FFR2 Gm 46: BOS 5, PHI 6 (SO) - Where There's a Whiff, There's a Way
OK, do I even need to write about this game or should I just put a bunch of Brad Marchand memes and call it a day?
What a game to give me for my TWO-HUNDRED AND FIFTIETH article! The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 6-5, shootout style, over the big, bad, Boston Bruins, overcoming a 5-2 deficit only (OK, not only, but basically only) because Brad Marchand forgot how to play hockey at the worst possible moment.
You know a hockey game is crazy when even I am at a loss for words. It goes beyond the ending, too. The Flyers were dead for rights in this game, trailing 5-2 with less than half a game to go against the best team in the entire NHL. Boston straight up schooled the Orange and Black for thirty-five minutes, as the Flyers provided little resistance to an onslaught of high-danger Bruins chances.
Yes, Kevin Hayes scored a power-play goal on a one-timer off the rush late in the 1st, and Sanheim beat Jaroslav Halak with a wrister through traffic, both less than two minutes after the Bruins had taken a 2-goal lead. But the defense was sloppy, the turnovers were abundant, and Carter Hart wasn't able to bail the Flyers out eleventy-billion times in a row. The Bruins ran the show, and it was clear by both analytics and the naked eye that they were the far superior team early. Hence, the three-goal deficit.
But with the Bruins ahead by such a huge margin, an old friend decided to enter the rink - score effects. I wrote about them in the summer (as well as many other analytics, which you can see in the article on the @BackOTNet pinned Tweet), but the basic premise is this - the bigger a team's deficit, the more likely they are to drive play and out-chance the team that's leading, because they are more prone to sitting back and giving up a bunch of decent opportunities because they're deathly afraid of a home-run pass that could flip the game on it's head.
Score effects got the Flyers back in this game, more so than the Flyers themselves. Sean Couturier fought through a check and a hook to slide the puck through Halak's wickets, a goal he most certainly would like back. Then Mark Friedman flipped a shot on net and who can tip in their first NHL goal? The Bunny man can! Connor Bunnaman tipped the puck with his skate, double-doinking it off Bruins defenseman John Moore and in to light the lamp, cutting the deficit to one by the end of the period!
While score effects gave the Flyers a shot at victory, it was up to them to complete the comeback. The Flyers killed off a Bruins power play early in the frame, but failed to make good on a couple man advantages of their own. And then, on a night where post-whistle scrums were frequent and violent, Joel Farabee and Torey Krug got sent off for roughing. The result was two minutes of 4-on-4, and while that extra open ice would seem to benefit the Bruins skilled players, as their OT record suggests, Boston hasn't been very good when play opens up.
So it was no surprise, OK who am I kidding, it was a complete surprise when Travie Sanheim went banging away at a loose puck at the side of the goal, somehow chipped it to himself in front, then sniped it past Halak! Take your history and failed comebacks of past and shove it to the 700 level, because the Flyers have tied the game!
Carter Hart rebounded from the rough beginning and returned to form for the final 30 minutes, making some clutch saves down the stretch to send the game to overtime. The Flyers were the better team in 3-on-3, creating some good chances (and also giving some up) that Hart and Halak shut down. Then, with 5 seconds left, a last ditch effort from Couturier got the puck to the net, where Ivan Provorov had an open net and enough time to score the game-winning-goal.
Which he would have done if not for a a game-saving lunge by Halak, throwing out his blocker to deny Provorov of what looked like a tap-in goal. So, for the second time in as many meetings this season, the Flyers and Bruins were going to a shootout. Each of the first eight shooters were unable to bury the puck, with Giroux and Couturier each hitting iron. Travis Konecny started the 5th round with another shot that hit the post, but this one was a snipe off the right pipe and into the net. Suddenly, the Flyers were one save away from an incredible comeback victory, with only Brad Marchand standing in their way.
The stage was set for an epic showdown. Hart had stopped the first seven Bruins shooters he'd faced in shootouts this season dating back to the first meeting in November. One of them was Marchand, who tried to beat Hart with a low-blocker wrister, only to be denied. This time, he would try something new. He came up the ice with lots of speed, picked up the pick, skated full speed down the middle and... where did the puck go?
