FFR2 Gm 23: CGY 3, PHI 2 (SO) - Flam3d Out
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory - it's the Philadelphia way.
Despite leading two different times in the 3rd period, the Philadelphia Flyers lose, shootout style because why not, 3-2 to the Calgary Flames and noted not-Flyer Johnny Gaudreau. Well, maybe he'll be one someday. But that's not helping things right now.
Calgary entered Saturday on a six-game losing streak and being outscored in their last three road games by a combined margin of 14-0. The Flyers absolutely dominated play against them, too. Philadelphia had 57.95% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts in this contest and were expected to outscore the Flames 2.95-1.82 in all situations. Carter Hart sure wasn't bad either, stopping 25 of 27 shots. The penalty kill was sensational once again, killing off all three Flyers penalties.
This would've been such a feel-good game to win, too. Jake Voracek scored his first goal since what feels like the Bush administration after a first period less exciting than watching paint dry, tapping home a lose puck in the crease after a Travis Sanheim wrister squeaked through David Rittich. It was the culmination of a 2nd period in which the Flyers racked up over 75% of the shot attempts and expected goals at 5-on-5. Then, with less than 4 minutes remaining in regulation and the score tied, the tenacious Joel Farabee forced Rittich into a turnover behind the goal-line, setting up a tap-in for a returning to form Kevin Hayes, putting the Flyers within arm's reach of victory.
And yet, just when they reached out for the win they so rightfully deserved, Elias Lindholm slammed in a rebound off a point shot that whistled wide from Rasmus Andersson, tying the game with just 1:23 remaining. The Flyers never recovered, failing to finish off a couple amazing chances in 3-on-3 (looking at you, Kevin Hayes). David Rittich stopped all three Flyers shooters (Farabee, Giroux, Couturier), and Matthew Tkachuk beat Hart 5-hole for the only goal of the shootout.
Analyzing this game, and the Flyers season so far, requires balancing how close they've come to being great with the fact that they still haven't done it. They've had some skids, but nothing as bad as the ones from the last three years. There've been some high notes, but nothing as bright as what we saw the last three years. The mix of frustration and satisfaction have fluctuated just as much as ever.
They've done a lot of the right things, from roster building to on-ice play, at 5-on-5 in bursts and short-handed throughout the season. They've created chances, and found two goalies capable of giving them a chance to win most nights. All of these are promising components, and if the Flyers continue to produce those results, then the odds are they'll find a way to be a good team.
But then there's the devil's advocate's side. The power play has been struggling for weeks now. Lots of the vets have been underachieving, and one good game isn't enough to change that. They can't close out games to save their lives, blowing a 3rd period lead in six of their last nine games. These are the types of things that cellar dwellers do, and if they persist, the Flyers might find themselves at a place in the standings they don't want to be.
This season is still struggling to find its identity. There's always some puck luck involved with this process, but most of it is determined by the front office, coaching staff, and especially the players. Most of the first two components have been positive; but there's room for improvement. The third category is lot more mixed, and that's unfortunate, because it's the one that matters the most.
Their record says that so far, the good and bad have mostly cancelled out. Eventually, it's likely that one side or the other will take over. That hasn't happened a lot over the last few seasons, but there's a lot more volatility in this year's group because of the new coaching staff and more aggressive front-office. This is a hungry team, but there comes a point where they decide if they're too lazy to act or are finally ready to take what's there's (and it often comes sooner than you think).
Some roster housekeeping first. Scott Laughton was officially activated from LTIR and returned to the Flyers today. Nolan Patrick's $925,000 cap hit was put on LTIR, so the Flyers will not be able to "bank" cap space (which normally accumulates on a daily basis) as long as he remains there. Patrick's injury can be counted as retroactive to the beginning of the season, so he can be activated at any time. Andy Andreoff was sent down to the Phantoms. All of that leaves the Flyers with a minuscule cap space of $276,944.
Shayne Gostisbehere was healthy scratched today. No, Dave Hakstol did not make a one-day return behind the bench. And besides, Scott Gordon benched Ghost down the stretch last year, too. It won't be a permanent thing, and though I thought Ghost has looked much better the last few games, his performance the whole season has been lackluster to say the least. He's on pace for only about 20 points, and among Flyers with 15 or more games, only Tyler Pitlick has a lower expected goals for percentage. It's a bold move by AV, but he's tried just about everything else, switching defenseman partners and PP units. Only time will tell if it's the right call.
For all that has gone wrong with the Flames this year, they sure don't let games get away without a fight. Their seven game-tying goals in the final 5 minutes of regulation lead the NHL.
Feeling hockey'd out? The Flyers have gone to overtime in 6 of their last 9 games, and 8 of 12 overall in November. They've also lost their last three shootouts after starting the year 3-2 in the skills contest.
Before today, Jake Voracek's last goal was October 27th against the Islanders. Not only was it a big goal because it broke the drought, but it was also Voracek's 200th in the NHL.
Kevin Hayes now has himself a three-game point streak, as well as his first goal on a tended net since October 26th.
1st - Matthew Tkachuk (CGY) - Shootout Winner
2nd - Jakub Voracek (PHI) - 1 Goal, 68.00 CF% (+14.03 Rel), 67.99 xGF% (+6.24 Rel)
3rd - Andrew Mangiapane (CGY) - 1 Goal, 54.17 CF%, +5.50 xGF% Rel
CGY - 11/25 @ PIT (12-7-4, W1)
PHI - 11/25 vs. VAN (12-8-4, W2)