The Philadelphia Flyers aren’t where they want to be right now. It is now Thanksgiving, and they sit five points out of third place in the division, and four points out of the second wild card spot. They are in the midst of a six-game losing streak and have called in reinforcements.
Danick Martel provided a spark in his NHL debut, and Sam Morin brought a physical presence to the blue line. It was a fresh of breath air that helped the Flyers earn a point, but just a point, as they fell once again in overtime
Here are the five storylines and more from the Flyers’ overtime loss to the Islanders.
Martel provides a spark
Danick Martel was called up on Wednesday to hopefully provide a spark for the Flyers’ lackluster offense. Their depth scoring was in desperate need of a new face, and Martel provided just that in Brooklyn. Martel didn’t score himself, but he had a handful of scoring chances and the depth forwards took notice.
It was known that Martel would be used in the top-nine somewhere, and he got placed on the left side of Nolan Patrick and Wayne Simmonds for his NHL debut. It was a solid combination, as the three generated a few scoring chances and Martel looked like he belongs. There were worries about the rookie’s two-way play, but that was not a problem against the Islanders.
Martel got things going early on during his first few shifts. Midway through the first period, Patrick got the puck in the corner and hit Martel with a great stretch pass on the opposite side of the ice. Martel corralled the puck, entered the zone, and blasted a slap shot on net.
Having a shoot-first mentality is something the Flyers seem to be lacking, and Martel showed that he isn’t afraid to shoot the puck. That is why he was so good with the Phantoms, and can be of great use for the Flyers.
A few minutes later he had another great scoring opportunity, this one he created all by himself. Martel charged at the defenseman trying to keep the puck in the zone, poked the puck ahead, and used his speed to get by the other defenseman for a partial breakaway.
Martel got a shot off once again, this time on the breakaway, but he was denied. He drifted towards the right side of center ice as he shot on the blocker side, but Greiss stayed with him.
Those two plays were a great showcase of what Martel can bring. He has a shoot-first mentality with a great shot, and his speed kills.
He has an active stick defensively as well. He stole the puck in the defensive zone and skated it out to end some pressure by the Islanders. He got tripped up in the neutral zone along the way, but there was no call.
Martel is undersized, but he isn’t afraid to mix it up. He has the speed to get by defenders, and the shot to get past goalies. Some argued, myself included, that it wouldn’t hurt to give Martel some more time in the AHL, but the Flyers need a spark and he can provide it.
The 24-year old rookie has had to prove himself at every level, and so far there is no reason to think that he can’t stick at the NHL level. It’s just one game, but he looks like he belongs.
Morin brings a physical presence
While the Flyers calling up Martel was a bit of a surprise this early, Sam Morin’s call-up was long overdue. He proved that he was NHL ready back in the preseason, and he has been biding his time in the AHL.
Morin certainly didn’t dominate in his season debut, which was his second NHL game after playing once at the end of last season, but he had a solid game for what the Flyers expect of him. The numbers don’t look all that great, but that was moreso on his partner than himself.
The thing that Morin is most known for is his size and physical presence, and he brought that against the Islanders. He knocked down Jordan Eberle with a hit late in the first period, and the Islanders took notice.
Morin didn’t get all of him, but Eberle definitely knew he was there. Sometimes that is all you need.
Andrew Ladd gave him a little shove, but cowered when the big man dropped a glove.
That was one of the few highlights of Morin’s first period, as his pair didn’t fare too well.
The downside in Morin’s game were evident a bit as well. He took a costly delay of game penalty while already down a man, allowing the Islanders to get (and score on) a five-on-three chance, and he took an interference penalty in the third period.
Those are things that Morin knows he needs to clean up, but he played well overall and brought what he needed to. He has been working on the little things in his game while in Lehigh Valley, and those were on display as well.
After Gostisbehere misplayed a puck at the offensive blue line, it appeared that Brock Nelson could have a breakaway, or at the very least a two-on-one chance. But Morin used his speed, spurred by his long stride, to get back into the play and then used his long reach to break up the chance and collect the puck behind the net.
It’s these types of plays that the coaches keep an eye on. It’s not the big hit, it’s a play to get back and keep the opposition from creating a scoring chance.
Morin played well enough on Wednesday night and should remain in the lineup once Andrew MacDonald returns. He is a better option than MacDonald or Brandon Manning, but the Flyers could opt for the veteran presence. Having three rookies in a lineup where another young defenseman just had a bad game could be a recipe for disaster.
We’ll see what happens though. Morin got called up to play, and he should do just that.
Morin brought the steak, and Martel brought the sizzle in their debuts on Wednesday night.
Shayne Gostisbehere broke down a bit defensively on Tuesday night, highlighted on Daniel Sedin’s breakaway goal in the first period, and his struggles continued on Wednesday night in Brooklyn. He was having an already awful game defensively, with several turnovers and just poor decisions with the puck, when his biggest gaffe occurred in overtime.
John Tavares made a fantastic play. Let’s get that out of the way first. He outworked Sean Couturier in the corner with some terrific stick work, but it should’ve been all for naught as his cross-ice pass to Josh Bailey resulted in a save by Brian Elliott. But Bailey was completely wide open, with no one covering him or tying him up on a rebound try, and he scored on his own rebound.
