FFR2 Gm 6: DAL 4, PHI 1 - The Fault Of Our Stars
It's just cruel at this point.
Over their last two games, the Flyers have outshot their opposition 91-38. Tonight, they allowed just five shots on goal in the final 40 minutes of regulation, including just one in the second period. And yet, when the buzzer sounded, the Flyers massive new scoreboard showed another three goal loss, this time to the struggling Dallas Stars.
Granted, this wasn't quite as dominate a performance as Wednesday night. The Flyers posted a 59.52 Corsi For% and a 56.85 xG%. But that was largely driven by score effects, as the Flyers were actually outplayed in both Corsi and xG in the first period, the only frame they did not trail for the entirety of. Score effects played a role on Wednesday as well - after all, the Flyers trailed for the final 45 minutes of that game. But that doesn't fully explain a spectacular 64.71% Corsi For and jaw-dropping 77.55% xG. That was outright domination, just without the result the Flyers wanted.
By my eyes (and most of Flyers Twitter's, too), the Flyers didn't play an amazing game Saturday night. They just looked lethargic, simply going through the motions. It's a crying shame they couldn't build on Sean Couturier's tic-tac-goal 43 seconds in, especially because Oskar Lindblom drew a penalty 2 seconds later. That was the Flyers chance to jump on the throat of a Stars team that has failed to meet expectations early on, and was coming off another tough loss in Pittsburgh Friday night.
But they didn't. And then Roope Hintz, pretty much the only Star who's been playing well this season, danced around Matt Niskanen in close and beat Hart on his own rebound to tie the game. Later in the frame, with Travis Sanheim in the box, Dennis Gurianov (who was all over the place in this game), hit Esa Lindell in the slot for a perfect tip past Hart, giving the Stars a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
It didn't really seem to matter that the Stars basically never had the puck the rest of the game. Their defense actually looked very good, as they kept the Flyers out of the high-danger areas for the vast majority of the game. Philadelphia also did a poor job of creating chaos around Ben Bishop. Each shot felt like its own individual event - the Flyers were hardly ever able to string a sequence of multiple chances, or even shots, together. It was an entry, cycle, perimeter shot, cycle, board battle, shot with no traffic, clear pattern that was on loop for most of the game.
Also unable to do any damage was the Flyers power play. Despite getting four man advantages in the game (one of which was only 51 seconds), the Flyers were again unable to put much pressure on Bishop or the Stars penalty killers. Poor zone entries were the culprit here - multiple breakout passes were incomplete, dekes at the blue line broken up, races on dump-ins lost. Unless you're winning the opening face-off consistently (and even if you are), a good power play needs to have at least one of these going for them to succeed. I think you guess how many of them were working for the Flyers Saturday night.
Even Carter Hart, one of the most reliable Flyers from December on last year, struggled for the second consecutive game. Granted, it's hard for any goalie to put up great numbers when you're only facing 15 shots - there's hardily any margin for error. But Hart just didn't look to be on his A-game Saturday. He only gave up 2 goals, but was helped by the post twice and looked like a 21-year old for a change, as his usual poise and stellar technique were frequently absent. The Flyers really needed a save on Corey Perry's backhander early in the 3rd, a stoppable shot that would be Dallas' only shot on goal for the first eighteen minutes of the period. This time, Hart couldn't give them that.
It's only been 6 games, but it already feels like the Flyers season is at a crossroads. The Flyers are analytical darlings so far - coming into tonight, they led the NHL in expected goals for AND against per game. And yet they end it at 2-3-1, back in the same basement they occupied from Christmas to MLK Day last season.
The transition from one coach to another, even with the benefit of training camp, is rarely seamless. This is only the 2nd of the Flyers first 6 games played in the Eastern Time Zone, let alone in Philadelphia. Their best players are generating a ton of chances, and are due to start scoring eventually. Many of the Flyers reasons for their early struggles are fixable. That's the good news.
The bad news? We said the same thing last year about the defense, and the goaltending, and the power play, and look how that turned out. The boos that the fans propelled down to the rink Saturday night shows that patience is already running thin. A slow start turns into a lost season awfully quick in the NHL, the league where about four of the fifteen teams not in a playoff spot by Thanksgiving will end the season in one. A long winter is a lot easier to have than a short summer, and if you don't give everything to try to fly, you most certainly will die.
So yeah, I'm concerned. And a little bit nervous. Experience has taught me that. It would be a lot easier to understand the last four games if the first two hadn't been such uplifting victories. The last word there is the key difference maker. It's time for these players, coaches, and front office to go all-in, to earn the results they seek, to go all-in. No one wants to be stuck in limbo, failing to make a mark during a perceived championship window before fading into inevitable irrelevance. The Wild can tell you that first hand. and the Flyers aren't as far away from joining them as you might think.
It's not time to panic. But it's time to get going. Times may be a little tough, but that's when those who fly shine the brightest. Pick a side, Flyers, while you still have the chance. One will be cheered, the other will be cursed. The latter is the easy way out, but the former is what you want. Soon, this fanbase needs to see a sign. Fly. Or. Die.
This is the first time the Flyers have lost four straight games in October since the 2014-15 season.
Hart's .800 save percentage in this game is the second lowest in a start he has finished in his career. Only a .787 save percentage in his 3rd career start against Columbus was worse.
I don't why, but I really feel like Shayne Gostisbehere's confidence is shot right now. He has no points this season, and misfiring on routine passes and missing the net a ton have become standard for Ghost. And now he's been taken off the top power play unit for Ivan Provorov. Something has to give here. Hopefully, he gets more time away from Robert Hagg, who he's struggled playing alongside of by analytics.
Corey Perry recorded his first goal as a Star tonight, but in addition to the tally, also had two assists. It's his first three point game since February 25th, 2018 against Edmonton (3 assists).
The Flyers better win Monday. They need to in the worst way, especially since four of their next five games after are away from the Wells Fargo Center.
1st - Corey Perry (DAL) - 1 Goal, 2 Assists
2nd - Roope Hintz (DAL) - Highlight Reel Goal, 59.93 xG%
3rd - Ben Bishop (DAL) - .974 SV% (38 SV/39 SA), 1 GA on 1.4 xGA
DAL (They're due for a winning streak) - 10/21 vs. OTT (1-5-1, L1)
PHI - 10/21 vs. VGK (6-3-0, W2)
*Advanced Stats from Naturalstattrick.com