FFR2 Gm 54: NJ 5, PHI 0 - Powerless
I'd rather dance with the Devils than sleep on them.
For just the second time this season, the Philadelphia Flyers, lose, shutout style, 5-0 to the New Jersey Devils. Who didn't have Nico Hischier and Sami Vatanen for this game. And are second to last in the entire Eastern Conference. In the last game "easy" game the Flyers have in about three weeks. Wonderful.
This type of game simply cannot happen against a team like the Devils. And I wouldn't be nearly as frustrated if this was the first time. They laid eggs in California against the dreadful Sharks and Kings. They lost in inexcusable fashion earlier to Ottawa in November. They blew a 3-0 third period lead to the Islanders. They tried their hardest to let the Red Wings strike first Monday. They gave the Devils the same opportunity, New Jersey converted thirteen seconds in, and never looked back.
Oh, but it's ok, they took 46 shots on MacKenzie Blackwood! They were dominant by analytics, way beyond what score effects would account for! Problem is you actually have to do something with all the great chances you get, not put the puck into the goalies' chest or off the pipe or into a defensemen's shinpads trying to force a pass when there's a hole in the net the size of the Grand Canyon, a habit that has been past down by generations of Flyers players to the point where players acquire it the second they put on their sweater at draft day. I'm a little sympathetic to the fact the Flyers objectively were the better team, but it's hard to call a 5-0 loss a fluke.
The Flyers lost this game because of their powerplay. It may be 19th in the NHL by success percentage, but every analytic out there says it is downright abysmal when it comes to generating quality shots, or even just shots at all. The Flyers are 26th in Corsi and 29th in Expected Goals For% on the man advantage. That's not good enough. They finally put Claude Giroux on the left boards, but someone forgot to realize that having a 5'11'' sniper as your net-front presence while the guy who's excelled in that role for the last half decade is standing still in the slot. The Flyers PP should have built on their territorial dominance; instead, it flipped control back to the Devils, giving up four A+ chances, the last of which went in the back of the net as the preverbal dagger.
We all have temptations in life. Whatever it is - candy, video games, laziness - we work so hard to move our lives away from them, but just can't help but get sucked back in far too often. This is the Flyers in a nutshell. Just when you think they've turned a corner, they get way too pass happy, their special teams spring a leak or five, they make a mediocre goalie look like a world beater (Blackwood isn't more than that - yet). They just relapsed AGAIN, man. And they wonder why we boo and shout and tweet half funny, half depressing screenshots and GIFs wondering if we'll ever get through a season without dozens of games where's there's nothing to do but shake your head and mutter, "Same old Flyera" (if you know, if you know). Over a month into a new decade, and this label remains as prevalent as ever.
The bottom line is that when you are a bubble team, which the Flyers currently are, games like this are paramount. No one is expecting you to beat the titans of the league on a consistent basis. But for a team to remain successful in spite of those defeats, they must take care of business against inferior teams, or else that inferiority will eventually transfer to them. Somehow, the Flyers have pulled off the complete opposite of this - usually playing well against the best while floundering far too often against bottom-feeders, averaging out as a team with a coin flip's chance of playing hockey two months from now.
In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. But having the opportunity to do is a privilege, not a right. That privilege is only bestowed upon those good enough to beat the worst. Those who do not become it instead. Only those that survive this trap will have a chance of advancing. It's Darwinism playing out on ice, from Vancouver to Tampa Bay and everywhere in between, every single night.
Speaking of playoffs, when asked about them postgame, Alain Vigneault stated, "I will reaffirm we're getting in." Good. Because that's what this team HAS to do. Just thinking about all of the games where they've left points on the table that they had in their hands is tough to do now; it will be downright sickening to think about them if the Flyers end the season on the outside looking in. I still believe in the group the Flyers have assembled this season. But for this season to be a success, relapses like the one tonight must be stopped now, before it becomes too late.
I slept on this one. I don't always do that, but for this game, I did. Listen, the outcome is still very disappointing. Dropping two points (and dropping out of a playoff spot) against the fourth worst team in the league. But there will always be clunkers, and let's not beat around the bush: the Flyers dominated this game. They just didn't get the bounces this time. It happens. It's impossible for a team to go an entire 82-game season without a letdown performance here and there.
Maybe they happened too early in the season, but the Flyers have been a better team since the turn of the decade. Their only other disappointing defeat came to Montreal a few weeks ago, and they promptly followed that up with convincing victories against LA and Pittsburgh. This Flyers season has been all about seesawing from good to bad and back again. I'd take a quick, embarrassing down swing over a prolonged, slightly more competitive one any day of the week. The Flyers have always excelled when the stakes are high. They will be on Saturday night. Let's see how they respond.
The Flyers called up Andy Andreoff prior to Thursday's game, which Joel Farabee missed with an illness. Hopefully he'll be back Saturday - Carter Hart could be back then as well.
Shayne Gostisbehere also returned to the lineup, in the place of Robert Hagg. Ghost had an ugly fumble that led to the 4-0 goal, but I'll give him a game or two to shake off the rust before I judge him too hard.
The Flyers tied a season high for most goals given up at home all season (allowed five on 1/13 in a shootout win vs. Boston).
Two Flyers hit major games played milestones in this game. Jake Voracek was the first, reaching the 900 games played in the NHL plateau. He was one of the many Flyers to come close but not quite, hitting the post in a net-front scramble in the 2nd.
On an actually positive note, Ivan Provorov put together a little bit of history Thursday, too. Provorov has played in 300 straight games to start his NHL career, joining Dan Girardi as the only defensemen ever to do so. Provy's durability, skill, and strength make him an elite blueliner.
Power rankings will be out this Sunday. Expect them to focus on the upcoming trade deadline as well as the last month of play.
1st - G MacKenzie Blackwood (NJ) - 46 Save Shutout (2) on 3.33 xGA
2nd - Pavel Zacha (NJ) - Short-Handed Goal (6)
3rd - Miles Wood (NJ) - 2 Goals (9, 10)
PHI - 2/8 @ WSH (36-13-5, W1)
NJ - 2/8 vs. LA (19-31-5, L3)
*Advanced Stats from Naturalstattrick.com