FFR2 Gm 69: BOS 2, PHI 0 - Gh0sted
Updated: Mar 14
So this is was losing feels like.
Ah who I am kidding, a Philly fan could never forget this feeling. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 2-0, to the Boston Bruins. For just the third time this year, the Flyers were shutout, and for just the sixth time this year, they lost in regulation on home-ice. With a chance to move into soul possession of first in the Metro, the Flyers were unable to solve the Rubik Cube of Tuukka Rask.
Even though they failed to score and saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end, the Flyers didn't play badly. In fact, they were the better team through the first 40 minutes. The Flyers had the edge in 5-on-5 Corsi (56.52% in the 1st, 54.84% in the 2nd) in the first 40 minutes and were expected to outscore the Bruins overall, 2.33-2.14.
But sometimes in hockey, you run into a hot goalie. Tuukka Rask made his 33rd birthday one to remember, stopping all 36 shots that he faced. The Flyers didn't make it easy on him, generating six high-danger scoring chances and drawing three Boston penalties, two on Brad Marchand. Rask was just dialed in, and his late 3rd period right-pad robbery on a cross-crease pass to Provorov confirmed he just wasn't going to be beat.
Carter Hart held his own and then some at the other end; he's certainly not at fault for the loss. His only blemishes were a power-play bomb through heavy traffic late in the 2nd by Matt Grzelcyk and a long shot from Bergeron late in the 3rd that hit Sanheim's stick, unpredictably changing direction. The Bruins did an outstanding job defensively in the 3rd, taking an up-tempo game and turning into a slog-fest of dump-ins and stick-checks. A veteran team like the Bruins knows how to lock these types of games down. They know how to win at this time of year.
The Flyers have proved they can do the same; tonight, they just came up a little bit short. It happens. It's hockey, a game full of unpredictable bounces and crazy puck luck and missed calls that is often separated by fractions of an inch. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Holding your own against a team as good as Boston, the first team to reach 100 points with their win tonight, is a moral victory, and when you're in a spot in the standings like the Flyers are now, you can afford to take that.
The winning streak was awesome, and unlike the streaks before it, this one didn't come out of nowhere. The Flyers have earned 78 points since the start of November, tied with their next opponent (the Lightning) for the second most of the league, just two back of Boston. This year's streak was all about proving to the rest of the league the Flyers are a very good team, and about putting the team in an admirable position in the standings, not just about going on a fun little run and not really caring about what happens next. Because after going on similar runs each of the last three years, well, what happened next wasn't good:
2016-17: 10-0-0 from Nov. 27-Dec. 14; 1-5-2 in next 9 games, missed playoffs
2017-18: 10-0-2 from Feb. 3 -Feb. 26; 1-6-1 in next 8 games, made playoffs on final day of the season
2018-19: 8-0-0 from Jan. 14-Feb. 4; 4-4-0 in next 8 games and 1-6-2 in 9 games preceding the win streak, missed playoffs
They've already completed half, probably even more than half of this battle by winning a lot before this streak began. They'll need to continue to win, not just to make the playoffs, but get in with a high-seed and home-ice advantage. The Flyers are a point behind Washington for the top seed, three ahead of Pittsburgh for home-ice, and ten ahead of the Islanders (who have 2 games in hand) for a playoff spot.
The bottom line is there's a lot of places the Flyers could be in four weeks when the playoffs begin. It's up to them to overcome this loss instead of letting it overwhelm them, and continue to play great hockey like they have so consistently for last two months and continue to win.
One player who won't be available for the Flyers stretch run is Phil Myers. Myers suffered a fractured patella on his right knee, which will sideline him for four weeks, putting him on track to return right at the start of the playoffs. Myers was playing extremely well lately, and losing him will be a tough blow.
As a result, Shayne Gostisbehere drew into the lineup for the first time since Feb. 4 and the second time since Jan. 7. Ghost shook off the rust a little, fumbling a couple pucks, but for the most part looked well, showing some confidence and drawing a penalty. My ideal lineup still includes Ghost and Myers; hopefully, Ghost makes the most of his chance and re-asserts himself as an everyday defensemen. The Flyers are lucky to have such great blue-line depth.
One defensemen gets hurt, another gets a deal. The Flyers inked defensive prospect Wyatte Wylie to his 3-year entry-level contract prior to the game. Wylie is having an outstanding junior career with the Everett Silvertips (Carter Hart's old junior team), scoring 64 points in 62 games. Wylie was taken 127th in the 2018 draft with a pick the Flyers acquired with a puck from, you guessed it, the Coyotes.
After winning the first two meetings in a shootout, the Flyers came up just short of sweeping a season series against the Bruins for the first time in franchise history.
Rask and the Bruins were lucky and good in this game. The Bruins got away with a couple pretty clear infractions, none more notable than Chara flicking Sean Couturier's stick into the air like a baton while he was well away from the puck, which is clear interference. The Flyers also hit two posts in the final three minutes with Hart at the bench for the extra-attacker.
Good to hear Lou Nolan back on the mic as the Flyers PA announcer after a brief absence due to illness.
The Flyers took their team picture Monday. Highlights included mic-ing up TK and a random employee (analytics developer Jacob Hurlbut, per NBCSP's Jordan Hall) filling in for JVR (which led to this meme that JVR himself re-tweeted).
But the highlight of picture day? Oskar Lindblom making it for the photo, with that pure, perfect smile of his still in tact.
Zdeno Chara has been in the NHL longer than Carter Hart, Joel Farabee, and myself have been alive. From the Islanders to Ottawa and, since 2006, Boston, Chara has been a physical force. He was an elite defenseman for quite some time, winning the Norris in 2009 and captaining the Bruins to a Cup in 2011. Barring a playoff matchup (which could happen!), this will likely be Chara's final game against the Flyers. The Flyers won't miss playing against him, but that's a complement. Congrats to Big Z on a great career (that hopefully ends in a sweep to us in the Eastern Conference Finals).
1st - Tuukka Rask (BOS) - 50th Career Shutout (3rd vs. PHI), 2.33 xGA
2nd - Matt Grzelyck (BOS) - Goal (4)
3rd - Patrice Bergeron (BOS) - Goal (31)
PHI - 3/12 @ TB (43-21-6, L1)
BOS - 3/13 @ BUF (30-31-8, W1)
*Advanced Stats from Naturalstattrick.com