The Philadelphia Flyers got completely embarrassed by the Pittsburgh Penguins in game one of their first-round series. The Penguins dominated from the start en route to a 7-0 win.
The Flyers’ flaws were exposed as they lost the territorial battle, couldn’t clear the zone, and left men unmarked in the slot throughout the game. At least the young guns gained some experience and it can only get better from here.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ embarrassing loss in game one.
Losing the territorial battle
The Flyers were not able to keep up with the Penguins in any way, shape, or form on Wednesday night. From the get-go it was all Pittsburgh, and it only got worse from there.
Right off the opening faceoff the Penguins got a decent chance on net, and they continued to get the puck into the zone and fire shots on goal throughout the first few minutes. It was a harbinger of things to come.
The Flyers got a few chances in the opening half of the first period, including their best of the night when Scott Laughton double clutched and was robbed, but they could not convert. That opened the door for the Penguins, who were able to get shots from the slot all game long.
The raw shot attempt totals favor the Flyers overall, 52-43, which is only a few attempts off of the score-adjusted numbers, but those numbers look much better than they actually were.
The Flyers had 52 shot attempts, but less than half of them hit the net (21). They only had 22 scoring chances, and five high-danger chances. All five of their high-danger chances came in the first period and they were completely kept out of the low slot after that. Half of their shot attempts hit the net in the first period, which was the high-mark in the game.
They got plenty of shot attempts in the second period, particularly early on with the deficit still at a reasonable 3-0, but they weren’t high-quality shots. Only nine of their 21 shot attempts hit the net, and they only generated seven scoring chances.
The game was out of reach in the third period, but you’d like to see some sort of fight. The Flyers only got five shots on goal out of their 17 shot attempts in the final stanza. In a seven-game series where a team is looking to build any sort of momentum, getting a goal could give them some confidence heading into the next game.
The effort was there, but the execution wasn’t. The Penguins kept the Flyers to the outside before just playing keep away in the final few minutes to wind down the clock.
On the flip side, the Penguins were attacking the slot with ease. Six of their seven goals came from the hashmarks or below, and their other one was a shot from the top of the circle. Of Pittsburgh’s 43 shot attempts, 28 hit the net and they had 27 scoring chances. They continued to get high-quality chances throughout the game, with three high-danger chances in the first period, four in the second, and two more in the third period.
The heatmap from NaturalStatTrick shows what is described above.
The Penguins got most of their shots from the slot, while the Flyers had to settle for shots from the point.
The Flyers lost the territorial battle to the Penguins, and that is usually going to result in a loss. Quantity can trump quality at times, but with mistakes piling up, bad luck, and iffy goaltending, the Flyers weren’t able to get anything going against the Penguins.
They’ll need to work on getting the puck in deep and into the slot, rather than back to the point, if they want to be successful in this series. Point shots with traffic in front can work to help jumpstart the offense in dire times, but the main goal is to get the puck into the slot and get chances on net from there. If they can do that, they’ll have a shot at scoring a goal in game two.
Wasted power-play opportunities
The Flyers lost the territorial battle, and they lost the special teams battle as well. They didn’t stay out of the box, but they also drew a handful of penalties to give each team four power-play opportunities.
While the Penguins were able to capitalize on one of their chances to put an end to any hopes of a comeback, the Flyers were not able to convert on any of their four chances. Hell, they could barely get set up in the offensive zone to get off any shot attempts.
Four failed power plays don’t look too huge in the grand scheme of things in a 7-0 loss, but the timing of the opportunities is what’s important. The Flyers had a power play midway through the first period while still within two goals that they didn’t score on, and then another one a few minutes later. The Penguins scored another goal in between, making it a 3-0 game, but a goal on that power play still would’ve been able to give the Flyers some momentum heading into the second period.
Not only did the Flyers not score on those two power plays, but they actually allowed more shot attempts than they generated on those man advantages. The Flyers had just one shot attempt that didn’t hit the net on their two power plays, while the Penguins had a shorthanded scoring chance and two shots on goal. They also scored their third goal of the game immediately after the Flyers’ first power play when Shayne Gostisbehere’s shot was blocked to send Evgeni Malkin the other way for his end-to-end goal.
The Flyers’ other two power plays came with the game out of reach in the third period, and they got a few shot attempts (but none on goal). It’s not a huge deal at that point, but once again just scoring a goal could give them something to hang their hats on in an otherwise embarrassing loss.