*Looks at Marchand*
*Looks back at the red line*
*Looks at Marchand again*
WAIT A MINUTE DID HE DO WHAT I THINK HE JUST DID? Oh for the love of Carter Hart, he actually did. By virtue of some Jedi mind-trick, Marchand inexplicably just forgot to take the puck with him. He literally just skated right past it, his stick barely nicking the top of the puck. And because Marchand touched the puck, and the puck moved forward (only moved about a quarter of an inch, but still!), it counts as an attempt. Which means the game is over. Which means the shootout is over. Which means the Flyers WON!
This was an incredibly frustrating, difficult, intense, joyous, fulfilling, and, in the end, fun game to watch. I've never seen a game quite like it, certainly never seen a game end like this one did. It just goes to show you that you just never know with this game. Sports will teach you something new every day. And on this day, the Flyers were fortunate enough to learn a lesson of determination, of resilience, of redemption. They found themselves on the right side of a hilarious finish that could've happened to a better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) person than that rat Brad Marchand.
Obviously, if the Flyers want to prove to me that they're not a "bubble out" team like I said they feel like in Sunday's power rankings, they're going to need to build from the final 35 minutes. That means putting the first 30 in the rear view mirror. The special teams were disappointing. The team looked sloppy and flat, and for the first time in a while, 5-on-5 play was nearly the main catalyst of the Flyers demise. Boston's ineptitude was a huge reason they lucked into this win, but then again, you make your own luck, and the Flyers certainly did a lot of that on Monday.
Just enjoy the win, I guess is the only way to finish this. There's no such thing as a bad win, even if this formula for victory isn't a sustainable one. The Flyers still have four games to go before the All-Star break arrives (and the back-end finally gets healthy again) - plenty of time to build off this high or spiral right back into another low. This was a welcome diversion from the "same old Flyers" path they've been on the last few weeks. One game can't change that narrative all by itself, but it can be a start. But seriously, wow, just wow. What a game. What a win. What a team.
The Bruins scored a power-play goal for the 14th straight game tonight (Krejci's first goal, which made it 2-0 late in period 1), extending a franchise record.
Despite holding the best record in the NHL, the Bruins are somehow an incredible 0-7 in shootouts this season. Their twelve overtime/ shootout losses don't just lead the league - it nearly doubles second place (Columbus, with eight).
The Flyers made a minor depth move before this game (if you pay close attention, you probably noticed already). Connor Bunnaman was re-called for David Kase. Bunnaman has been much later in the AHL as of late, scoring 3 goals and an assist in his last four games before being called up, and the Flyers are looking for stability at 4C. Bunny played a solid contest, and was rewarded with his aforementioned first NHL goal!
Travis Sanheim was the Flyers best defenseman. He made smart decisions with the puck, wasn't afraid to step up when needed too, and most importantly, recorded his third career two-goal game (the second one this season - Dec. 23 vs. NYR was the other). He now has four goals in his last 10 games, per the Inquirer's Sam Carchidi.
Boston has been nearly unstoppable when scoring four plus goals in a game - until tonight, of course. The B's are now 15-1-2 when scoring at least four times.
Carter Hart was far from the reason the Flyers had to climb such an uphill battle in this game. It was a rare struggle for him at home ice - Hart hadn't allowed more than 3 goals in a home game all season before Monday. His gutsy performance down the stretch and in the shootout helped him reach 4-0-0 in his career against the Bruins.
In their 200th regular season game against each other, the Flyers extended their winning streak against the Bruins to four, the longest it's ever been. Key word in that stat is regular season, because if you open it up to include the playoffs, well, I tend to agree with this.
POG Helmet Standings Update!
Moose, Raff, Da Snake - 3
Steady Eddie, TK, JVR - 2
Starter, #OskarStrong, Coots, Phil, Snowman, Pitsy, Laughts, Timon, Hayeser - 1
Quote of the night, year, decade, millennium: "His nose got in the way" - Mark Friedman, on Marchand's "attempt."
And lastly, a new section, for this game only:
The Memes: The Glorious Memes
(Click on the images to enlargen them)
1st - Travis Konecny (PHI) - SO Winner, Assist (25)
2nd - Travis Sanheim (PHI) - 2 Goals (6, 7)
3rd - Sean Couturier (PHI) - Goal (13), 2 Assists (25, 26)
BOS - 1/14 @ CBJ (22-16-8, W1)
PHI - 1/15 @ STL (29-10-7, W4)