The Philadelphia Flyers ended their season-opening road trip last night in Nashville, and it certainly could’ve ended on a better note. The Flyers scored five-straight goals in the second and third periods, but the three before that, and more importantly the three after that by the Predators cost the Flyers.
A late-game offside challenge marred what could’ve been a great win for the Flyers. There were plenty of positives, from Patrick’s first goal, to the power play, and others, but a late-game challenge captures the headlines and ultimately helped determine the result.
Let’s get into it with five storylines and quick hits on each line and pairing from Tuesday night’s game:
With 2:41 remaining in the third period and the Flyers up 5-4, Dale Weise and Andrew MacDonald get called for penalties, putting the Predators on a 5-on-3 power play. Nashville pulls the goalie for a 6-on-3 advantage, and just over 80 seconds later, Scott Hartnell jams home a rebound to tie the game.
Dave Hakstol quickly goes to the video and realizes that the entry into the zone may have been offside. Ryan Johansen had the puck at the far blue line, with Filip Forsberg and Hartnell both potentially offside at times. It didn’t look 100% either way, but Hakstol felt like he had enough of a chance to win the challenge and get the goal off the board.
But, as we all know now, the goal was confirmed on the ice, costing the Flyers another penalty and allowing the Predators to score the game-winning goal on the ensuing power play.
Hakstol lost the challenge, and in turn arguably cost his team the game. By losing the challenge they were penalized, a new rule for this season, and that allowed the Predators to finish out the game on a power play at the very least if they had not scored the game-winning goal.
Hakstol stood by the challenge after the game, and that’s what he has to do. If Hakstol is anything, It was a controversial decision, but you can’t look at it with results-based thinking.
If Hakstol had not challenged, and the Predators continued their momentum by scoring on the 5-on-4 power play to win the game anyway, people would be calling for Hakstol’s head. He has had a history of being too conservative at times at that could’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
If Hakstol had won the challenge, which seemed to be better than a 50-50 chance, people would be praising him for the decision. Maybe he shouldn’t have made the challenge if he wasn’t 100% sure, but he thought the play was offside and you can’t logically rail him simply because of the result.
I would rather have Hakstol take the shot and challenge than have Hakstol not challenge and the Flyers lose anyway.
Results-based thinking is dangerous. A decision is good or bad not because of the outcome, but because of the thought process behind it. The Flyers had a chance to win the game if they had won the challenge, and if they had not challenged Nashville would’ve probably won the game anyway, albeit maybe in overtime. It was a decision that cost the Flyers a point, but not challenging the play would’ve likely resulted in an argument all the same, just in the opposite direction.
It’s an unfortunate ending given how the Flyers had battled back in the game. There were plenty of positives to take out of the game prior to the final period (that I will focus on later), but this overshadowed everything and could very well likely continue to dominate the headlines as the Flyers have three days off before their home opener on Saturday.
Penalties doom Flyers
The other controversial calls late in the game, besides the challenge, were the two penalties to Weise and MacDonald.
Weise made a swim move entering the offensive zone, and took down two Predators in the process. It was a play that goes uncalled multiple times on a nightly basis. However, the Predators were “due” for a power play, and needed a goal to tie it in their home opener. The referee’s arm went up, and so did the energy in the building.
Then, seconds later, MacDonald took a penalty. This one is a bit more understandable, however, as he did trip the player. It may not always be called, but MacDonald has to do a better job in that situation to know that there is a delayed penalty and do everything he can to not put his team down two men late in the third period.
They were bad penalties to take, arguably bad penalty calls, and an unfortunate challenge, and they all combined into the perfect storm for the Flyers’ collapse in Nashville.
The Flyers penalty kill went 1-for-4 in the game. They allowed those two late goals, as well as a goal in the first period after a Claude Giroux slash. Once again that wasn’t a great penalty call, but the league is cracking down on slashing and the referee decided to blow the whistle.
Special teams are going to be key night in and night out. You can’t blame the penalty killers on the 5-on-3 goals really, but it’s tough to see the calls go against them and the pucks go into the back of the net.
Patrick gets on the board
First an assist, and now a goal. Nolan Patrick is on a two-game goal streak.
You can’t really say that it’s been a long time coming, because it was only three-plus games, but Patrick has worked hard throughout his first handful of games to finally tally a goal.
Patrick had a great chance on Saturday night set up by Travis Konecny, and this time it was his other linemate, Dale Weise, who did the dirty work to set up Patrick in front for the one-time chance. Patrick was denied on Saturday, but he wouldn’t be stopped this time.
Weise actually did a great job to assist on Patrick’s first NHL goal. He stole the puck at the line, drove the net to get a shot off, then got the puck in the corner and fed Patrick out in front. He’s starting to put his checking game to work.
Patrick had a pretty good game overall as well. He finished as a plus-two and was one of the few Flyers forwards with a positive shot-attempt differential. In fact, his line was the only line to have all members with a positive Corsi For relative. In simpler terms, they were on the ice for more Flyers shot attempts than Predators shot attempts during 5v5 play.
