FFR2 Gm 20: NYI 4, PHI 3 (SO) - Unmasked
Same. Old. Flyers.
Another third period turtle. Another shootout loss. Another loss to the New York Islanders, who haven't lost in the Wells Fargo Center in 20 months. The Philadelphia Flyers, who entered the third period of Saturday night's contest ahead 3-0, fall 4-3, shootout style, to the New York Islanders, in the physical reincarnation of that Scooby Doo meme where Fred Jones rips off an AV mask hiding Dave Hakstol underneath.
Don't let the box score fool you - the Islanders ran the show basically the entire night. Though, to their credit, the Flyers started on fire for the second straight game. Their first shot of the night went bar down off the stick on Sean Couturier, set up by a gritty neutral zone rush by Oskar Lindblom. 1-0 good guys just 1:38 in. What could possibly go wrong from there?
Just about everything. Now, the Flyers were on the second half of a back-to-back tonight, which is important to remember. But man, they tired out quickly. So far, Philadelphia is 1-2-2 on the second halves of back-to-backs. Fatigue is always going to be present in this situation. But that's only five down, still a league-leading twelve to go. The Flyers are going to have to learn how to win in this situation, or else they will go nowhere. Other teams do it all the time. Why can't the Flyers?
The Flyers kept pace with the Islanders for most of the first period, even stretching out their lead late in the 1st on a bomb from Ivan Provorov, redeeming the power play after their poor showing in Ottawa. In the first twenty minutes, the Islanders were generating a ton of quality chances, but quantity was pretty even.
That changed drastically in the second period, when the Flyers strong offensive zone cycles that allowed them to conclude the 1st in control of the game vanished. Philly couldn't get the puck out of their own zone if their life depended on it. Brian Elliott was hung out to dry basically the entire game, and somehow, he kept the Flyers in great position through 40 minutes.
Ells was on point all night long, making several key saves, including a highlight reel diving pad stop on Brock Nelson. Thomas Greiss was less than stellar at the other end, letting an Oskar Lindbomb disguised as an innocent wrist shot beat him glove side in the middle of the frame. The Flyers weren't playing great, but they had to be breathing a sigh of relief in the locker room at 2nd intermission. Surely they couldn't blow a fourth multi-goal lead in six games, right?
The Islanders played the third period exactly like they played the second. They were hungrier than the Flyers, more aggressive, winning every single race and one-on-one battle. Part of that is score effects - with the Flyers ahead 3-0, you'd expect the Islanders to push play. But the Flyers offered little resistance. A poor line change 7:46 in let Anthony Beauviller get behind a flat-footed Travis Sanheim and squeak a backhander through Elliott's 5-hole.
Philadelphia continued to back on and fail to maintain possession of the puck, yet nearly got bailed out when Nick Leddy almost pushed Greiss into the net, puck underneath him, after a 2-on-1 save on Raffl. However, the puck skipped wide, and moments later, another bad change caused a too-many-men penalty on the Flyers. Matthew Barzal finished off a tic-tac-goal passing play with a slam dunk one-timer from the slot, turning the game into an instant clock-watch.
That last line was meant for the fans, but the Flyers appeared to take it to heart. Again, terrible play with the puck, tons of icings, hasting decision making. A bad bounce off the boards on a desperate clear from Niskanen was the fatal blow, as Anthony Beauviller drove to the net and somehow flipped a backhander by Elliott. There were still 2 minutes left and extra hockey to follow, but everyone knew the game was over right there. Neither team generated much in OT, and the Isles pulled off a shootout sweep, with two goals on Elliott and two saves from Greiss finishing off their 14th straight game with a point.
I could go on about how this is unacceptable, that blowing four multi-goal leads in a six game span is inexcusable regardless if you comeback or not, how every bad stereotype about the last seven years of Flyers hockey is beginning to return. But since tonight's game marked a milestone in the schedule, I thought I'd take a look at the season as a whole.
Season Notes: A 20-Game Overview (About 25% Complete)
Here is how the Flyers have fared so far:
Week 1: The Flyers control play every game - beat Chicago in a nail-biter, New Jersey in a blowout, and lose a shootout to the Canucks.
Week 2: The Flyers are dominated in Calgary, then lackluster performances from Carter Hart lead to defeats against Edmonton and Dallas despite great underlying numbers.
Week 3: Brian Elliott stands on his head and the Flyers return to form with convincing victories over Vegas and (slightly less so) Chicago, then an epic comeback over Columbus.
Week 4: The Flyers are murdered by the Islanders and Penguins in a three-day stretch in every area of play. They recover with strong showings against the Devils and Maple Leafs, splitting shootouts with both.
Week 5: The Flyers win four nail-biters. They pull away from Carolina after a lackluster opening 40, saw Carey Price steal one point for the Habs and then give away the second to Philly, and were unable to build on solid starts in Toronto and Boston. 2-0 leads were blown in both games (and against Montreal), but shootout victories allowed that to be overlooked.
Week 6: The Flyers are outplayed, not terribly outplayed but still outplayed by Washington, and fall in ANOTHER shootout. They start their next two games strong, but proceed lay an egg against lowly Ottawa and then get torched by the Islanders, somehow lucky to get one point and yet needing to get two for the game to be a success.
There's no continuity between any of these weeks. Seriously. One week, the goaltending struggles, then next it's the only reason they're winning. Another, their playing the full 60 minutes and driving play like mad men, then suddenly they're being out-hustled at every turn and ending games like they're still playing under Hak. One week, they can't lose, and the next, they can't win.
It feels just like the last few seasons, when the Flyers could win ten straight or lose ten straight and you still had no idea what the team was going to become. Granted, there's optimism to believe they'll settle down this year; we haven't seen how AV and Chuck Fletcher will handle this (spoiler: it'll be different than Hak and Hexy's approach). But that doesn't make what's happening this week any less frustrating.
Once again, the opportunity to be great is knocking at the door, probably harder this year than any before, and the Flyers won't answer. The season gets late fast - they won't have many chances to get to the door before opportunity simply skates away. Again.
1st - Mathew Barzal (NYI) - 1 Goal
2nd - Anthony Beauviller (NYI) - 2 Goals, 78.89 CF%, 82.12 xGF%
3rd - Derick Brassard (NYI) - 2 Assists, 72.73 CF%, 72.69 xGF%
PHI - 11/19 @ FLA (10-5-5, W1)
NYI - 11/19 @ PIT (11-7-2, W1)
Advanced Stats from Naturalstattrick.com