Shayne Gostisbehere was the man responsible for covering Bailey.
I understand Gostisbehere wanting to support Couturier as he was caught in a long battle, but Ghost was in no man’s land. He got caught watching the puck, and it ended up costing the Flyers the extra point. This mistake would’ve been excusable had he performed better overall in the game, but it was one of his worst games as a Flyer.
Gostisbehere was paired with Morin and has to be the best version of himself, or at least an average version of himself, for that pair to succeed. Morin played his part well enough, but Gostisbehere was massively disappointing against the Islanders.
On one hand, it’s a good thing that it was Gostisbehere that struggled. We know that he is better than this, and we know that he will bounce back and come out on Friday with a vengeance. On the other hand, it’s frustrating that one of the team’s best players let them down. Just an average performance from Gostisbehere could’ve been the difference between a disappointing point, or two big points coming back home on Friday.
Gostisbehere gambled on Tuesday night and he got burnt. Then he made a huge gaffe on Wednesday night to allow Bailey to score the game-winning goal. Hopefully we can see the storylines this week go from “Gostisbehere’s gamble” and “Gostisbehere’s gaffe” to “Gostisbehere’s greatness” on Friday. We know he can be better. He knows he can be better. Now he has to show it on Friday.
Elliott earns a point
The Flyers fought for a hard-earned point on Wednesday night, and they couldn’t have gotten it without their goaltender. Brian Elliott came up with more than a handful of fantastic saves to keep the Flyers in the game. He had a few saves in the first, a handful of terrific saves in the second, and then a few more good ones in the third period.
It’s not often that a goalie can give up four goals and be the reason the team earned a point, but that was the case for Brian Elliott and the Flyers against the Islanders. He made 35 saves on Wednesday night.
The Islanders scored on two power-play snipes with screens in front, including one on a 5-on-3, an arguably high-stick deflection in front, and a second-chance rebound in overtime. None of the goals were on Elliott whatsoever.
Elliott faced 72 shot attempts, 52 unblocked attempts, 39 shots on net, and 40 scoring chances against the Islanders. There were several odd-man rushes allowed by the Flyers in the game, and Elliott came up with a big stop on every one. He made a few highlight reel saves within a short time period in the second period, and has truly emerged as the number one goalie for the Flyers.
Great puck movement leads to chances, goals
The Flyers weren’t great on the defensive end against the Islanders, but they got to the dirty areas for scoring chances against Thomas Griess. They scored three times, and all three were the result of great puck movement one way or another.
The opening goal was admittedly a greasy goal in front by Taylor Leier, but the play wouldn’t have been possible without some solid puck movement to enter the zone, and then to keep the puck in the zone and get the puck on net.
Travis Sanheim patiently waited for Jordan Weal to wheel in front of him and passed the puck off. Weal sent it across the ice to Scott Laughton, with Sanheim joining the rush. Laughton fired a shot on net and the cycle started.
The fourth line and defensemen did a great job to cycle the puck, waiting for an opening. Laughton got tripped up behind the net, but got the puck to Sanheim along the boards. He made a Gostisbehere-esque move with his hips to spin free, and fired a shot on net. The rest is history.
The fourth line hasn’t done a great job of scoring this season, but they’ve made plays like that on a nightly basis. It just so happened that this time it ended up in the back of the net.
Michael Raffl was a part of that fourth line for a long time, and he was still snakebitten in the first period. Prior to Leier’s goal, Raffl had a great chance thanks to a nice setup by his linemates.
Valtteri Filppula and Travis Sanheim played catch, then Travis Konecny got the puck at the blue line and fed a streaking Raffl for a breakaway chance.
We all know he was denied this time, but he beat Griess in the second period.
Sean Couturier found him with a nice pass as the Islanders were changing and he beat Greiss this time.
Puck movement just makes things happen.
It helps at even strength, and is even more important on the power play.
The Flyers’ power play has been struggling, but they executed against the Islanders.
Gostisbehere got the puck at the blue line, passed it down to Claude Giroux, who waited and dished it to Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds has the option to jam it on net here, but alertly fed Voracek for a great goal.
Puck movement was paramount for the Flyers on that play and all game long.
When the Flyers were able to get the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, they worked wonders. But the Islanders did a decent job of bottling that up at times. The Flyers were able to capitalize on a few chances to help earn a point.
- The Flyers called up two Phantoms earlier than I expected, but it was the right call. They needed a spark and they got just that from Martel and Morin. It might not have resulted in two points right away, but you could see the difference with them on the ice, especially Martel.
- The depth scoring waking up is a good sign for the Flyers. If these lines stick together I could see some chemistry being built between Martel and Patrick.
- Jordan Weal was demoted to the fourth line, and it might be for good reason. His hot stretch at the end of last season could’ve just been a blip on the radar. He is definitely a solid bottom-six guy at the very least, but he needs to show more if he wants to play on the second line.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving, everyone. The Flyers will hope to break their losing streak on their annual Black Friday game. Puck drop is set for 4 p.m. against the Islanders.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images
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