FFR2 Gm 18: WSH 2, PHI 1 (SO) - Get Gud
Gud, but not gud enough.
In my 100th Flyers Fan Reaction game recap, the Philadelphia Flyers lose their 36th shootout of the season (that's honestly how many it feels like they've been in) 2-1 to the Washington Capitals, snapping their four-game winning streak. Their seven-game point streak does remain in tact, and all things considered, it's more of a positive that the Flyers were so close to beating the best team in the NHL than it is a negative that they still lost the game.
Whether or not the Flyers should've been close with the Capitals is debatable, to say the least. The Flyers lackluster ending to Sunday's game against Boston was understandable. They were on the road on the second-half of a back-to-back, playing their third game in four nights against one of the best teams in the league.
While Washington is just as good, if not better than Boston, the Flyers did have the last two days off, enough time to get their legs back under them. Instead, the Flyers were absolutely dominated throughout the 1st, hemmed into their own zone for long stretches of time. Brendan Leipsic scored on a rebound 6 minutes in, but considering the Flyers were outshot 16-5 in the frame, they were lucky to be within striking distance.
Eventually, the Flyers found their stride in the second period. This game wasn't too different from our last home game against the Capitals last March. The Flyers were also absolutely dominated through 30 minutes in that game - but instead of hanging around, they were blown out, trailing 5-0 until the end of the second, ultimately making it slightly interesting before losing 5-3.
Carter Hart, who was out with an injury for that game last spring, made sure that history would not repeat itself. Hart was outstanding early, keeping the Flyers in the game despite the Caps massive advantage in play. The TLC line (yes, this is a thing) of Travis Konecny, Lindblom, and Couturier dominated in the second, with Lindy being robbed point-blank by Holtby and Konecny hitting the post. The rest of the team began to follow their lead, with a great rebound chance for Tyler Pitlick (pictured above) and others all thwarted by Braden Holtby.
Early in the 3rd, the Flyers power play earned a chance after Nic Dowd tripped Matt Niskanen. They were slowly improving across their first three attempts, but were on a 1-15 slump entering this chance. But Jake Voracek had an answer. After an early Washington clear, Jake took the puck up the left boards. Voracek may be frustrating because of his turnovers and occasional questionable passes, but for every headscratching mistake there's a highlight reel move. Voracek swerved around Radko Gudas (good to see ya, Radko!) at the blueline, turning the play into a 2-on-1, which Voracek turned into a backdoor saucer pass to a wide open Captain Claude, tying the game at 1!
The Flyers were able to build off G's 5th goal of the season for a few minutes, threatening to take the lead. But the Capitals wouldn't be held down forever, and the teams moved on to trading top quality chances as the period progressed. G and Provy executed a perfect give-and-go that Holtby kicked out, and then Hart stopped two great chances for Tom Wilson, including a tip-play in the final minute. With that last save in the books, the Flyers made it to overtime for the sixth time in their last seven games.
I'll give you a moment to catch your breath because I don't think anyone can handle this much overtime.
Philadelphia absolutely controlled play in 3-on-3. They pulled off textbook puck protection, preventing Washington from changing for over THREE MINUTES. Alex Ovechkin, Dmitry Orlov, and Nicklas Backstrom were hemmed into their own zone as the Flyers made multiple chances. The Flyers took the puck out to center numerous times as well, but generated plenty of chances, none closer than Sean Couturier's slapshot that dinged off the left post. The Caps recovered in the final two minutes - heck, Ovi's ended his 3-minute with a breakaway, but neither team lit the lamp in the extra session.
Shootout Summary-I can't do this anymore. At least not for a loss. Jake Voracek missed the net on a backhander (why are we still shooting first again?), T.J. Sochi mesmerized Hart before sniping 5-hole in round 1. G chipped the puck top shelf on Holtby, but Kuznetsov deked out Hart to restore the Washington lead. Sean Couturier missed the net on a blocker side wrister, sending the fans home sour.
Despite the bitter ending, it's easy to find the positive in this game. The Flyers went toe-to-toe against the best team in the NHL, Stanley Cup Champs just nineteen months ago, and held their own. They weren't great, but they weren't bad either. Being kept in games because of great goaltending isn't all negative - before, the Flyers wouldn't even stay in those games at all.
It's worth remembering that the Flyers have only been playing under Alain Vigneault for about 3 months. There are still growing pains for this group, lessons to be learned. The good news? The Flyers are learning through wins, rather than relying on another second-half push to contend for a playoff spot. This is a team that screams second-half success; but if they play like they have for most of this season, and keep getting goaltending like they did Wednesday, they might turn the corner even sooner.
No surprise that Claude Giroux found the back of the net Wednesday - G now has 21 goals against the Caps, the most he's scored against any team.
Carter Hart and the Flyers were the first team all season to hold the Capitals to one goal in regulation. Only Carolina has kept them under three.
Radko Gudas made his return to Philadelphia. Gudi played 290 games for the Flyers between 2015 and 2019, and was loved for by old-school fans for his big hits and fights and new school fans for his strong analytics. I also think he might've switched jerseys with John Carlson, judging my his end-to-end rush in the 1st and slapPASS later on. He was deked out on the Voracek goal, but looked great other than that.
While Washington does have a great record, they've been living on the edge early this season. They've gone to overtime in NINE of their 20 games. Nearly 50% of their season has been decided in the extra session.
For the first time in the NHL, Joel Farabee legitimately struggled. He turned the puck over a ton on Wednesday, was moved off PP1 for Kevin Hayes, and only played one shift from the third period on. Alain Vigneault was critical of the game but said the benching is only temporary - expect Farabee to return to a prominent role on Friday.
In addition to Hart, the Flyers penalty kill was absolutely clutch in getting the Flyers a point. They were aggressive as always and killed off all three Caps power plays. Currently, they rank fifth in the NHL (86.3%) and are red hot as of late, killing off 29 of their last 31 tries (93.5% in that span).
PSA: This game marks 100 STRAIGHT FLYERS FAN REACTION ARTICLES!!! Remember to share this stuff with all of the hockey fans you know!
1st - Carter Hart (PHI) - .972 SV% (35/36), 1 GA on 2.49 xGA
2nd - Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH) - Shootout Winner, 79.29% xGF
3rd - Braden Holtby (WSH) - .968 SV% (30/31), 1 GA on 1.14 xGA
PHI - 11/15 @ OTT (7-10-1, W1)
WSH - 11/15 vs. MTL (10-5-3, W2)
Advanced Stats from Naturalstattrick.com
Thumbnail Photo: Eric Hartline (USA Today Sports)