Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 77: TOR 4, PHI 5 (SO) - Puck Don't Lie
Can we get four points for that game - two for the Sanheim OT "winner" and then two more for the shootout win? Just to make things a little more interesting?
No? Ah, well, the Philadelphia Flyers still win, 5-4, shootout style, over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Facing official elimination from the playoffs with a regulation loss tonight, the Flyers prevailed in a track meet to keep their unrealistic playoff dreams alive.
The Flyers margin for error is almost at the minimum. Philadelphia's tragic number is two, meaning any combination of points lost by the Flyers and points gained by Columbus or Montreal eliminates the Flyers for good. That could've happened as soon as Thursday night, but a Canadiens loss to Columbus kept the dream alive. Technically, the Flyers could still make the playoffs if one of those teams loses out and Carolina doesn't get a point the rest of the way. But I wouldn't bank on it.
However, the good news is that the Flyers actually started on time. They played a fairly even, highly contested, and fast-paced first period. Which, knowing the Flyers, means that they came out losing. First, Andreas Johnsson went to work on Corban Knight, fending him off below the goal line and spun the puck backdoor to Connor Brown for the opening tally. Then, Sean Couturier made his second ugly turnover in his own zone, and Nazem Kadri snuck a one-timer past Hart to make it 2-0.
But, the Flyers did not welt. Travis Konecny capped off an excellent neutral zone passing play with a short side snipe to beat Frederik Andersen. Then, Radko Gudas flipped a shot on net from the point that... went into the net, sure, why not? In fairness, there was a heavy screen in front set up by Ryan Hartman. But that's a shot we've seen Gudas take at least a million times, and it's about the fourth time it's gone in. Second goal in as many games against the Leafs for Radko, and suddenly the game was tied.
And yet the Flyers still weren't done! Travie Sanheim showed off his great offensive instincts, throwing a low-shot that may have been a pass towards the front of the net that was tipped in by elite 1st line center Sean Couturier, a career-high 32nd goal. Bang, bang, bang, and the Flyers came out of the 2nd period with momentum on the score on their side.
It didn't take long for the Leafs to respond. Less than 2 minutes into the 3rd, noted good hockey Auston Matthews threw a shot on net that Hart stopped. Unfortunately, Matthews decided to use his telekinetic powers, which is the only way the puck could get back onto his stick as quickly as it did. The second shot was absolutely perfect, bar down on Starter Hart, and the Leafs tied the game 3-3.
While the Maple Leafs have layers of scoring depth, their defense, despite acquiring Jake Muzzin, is still suspect. Granted, they're without two of their better defenseman in Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott. But the Flyers took advantage of the Leafs poor defense when Corban Knight made up for his earlier mistake by knocking the puck lose on the forecheck. Newly extended Michael Raffl centered the puck to Ryan Hartman for a one-timer that went past Andersen in the blink of an eye. Hartman's second goal as a Flyer, and Philly went back ahead 4-3.
Man, good thing the Flyers could never have a breakdown like that. Anyway, there's about 8 minutes left and the lead is still in tact as Shayne Gostisbehere goes to make a breakout pa-oh my gosh, what in tarnation was that, Shayne?
Ghost tries to make a slick pass through the middle of the ice that gets picked up by Auston Matthews and fired home by William Nylander from the slot. Takes one defensive breakdown to know one, and the Flyers certainly know what that looks like over the years. And so we start again.
Nylander's goal seemed to give the Leafs an extra pep in their step, as Toronto outplayed the Flyers in the final minutes. Travis Sanheim took a hooking penalty with exactly two minutes left, putting the Leafs lethal PP back on the ice. Knowing a regulation loss would eliminate, this literally was a season saving penalty kill. Ian Laperriere's once maligned unit came through in the clutch, as they have so often in this last two months, and sent the game to overtime.
After the Leafs picked up where they left off during the first two minutes, the Flyers got the puck back. Ex-Leaf JVR turned a nothing play into a net-mouth scramble, and TRAVIE SANHEIM banged home the OT winner! Andersen never had the puck covered, and though he and the Leafs defense gave it there all to find, Travie Sanheim got there first.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE REF BLEW THE WHISTLE?
