FFR2 Gm 13: TOR 4, PHI 3 (SO) - There's Scores and There's Not Exactly
The Flyers went 15 seconds with the Leafs power play and 11 rounds with Frederik Andersen, but still ended up getting knocked out in the end.
For the second straight night, the Flyers went all the way to the shootout (*yells "crapshoot!" from the upper deck*), but returned to their old habits on Saturday night in a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
All things considered, the Flyers played about as well as they could have. Even with some notable injuries (no Tavares, Muzzin, or Hyman), the Maple Leafs remain a good team on paper, though perhaps nearing a crossroads with Mike Babcock in reality. The Flyers had played a 65 plus minute game the night before; Toronto hadn't played since Tuesday. Frederik Andersen vs. Brian Elliott is a mismatch on paper. And yet, the Flyers outshot Toronto 40-26 and were tied after 10 rounds in the shootout. They just wound up on the wrong side of the puck's bounces. It happens.
Of course, even in obtaining a relatively normal result, the Flyers took just about the weirdest way to get there. Most teams on the second half of a back-to-back start strong, then get worse as the game progresses and their fatigue amplifies. Not the Flyers, who only had 1 shot during the first 13 minutes, and found themselves down 1-0 when Travis Sanheim blew a tire (again) and Kasperi Kapanen blew by him to the net, beating Brian Elliott bar-down. But a too many men penalty on the Leafs gave the Flyers life, and Ivan Provorov's point shot tipped off Morgan Rielly and in, suddenly giving the Flyers life.
Philadelphia took full advantage that they were in the game after a poor opening 20 minutes and came out swinging in the second. They've been consistently dominate in the 2nd throughout the season, and Saturday was no exception. Their task was made much easier than Toronto's lack of discipline; they took three penalties in the first half of the second period. Yesterday, I noted that the Flyers top unit was struggling and needed to make a change. Sure enough, Claude Giroux was moved back to the left side, and in a rare occurrence, proved me and all of Twitter right. G deked around the Leafs defense and cheekily tucked the puck through Freddie's 5-hole, giving the Flyers their first lead of the night!
It really felt like the Flyers were about to pull away from the Leafs, but Freddie Andersen kept Toronto in the game. The tide turned late in the second, when Jason Spezza jammed home a loose puck at the side of the net, with Travis Sanheim unable to clear the puck out of harm's way. The Leafs even threatened to retake the lead, drawing a penalty late, but were unable to light the lamp before the horn sounded.
The game was completely up for grabs going into the 3rd period, looking for someone to seize control. Just 32 seconds into the frame, Travis Sanheim flipped a shot from the right boards that doinked off Andersen's blocker to the left side of the net. Sanheim skated to his own rebound at the speed of light, actually didn't fall down for the first time since 2017, and... cue the revenge music, baby! Sanheim turned his recent poor play around, finding twine for the first all year to restore the Flyers lead.
But the problem with facing Toronto is that even when they look like they're struggling, it only takes one bobble to send one of their stars off to the races. Sure enough, with the ice opened up at 4-on-4, TK turned the puck over in the neutral zone to Mitch Marner, who was without a goal in his last 7 games and who am I kidding you knew it was in the second you saw that stat. Marner burned Niskanen with his speed and beat Elliott with a wrap-around, tying the game 3-3.
To their credit, the Flyers bounced back and dominated the rest of the third. They probably should have won this game at some point before the shootout. Konecny and van Riemsdyk missed the net on wide open looks from the slot late in the 3rd. The Flyers earned a 4-on-3 power play in OT, yet Andersen stopped all three of their shots. Even in in the shootout, the Flyers took the lead in round 8 on Travis Konecny's first goal in 9 shootout attempts.
But Jason Spezza deked out Elliott to the game going, and Toronto, as all good teams do when you leave them in the game for too long, kicked the door in. It may not have been as impressive as his Ron Hextall firing hatty last year, but Andreas Johnsson beat Elliott with a wrist shot in round eleven of the shootout, clinching a Maple Leafs win.
