FFR2 Gm 5: PHI 3, EDM 6 - Fly or McDie
We all heard Claude Giroux's choice words to the officials at the end of the 2nd period. They may have been intended at the refs, but it's also about the best summary you could make for this game.
Despite outshooting the Oilers 52-22 (score effects, but still), the Philadelphia Flyers suffered a humbling 6-3 defeat to Edmonton, dropping all three games on their western Canada road trip.
This is a tough game to analyze. On one hand, the Flyers absolutely dominated play. Even before the game got out of hand, the Flyers were running the show. The Flyers outshot the Oilers 16-8 in the opening frame, and continued to pull away in the second.
But by that time, they were already trailing. Just 73 seconds in, a rare Oskar Lindblom mistake gave Leon Draisaitl a wide-open look that he had no plans of missing. To their credit, the Flyers bounced back with two outstanding power plays. The first attempt was spent entirely in the offensive zone, but failed to score. The second try fixed that mistake, as Jake the Snake Voracek finally got off the schneid, pouncing on a Giroux rebound to tie the game.
The Oilers took the lead late in the first when Ethan Bear jumped up on the rush, sniping on a slightly screened start to restore the Oilers lead. But again, the Flyers had every reason to feel good about themselves. This game was all Flyers. Mikko Koskinen stopped about ten A+ chances in front of the net, and watched several more missed the net. In theory, it seemed this discrepancy would correct itself shortly, giving the Flyers the onslaught of goals and the victory they were playing like they deserved.
However, when you're playing against Connor McDavid, sometimes none of that stuff matters. Because Connor Mc-I-am-the-best-player-in-the-world-David can turn a routine pop fly clearing attempt into a goal in the blink of eye (granted, Justin Braun played it as well as a 2018 Philadelphia Phillie). It was an absolute gut-wrenching goal for the Flyers. We've seen plenty of examples over the years where the Flyers have been dominating play, give up one random goal, and things snowball out of control. And that's exactly what happened Wednesday night.
By the time the second period came to an end, Carter Hart's homecoming was done (pulled after allowing 4 goals on 14 shots), Brian Elliott made a 10-bell save and then immediately allowed a goal on the rebound, and the Flyers were down 5-1. That's not a typo.
What could make this any worse?
I'm gonna friggin lose it.
By the time the dust settled, Lindblom and Voracek scored in garbage time, and the Oilers had what appeared to be a convincing win. But dig a little deeper. The Flyers outshot the Oilers by THIRTY. Not only that, but they won the Expected Goals battle 7.34-1.58. I've been reading about analytics for a couple of years, and I don't think I seen a single game xG total above 5. The Flyers absolutely kicked the Oilers around the rink for 55 minutes. But a brief lapse in focus with Connor McDavid on the ice is enough to do in just about any team.
How you feel about the Flyers right now all depends on what you take away from this loss. If you're an optimist (like I usually am), you're pleased by the outstanding performance by both Corsi and xG. The team's shooting percentage is well below league average (especially at 5-on-5), and that's due for correction sooner rather than later. Hart still has a .904 save percentage, pretty good considering the nightmare .714% he posted Wednesday. If the Flyers continue to play as well as they have so far (minus the Calgary game), odds are they're going to be a pretty good team.
But the pessimists that seem to make up the majority of the fanbase (at least on Twitter) will note that the Flyers are just 2-2-1. They've looked gassed the last two games despite playing the (tied for) 29th fewest games in the league. They haven't played a single team that made the playoffs last year. The two teams they defeated are a combined 2-6-4. They look at the standings and the box scores and think to themselves, "Same old Flyers."
It's up to the Flyers to prove those doubters wrong. Their next two games are at home against the struggling Stars and the solid Golden Knights. Two points isn't good enough. We're going to find out a lot about Alain Vigneault in this brief homestand, to see if he can keep this performance from repeating itself, something Dave Hakstol often struggled with. It will be easy to fall into their old habits and become frustrated. But that's no way for this team to fly.
That Manning goal was actually assisted by Connor McDavid. The hockey gods are both hilarious and cruel.
One bright spot from this game - Jake Voracek. After being demoted to the bottom-six against Vancouver and Calgary, Voracek was on fire all evening. He wound up with two goals and an assist and easily could've had even more. An encouraging sign from one of the few players who came into Wednesday in a bit of a slump.
Another player who came into Wednesday a bit down - Connor Bunnaman. Unfortunately, Bunnaman appears to really be struggling to adjust to the pace of the NHL (though he did draw a penalty - positive!) He just doesn't look ready, and I wouldn't be stunned to see him sent down to the Phantoms soon. And despite his great start, I doubt Joel Farabee will be the guy that replaces him (for now).
Per Dom Luszczyszyn, McDavid's 17 points in the Oilers first 7 games are the most over any 7 game stretch of his NHL career.
The Oilers 2/2 power play showing really put a dent in the Flyers penalty kill, which was been stellar going up to the night (and didn't even look that bad in giving up those goals). They were 10/11 going into the night, but couldn't contain the league's best power play (45.5%).
Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere have to be kicking themselves this morning. Both had about eighty incredible chances last night, and consistently missed the net. We've seen this plenty of times before with Ghost - it suggests his confidence is down. As for G, not so much. Something's gonna have to give there.
If the Flyers play this game 10 times, they win it 9. Remember that. Unfortunately, the standings will only remember this one - the one that got away.
1st - Connor McDavid (EDM) - You Already Know Why
2nd - Mikko Koskinen (EDM) - .942 SV% (50 Saves/52 Shots)
3rd - Leon Draisaitl (EDM) - 2 Goals, 1 Assist
PHI - 10/19 vs. DAL (1-6-1: you better win this game, Flyers!)
EDM - 10/18 vs. DET (3-3-0, which is good enough for a playoff spot)
*Analytics from Naturalstattrick.com