The "intent to blow" rule has to be the dumbest rule in the NHL. In football, you have "clear recovery," where a play that isn't called a fumble can be overturned if everyone keeps trying. That makes sense. In the NHL? No, we can't have LOGIC. It's not the first time it's cost a team (remember the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals?), and it won't be the last. There's nothing dumber in the NHL rule book.
Well, maybe shootouts. Which is where this game went. Time to essentially toss a coin in "hockey," minus the aspect of defense! And passing!
PHI: Giroux goes for that shifty fake left, drag the puck right Datysukian move he pulled off last year in Ottawa, but Andersen stops him
TOR: The Leafs have so many stars they can send out. John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Morgan Reilly, William Nylander. So naturally, Tyler Ennis takes the first shot. A slapshot to be specific, which Carter Hart snatches with ease.
PHI: Jake Voracek is up, which means I already know he's going to come in on the right wing. Sure enough, he does, but fails to pick the top corner glove side on Andersen.
TOR: Mitch Marner, having either fallen asleep or been busy playing Fortnite during Ennis' attempt, also tries a shot. And is also stopped.
PHI: Nolan Patrick, who has two of the four shootout winners for the Flyers in the last two years, fails to make it three by sending a wrister high.
TOR: Auston Matthews decides to learn from his teammates mistakes and actually makes a deke. Unfortunately, he didn't learn that there is simply no way Carter Hart was going to beat. Extra rounds, yay.
PHI: It would be so sweet if JVR could score here. Hat trick last time against Toronto, and now a shootout winner? Too bad his backhander was read all the way by Andersen/
TOR: John Tavares, who the Leafs gave a 7-year, $77 million deal to last summer is up. For all that money he'd better give us something HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Someone apparently lowered John's NHL 19 deking rating, causing the puck to slide off his stick before he even reached the circle. I haven't seen Isles fans this giddy since 1983.
PHI: Hey, a goal! And for the Flyers! Sean Couturier undressed Andersen with a beautiful backhand-forehand move, and the Flyers take the lead.
TOR: The NBC Philly broadcast literally cuts in with Nylander already halfway down the ice. He tries to go to his backhand, but STARTER HART says no. Carter Hart goes 5-5 in his first shootout, capped off with a Brian Boucher-like celly, and the Flyers beat the Leafs for the first time all season.
Perhaps the biggest factor (other than goaltending) of the Flyers late push has been special teams. The Flyers PK, once lower than Ottawa at the time of that Uber fiasco, is now on a 33/35 streak after going 2/2 tonight.
In fact, the Flyers penalty kill is 84.6% under Scott Gordon entering Wednesday. Only three teams in the NHL have a better penalty kill over the course of the whole season.
The Flyers themselves have also been victimized by the intent to blow rule recently. In February, Nolan Patrick had a goal wiped off that would've pulled the Flyers to within one of the Penguins in the 2nd period all because the referee thought Murray had the puck caught in his glove. In reality, in popped out. Seriously, this isn't that hard of a fix. Which means knowing the NHL, it will probably take another lockout to do anything about it.
Couple of slump-busters tonight - Nazem Kadri breaks a 12-game goalless drought for the Leafs, while TK snaps a 8-game slump for the good guys.
Wednesday was Jake Voracek's 600th game as a Flyer, making him the 20th player in franchise history to do so.
Going into Wednesday night, Sean Couturier would've been an unlikely shootout hero to say the least. He was just 4/22 (18%) in his career in the shootout before that dazzling goal the other night.
This was actually the first shootout of the season for the Maple Leafs, making them the last team in the NHL to reach the shootout this year. In fact, no team has played an entire season without going to a shootout since the format was installed back in the 2005-06 season. Lucky them.
1st - S. Couturier (PHI) - 1 G
2nd - S. Laughton (PHI) - 2 A
3rd - C. Brown (TOR) - 1 G, 1 A
TOR - 3/30 @ OTT (27-44-6 with no first round pick lol)
PHI - 3/30 @ CAR (42-28-7-wow, when did the Canes get so good)