Flyers always play worse against backups" theory.
Nothing much Starter Hart could have done today. None of the three goals were his fault, although stastically he got slapped with an underwhelming .885 SV%.
Of all the people that know what's going on with this team, one of the most informed is Jim Jackson. JJ dropped a bit of a hint during the broadcast, saying that Scott Gordon has had a large input on the PK since being promoted. Ian Lapperriere has gotten credit for it's improvment, but perhaps a better long term plan would be giving Gordon Lappy's role, since I don't think he'll be back as head coach at the rate he's going.
Speaking of the PK, good to see Oskar Lindblom getting some consistent ice time there. He had a good track record of killing penalties in the AHL and seemed like he might get the chance to do so here at the beginning of the season. It never materalized under Hak, but Gordon was the same guy giving him that shorthanded TOI in Lehigh Valley, so it's good to see him giving Lindblom the same opportunity at the NHL level.
Rough games all around for Sanheim, Ghost, and Provorov. The latter two have been particulary disappointing this season, and while Sanheim has taken some nice steps forward, today was a glaring example of his faults that kept him out of a prominent role under Hakstol.
Some clarification on the Weal deal (hey, that rhymes) - the 6th rounder is indeed for 2019. Also, can't believe I overlooked this, but the only reason the Flyers got Graves is because the Coyotes were at the max 50 contracts and would not have been able to acquire Weal for a draft pick straight up.
1st - N. Hischier (NJ) - 1 G, 1 A
2nd - M. Blackwood (NJ) - .941 SV% (32 Saves/34 Shots)
3rd - D. Severson (NJ) - 1 G
PHI - 1/14 vs. MIN (22-19-3)
NJ - 1/14 vs. CHI (16-22-9)