It happened again.
The Philadelphia Flyers played a hard-fought game for most of the sixty minutes, but a last-minute goal by the Bruins sunk the Flyers in Boston. The Flyers deserved to get at least a point out of the game, despite running out of gas late in the third period, but it was all for naught as the Bruins put it away with 22 seconds left.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ last-second loss in Boston.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
The Flyers were 22 seconds away from earning a point, which would be viewed as a victory of sorts given the back-to-back and opponent, but they couldn’t close it out. Zdeno Chara’s point shot bounced on net, David Pastrnak jammed at the puck along Alex Lyon, and Brad Marchand snuck behind to tap it home.
Fatigue had a huge impact in the third period, and it was evident on the winning goal. Sean Couturier didn’t tie up Pastrnak, Shayne Gostisbehere didn’t box out or tie up Brad Marchand, and the Flyers paid for it. They were holding on for dear life to get that all important point, but ran out of gas.
They actually played well in the game given the circumstances, especially in the first two periods and the beginning of the third, but the back-to-back with travel caught up to them.
Luckily the Flyers have built up enough of a lead on the teams behind them that they can afford a few losses in a row, especially when the teams around them lose like they (New Jersey, Washington) did on Thursday night, but they need to get back on track.
Tale of two special teams
While the Flyers played well overall at 5v5, special teams was a mixed bag. The power play struck early before drying up, but the penalty kill was successful on all three tries. In fact, both the power play and penalty kill scored a goal.
The Flyers got a power play just 90 seconds into the game and broke their drought just nine seconds into the man advantage, but then it dried up again. The early goal gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead, but they couldn’t convert on the second half of the double-minor, nor could they convert on a power play early in the second or late in the third period.
It was great to see them get off the schneid, especially on such a nice play by Nolan Patrick in front, but it was still just a one-for-five night. Special teams plays a crucial role in the playoffs and this was a playoff-like game. It was a tight-checking game with both teams not giving up much. The Flyers had their chances on the power play and they couldn’t get the job done.
The penalty killing by the Flyers has done a great job of late. They killed off three-of-four against Pittsburgh and four-of-five against Florida, making them 10 for their last 12 after Thursday night’s game.
There has been a noticeable difference in the aggressiveness on the penalty kill. We saw it on Wednesday night with Jori Lehtera and Michael Raffl getting their sticks in lanes to break up passes and draw penalties, and that continued in Boston. Matt Read played well in his return, especially on the penalty kill as he was getting his stick in the lanes and got a crucial clear. Lehtera also had a good game, scoring a shorthanded goal off of a rush with Valtteri Filppula.
The penalty kill is improving, but the power play is struggling. If they can both click at the same time, this team could be dangerous.
Fatigue was one of the main reasons that the Flyers lost in Boston. It’s not a rationale that many want to hear or that players are even comfortable using as an excuse, because teams win in the second half of back-to-backs plenty of times, but that wasn’t the case here.
The Flyers started with a good first period against Boston. They trailed 2-1 after one period, but it should’ve been a 1-1 game had a penalty been called when Wayne Simmonds was tripped. The Bruins had more shots and the better of the chances, but it wasn’t egregious.
Things picked up in the second period for the Flyers. They knew they could go head-to-head against Boston and they took it to them a bit. They only scored the shorthanded goal, but they out-attempted the Bruins 16-9, and out-chanced them 10-5.
Then the third period hit. It was all Boston after a few minutes into the third, and Alex Lyon fended them off the best he could. He made a few big stops, but couldn’t come up with one more as Boston scored on their final shot of the game.
One of the interesting things about late in the game is that Travis Konecny did not receive a shift in the final 6:39 of the game. He took a careless penalty early in the third period, but that didn’t affect his ice time, so I can only assume that fatigue has a factor. Matt Read saw a few shifts in his place. It’s a logical decision by Dave Hakstol. Konecny was struggling a bit and if he was slowing down it was worth getting the fresh Read in his place.
A step in the right direction?
Many fans weren’t happy when Dave Hakstol said that Thursday night’s loss was a “step in the right direction” for the team given their recent play, but he wasn’t wrong in saying that. The Flyers played right up to the level of the Bruins in a tight-checking game.
The Flyers had some poor efforts in the first four games of their losing streak, especially against Carolina and Florida (in the second half of a back-to-back), but they got back to their game in Boston. There weren’t any huge mistakes for Boston to capitalize on, they cleaned up their defense more than usual, and each line had a few strong shifts in the offensive zone without giving up too much defensively.
It’s easy to shed light on the negative things during a winning streak, but the same has to be done for positive things during a losing streak. The outcome is not what anyone wanted, but the process of how the team got there was better. There were less mistakes, more well-executed passes and better checking, and ultimately it was a better game overall.
Failed zone exit leads to goal against
I said the Flyers mostly cleaned up their game against Boston, because one of their few mistakes did end up costing them in the goal column.
Midway through the first period Jake Voracek exited the zone and tried to make a move through the neutral zone to gain zone entry. He was disrupted by Riley Nash, one of three Bruins between him and the blue line, and Boston took over. Nash then made a move around Oskar Lindblom in the neutral zone to gain entry into the zone, and Boston went to work. A simple dump-in would’ve gotten the puck in deep and not allowed Boston the ensuing rush.
They didn’t score off the rush though, as Nolan Patrick and Lindblom converged on David Pastrnak in the slot to steal the puck. But Patrick lost the puck as he tried to skate it out of the zone. Matt Grzelcyk pinched to poke check the puck away from Patrick and into the corner. The puck ended up in the back of the net just moments later. Brad Marchand danced through the circle and misfired on a cross-ice pass to Pastrnak, but the Bruins eventually put it home as the Flyers were out of sorts in front.
It’s the little things that add up. Voracek’s attempt to enter the zone is probably the least punishable of the mistakes, but even if Boston had gotten possession of the puck away from the Flyers’ forecheck, it changes the whole shift. Then there’s Lindblom’s misplay in the neutral zone, but he makes up for it with the poke check in the slot. Patrick unfortunately takes the brunt of the blame on this one for his turnover near the blue line, but failure to cover up the puck by Lyon and failure to clear the porch by Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg (who did stop the initial wraparound) led to the goal against.
That shift would’ve got swept under the rug had Boston not scored, but it’s important to look at those little things that add up. They can make or break a shift, which in turn can make or break a hockey game.
- I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Brandon Manning’s poor game as well. He made a few bad plays that forced Radko Gudas or Alex Lyon to bail him out, which they did, and he and Gudas also allowed Brian Gionta to get behind them (albeit off a line change and because of a terrible non-call) on the breakaway goal.
- Matt Read played very well in his first game since October. He saw time on the penalty kill, where he thrived, and he was noticeable on the forecheck while on the fourth line. He even got a few shifts in the top-six as lines were jumbled a bit late in the game. Hopefully he can stick in the lineup and help bolster the bottom-six.
- There were some concerns about Alex Lyon a few weeks ago, but he has put those to rest for the most part. He had another solid start on Thursday night, stopping 24 of 27 shots he faced. He’s not a great goalie by any means, but he is surprisingly proving to be a decent backup and spot starter.
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