Patrick is starting to gel with his linemates after just two games. He and Konecny had an instant connection on Saturday night, and that only grew as Weise started playing well in Nashville.
Speaking of Konecny, he showed off his speed and shot on a great goal in the second period. He sped past the defense and wired a top-shelf wrist shot that bounced right back out of the net off the back bar.
This line also played the second-most out of the forwards at 5v5 play. Konecny led all forwards in 5v5 ice time with 13:10, while Patrick (12:01) and Weise (11:28) were just behind him.
The middle-six came to play in Nashville, and they were led by Patrick and Konecny.
Filppula settles in on the power play
The Flyers scored two power-play goals on Tuesday night, and they were both scored by one man. Valtteri Filppula, who many (including myself) questioned being included on the top unit, broke out with a two-goal night in Nashville.
I was skeptical at first, and one game isn’t going to change my mind completely, but Filppula proved the doubters wrong, at least for one night.
Neither of them were a typical Schennesque goal on a one-timer in the slot, which is a wrinkle that unit needs, but a goal is a goal.
The first one was just like they drew it up. Giroux entered the zone, gave the puck to Filppula on the half-boards, who fed a cross-ice pass to Jake Voracek on the right boards. He played catch with Shayne Gostisbehere at the point and fired a one-timer that rebounded right to Filppula in the slot, and he buried it.
The second one came on a new look the Flyers are trying on the power play. Giroux got the puck in the corner on the right side, skated behind the net to the left side, and fed Filppula for a one-timer. It was nearly identical to the Patrick to Provorov goal on Saturday night.
Voracek picked up two assists on the power play to bring his season total to six. He has yet to find the back of the net but he is doing a great job distributing and making things happen.
After going into a cold stretch it was good for the Flyers to get back on the board on the man-advantage. I’m not totally sold on Filppula on the first power play unit, but he should be riding high with confidence after two goals. If they continue to mix things up with Giroux behind the net and the Finnish forward can finish, Filppula could settle in and roll with the top unit.
Elliott shaky in net
Brian Elliott played well in his first two starts, both wins, with the Flyers, but that came to an end in Nashville. He made a few good saves early on to keep the Flyers in the game in the first period, but that was it.
Elliott made 25 saves in total, but also gave up six goals in the loss. The Flyers hung him out to dry a bit at times, but a few of the goals were inexcusable. Scott Hartnell’s first goal, on a rebound shot, went right through him. Andrew MacDonald could’ve done more to challenge the shot, but it was a horrible goal for Elliott to allow.
He then got beat twice by Filip Forsberg later in the game. The first one cut the Flyers’ lead to 5-4, when he sped past the defense and beat Elliott on the short side. Then, in the final minute on a 5-on-4 power play, he beat Elliott on the far side from the left side of the ice. Elliott seemed to shrink back into the net, rather than lifting his glove to potentially stop the shot.
After the first three games we were confident in the Flyers goaltending, but it’s amazing how one night can change things. I still remain confident in Elliott on the whole, but Michal Neuvirth will be the man in net on Saturday night against the Capitals. Elliott will have to bounce back in his first home start sometime next week.
- The first line wasn’t at its best in Nashville. Voracek picked up two assists on the power play, but Giroux got beat bad on the Predators’ third goal and the line couldn’t really get anything going at even strength against the Predators’ top guns.
- Filppula finally connected on the power play, but Jordan Weal also had a great night on the second line. He had a fantastic shift in the third period that caught everyone’s eye, but also made a nice chip pass to Konecny on his breakaway goal. He has three points in four games and is out to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke.
- The fourth line created a goal, with Andrew MacDonald blasting one home, but they probably had their worst game of the season. They had only a few good cycles and got caught in their own zone a few too many times.
- The top pair of Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald was not the top pair in terms of icetime on Tuesday night. That distinction went to Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg who each played over 17 minutes at 5v5, tops on the team. They are only getting better as the season moves along.
- Speaking of that top pair, MacDonald looked really bad on Hartnell’s first goal. He did absolutely nothing to challenge the shot and any other defenseman, including healthy scratch Sam Morin, would’ve made a better play.
- The aforementioned Sam Morin was once again a healthy scratch and it looks like he’s set to go back to Lehigh Valley this week barring a trade or injury. It’s tough to see him frustrated sitting out, but the one bright side to it is that he’s learning the grind of an NHL travel and practice schedule. It’d be nice to see him get into a game instead, but at least it’s something.
- Beating Morin out for a roster spot seemingly is Travis Sanheim. Sanheim had a strong game without any major mistakes in Nashville. He was strong in the corners, made a nice move in the offensive zone, and didn’t make any defensive miscues. However, he didn’t play in the last 6:48 of the game which could be a sign of the coach’s trust in his defensive game. He needs to get experience in tough spots to learn on the job.
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