Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 70: WSH 5, PHI 2 - Capital Punishment
The Washington Capitals are cold Harted.
For the second time in four games, the Washington Capitals come into the Wells Fargo Center and hang a five spot on the Philadelphia Flyers. This game played out closer, even though the final score was slightly more in favor of the Caps this go round, as they took down the Flyers by a 5-2 score.
First things first at this point - the playoff race. This could've been a devastating night for the Flyers playoff hopes, as they can basically lose two more times and expect to make the playoffs. However, they got some help, as Notre Dame product Anders Lee scored with less than 3 minutes left in the 3rd to hand the Islanders a 2-1 regulation win over the Canadiens. So 8-10 in the standings now look like this.
Columbus: 81 PTS, 70 GP, 38 ROW
Montreal: 81 PTS, 71 GP, 35 ROW
Philadelphia: 76 PTS, 70 GP, 32 ROW
That's not nearly as impossible had the Canadiens won and the playoff margin be pushed back to seven points. The Flyers lost the game in hand they had on Columbus, meaning Philly needs to win 3 more games down the stretch than the Jackets to have a shot at making it, and that's before accounting for overtime losses and the Canadiens performance. It's going to be improbable for the Flyers to make the playoffs. But it's not impossible. Yet.
And now for the less exciting stuff, also known as the hockey game. Jake Voracek's suspension was upheld, so the Flyers called up Justin Bailey to return to the standard 12 forwards, relegating AMac to the pressbox once again. The bigger decision was in goal, where Starter Hart returned to the crease for the first time since February 21, when he gave up 3 goals on 9 shots for the second straight game. Still, it was good to see our perfect boy back in net.
The problem was the honeymoon phase lasted for... 3 minutes. Less than that, actually. The Capitals turned a failed Shayne Gostisbehere clear into a high-danger chance in a matter of seconds. John Carlson bunted down the puck, tipping it to Michal Kempny, who found a wide open Brett Connolly down low. Hart was unable to cut down the angle in time, and Connolly stuffed home an easy first goal for the Caps.
As the period progressed, it became apparent the Flyers were off to a similar start as their game against Ottawa Monday. The Flyers weren't bad - they had some good shifts and were cycling the puck well. However, the Flyers also carried their inability to hit the net in from that game as well. The Flyers came out of that period down 1 goal, so it would make sense if they were down by more against a superior Capitals team. Sure enough, Lars Eller took advantage of another breakdown and buried his own rebound in tight on Hart for the second and final goal of the frame just before the halfway point.
The only good thing that came out of the period was a late power play drawn by the Flyers with 60 seconds left. Washington had a good chance to go up 3-0 with a short-handed bid early in the 2nd, but a great defensive play by Shayne Gostisbehere broke up the play. On the ensuing counter attack, Ghost made a smooth entry into the offensive zone and dropped the puck to JVR. Apparently the Capitals thought he was only James van Reboundsyk, but JVR introduced them to James van Snipesdyk, beating Holtby with a perfect wrister just after the Caps penalty expired. Just like that, the Flyers were within a goal.
And the Flyers came out after that goal firing on all cylinders. Not only were they creating chances, they were finally getting them on net. Braden Holtby was making some great saves, particularly two straight rebound saves on Oskar Lindblom, but it was only a matter of time for a goal. Here's Phil Myers with the puck at the blue line, and it bounces on him. And now it's a 3-on-1. And here's Brett Connolly turning into Alex Ovechkin, picking the corner of Carter Hart to restore the Caps 2-goal lead.
Things only went from bad to worse. 65 seconds later, the usually steady Carter Hart lost his net on a side of the net pass to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who centered to a wide open Tom Wilson, who deposited the puck into an equally open net. Just like that, the Capitals had a 3-goal lead, with the Flyers and Hart looking as deflated as a Tom Brady owned football. Philly finally got themselves a bounce when a Ryan Hartman shot careened right to Scotty Laughts, who buried the puck past Holtby before the end of the 2nd.
That set up the biggest period of the Flyers season, volume twelve. Alright, they killed off the end of a penalty from the second, alright. And here they come, they've gotten 3 different power plays, and they look... flat as a tire. Nothing went right. The Flyers just looked off - their passes weren't crisp, their spacing was borderline pee-wee level, and the pressure that they had been generating earlier in the game was gone. The most exciting event of the period was an Evgeny Kuznetsov empty-netter with 2:24 to go, putting the nail in the Flyers coffin.
This seems like a good time to remind everyone how unlikely the Flyers season is to go past an 82nd game. The Flyers entered Tuesday as the best team in hockey since January 28th, on the same pace as the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite not improving a ton in terms of on ice play, the Flyers have embraced a new direction, and then a throwback change in net, as well as a couple of coaching swaps to turn their fortunes around. They probably won't make the playoffs, but that doesn't mean this run hasn't been for naught. For tomorrow night against the Leafs, for the rest of the playoff run, for the offseason, and the future of this team, are, you, ready?
Starter Hart appeared to suffer from rust in his first game back. He did make some good saves, and other than the Wilson goal his positioning was as textbook as always. However, he didn't have the same mobility that he usually does. Athleticism isn't the hallmark of Hart's game, but he didn't look 100% tonight. I blame his new (I think?) pads.
Both Provy and Ghost had strong showings tonight, which has become a common occurence for both since the All Star Break. Charlie O'Connor of The Athletic just wrote a tremendous article breaking down the impact of defensive coach Rick Wilson, brought on to replace Gord Murphy after Hexy's firing but before they let go of Hak. He's helped not only those two, but Sanheim and Myers through their growing pains as well.
Even though Claude Giroux is finally back on the left boards, the power play doesn't look much better. In fact, they're on an 0-11 streak over their last 5 games. The Flyers didn't lose this game on special teams (the PK was 3/3), but they didn't take advantage of the opportunities that they were given.
You know who could've helped with that? Jake Voracek. Too bad the NHL is filled with so much inconsistentency that Voracek essentially had his suspension upheld by a coin flip. At least that's what it feels like.
Looking for some good news? Only Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Ovechkin (16 goals each) have lit the lamp more than James van Riemsdyk since January 16th. Van Riemsdyk has put up 15 goals in that span, and is on pace for just the kind of numbers that were expected of him. JVRn't you glad he's a Flyer?
A couple of interesting stats from Elliotte Friedman's latest 31 thoughts (which can be found on sportsnet.ca). 12% of games have been won by a team trailing by multiple goals this year, the highest clip in NHL history. Second, "The bottom eight teams in the standings through Dec. 31 had a combined .452 points percentage (124-154-36). From Jan. 1, those clubs went .561 (100-76-20)." The Flyers have done more than their fair share towards contributing to both of those historic statistics.
1st - B. Connolly (WSH) - 2 G, 1 A
2nd - S. Gostisbehere (PHI) - 1 A
3rd - L. Eller (WSH) - 1 G
WSH - 3/16 @ TB (54-13-4)
PHI - 3/15 @ TOR (42-23-5 - MUST WIN)