This is one of the few losses where most of the fanbase will shrug instead of scream. The result isn't ideal, but it's better than you'd expect considering the circumstances. The Flyers played another strong game, enhancing their already strong analytics. According to Natural Stat Trick, they lead the NHL in Corsi For% and are 11th in xG%. They will only get stronger as the games go on. The Flyers pushed back from two embarrassing defeats to begin the week with two commendable efforts and three points to end it. Slowly but surely, they are finally beginning to fly.
Saturday was the Flyers first loss when tied at the end of the 1st this season (they were 6-0-0) and ever against Toronto in the shootout (they were 2-0). It's about their nineteenth this year when outshooting the opposition (at least that's what it feels like).
It would have been better to announce this Friday night to remove any accusations of bias, but the shootout remains a bad way to decide hockey games. Please extend 3-on-3 to 10 minutes asap, Gary.
I will say that each of the last two shootouts have actually been kinda fun. By my and the Flyers broadcast's count, 6 different players took their first career shot in that wild back-and-forth. It sure didn't look like both goalies were playing in their first shootout of the season.
It's actually a shame that Chris Stewart didn't dress for tonight. He may not bring much to the table in terms of production, but he's actually a beast in the shootout, to the tune of a 44.4% career success rate. And though he wasn't in the NHL last year, he's kind of a hot hand, scoring on 6 of his last 7 attempts.
The Flyers have now scored two power play goals in five games this season, making their man advantage is a dominant 9/26 (34.6%) at home, second in the NHL behind only Boston (38.7%).
In fact, the Flyers power play looked stupid good Saturday. There's gotta be a reason. Maybe it's the Leafs penalty kill coach? This guy named Dave Haks... oh my gosh. I'm so sorry, Toronto. No wonder you're taking so many shots from the point this year. Pray that Sheldon Keffe takes over when Babcock is inevitably fired.
I, for one, am stunned that Dave Hakstol didn't get a video tribute in his homecoming Saturday night. Or have bracelets thrown at him from the 200 level. Either one would have been a fitting commemoration of his Flyers career (in all seriousness, good luck to Hak going forward).
It may only be game thirteen, but we already have someone with a new career high! Ivan Provorov scored his 6th power play point of the season on Giroux's goal. You can thank the renaissance of the Flyers second PP unit for that.
One positive early on this season: the Flyers have been much better at home. They won just 19 games at the Wells Fargo Center last year after starting 2-4-0, their lowest total since the nightmare 2006-07 season. This season, they're 3-1-1 in Philly (technically 4-1-1 at home because of the Prague game).
While I said it feels like the second period has been the Flyers best this season, they've been great in the 3rd as well, scoring 19 goals, tied for third in the NHL.
Looking to the minors, Morgan Frost has fully adapted to the AHL and is already beginning to dominate. He scored on a deflection Saturday night in the Phantoms 3-2 victory over Bridgeport, his 3rd goal of the season and SIXTH straight game with a point. With Laughton and Patrick out, perhaps there's a chance Frost's first taste of the NHL comes sooner than expected.
Update on the POG helmet standings - it was Lindblom that got the helmet last night, so he'll be added to the list along with JVR (not Hayes, who I added by mistake yesterday), Elliott, Hart, TK, and Raffl.
Last season, I put out monthly power rankings on the first Sunday of every month. They will return this season, but they're being pushed back because of my college visits. Expect them to probably come out in the middle of next week.
1st - Claude Giroux (PHI) - 1 Beautiful Goal, 1 Ordinary Assist
2nd - Ivan Provorov (PHI) - 2 Assists, Team-High 28:06 TOI
3rd - Jason Spezza (TOR) - 1 Actual Goal, SO Goal, 1 Assist - Not bad for a senior citizen!
TOR - 11/5 vs. LA (4-9-0)
PHI - 11/5 vs. CAR (9-4-1)