The power play was just another failure in a game one full of failures for the Flyers. They need to get better and get shots on net to get back on track in game two.
On a side note, Laughton’s prime scoring chance was also a missed opportunity that could’ve completely changed the game. A great play by Matt Read to steal the puck and pass it to Jori Lehtera set up Laughton on the backdoor. If he puts that in, it’s a 1-1 game and who knows what happens from there.
Mistakes magnified and flaws exposed
Mistakes get magnified in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that’s exactly what happened to the Flyers up and down the lineup for a full sixty minutes against the Penguins in game one. They made countless mistakes that resulted in goals against, and their flaws were exposed in a game where everything seemed to go wrong for the Orange and Black.
Most of the seven goals scored by the Penguins could have been avoided. Yes, Pittsburgh made a few great plays to score some of their goals, but they only came after crucial mistakes by a Flyer. Those mistakes can not happen in any game, and they will haunt you in the playoffs.
The Penguins’ first goal is on Brian Elliott. Plain and simple. They kept the Penguins to the outside for a shot that Elliott easily turned away with his blocker, but unfortunately that rebound was directed into the high slot where Bryan Rust was waiting. He fired a short-side shot, one that could’ve been stopped, past Elliott to open the scoring.
Their second goal was the result of something we’ve seen way too many times this season, especially down the home stretch. A failed clear led to a great scoring chance that Carl Hagelin converted on. It wasn’t any of the usual suspects this time, though, but rather Sean Couturier, who just whiffed on a puck as he tried to move up ice. The Penguins took control of the puck and Hagelin redirected home a shot just a few seconds later. You can get away with a failed clear here or there, but a turnover in the middle of the ice is going to burn you.
The third goal was one of the few that came off a great play by a Penguins forward, but it wasn’t an unstoppable play. The Flyers had just failed to get a shot on goal during the power play, and Gostisbehere fired a shot that was blocked. That sprung Malkin, who just came out of the box, and he went end to end past a few Flyers to score on a backhand. Gostisbehere actually did a good job of getting back and defending Malkin to force him into a backhand shot, but Elliott wasn’t up to task. It was a great play by Malkin, but ultimately a goal that should’ve been stopped. Elliott needed to come up with a timely save there, and he didn’t.
Two of the first three goals were mostly on Elliott, but by no means can he be blamed for the loss more than anyone else. He, like the rest of the team, massively underperformed in game one.
After the Flyers got some offensive zone time and shots from the point in the first half of the second period, Kris Letang drew a weak tripping call and the Penguins converted on their power play. It was another goal we’ve seen too many times this year with Jake Guentzel tapping home a pass on the doorstep. Radko Gudas got out of position and couldn’t cut down either of the cross-ice passes.
The game was out of hand at that point, and the fifth goal really made it a laugher. Andrew MacDonald whiffed on a tipped Penguins’ dump-in, which caused him to lose a race to the puck. A few moments later Sidney Crosby batted the puck out of midair to make it 5-0. It’s not going to be looked at as much due to the score at the time, but plays like that by MacDonald can not happen.
Crosby’s second goal came on the backdoor as he was unmarked after a shot pinballed off two Flyers, the second being Brandon Manning, after the Flyers failed to convert on a power play. That had the Penguins’ top guys on the ice against the Flyers’ bottom guys, and it ended as such.
The hat trick goal was just a great deflection by Crosby in the slot. He skated unmarked through the slot and tipped home a point shot to put the exclamation mark on a 7-0 win.
The poor goaltending, failed clear by Couturier, unmarked men in front of the net, and whiff by MacDonald were all mistakes that directly resulted in the bulk of the Penguins’ goals. The Flyers are able to keep up with the Penguins, but not if they play like that. Minimizing mistakes and taking advantage of opportunities will be crucial in game two.
Goalie controversy brewing
In a season where the Flyers used four goalies, and called up a fifth before game one of the playoffs, it shouldn’t be that surprising that we have a potential goalie controversy brewing after just one game. It may have even been brewing after one period.
Brian Elliott allowed five goals on 19 shots before being mercifully pulled for Petr Mrazek, who allowed two goals on 14 shots. It was a poor showing by Elliott, but Mrazek looked decent in his 30 minutes of hockey. It was the second-straight playoff game that Elliott allowed five goals, with his previous one coming in a 6-5 Flames loss to the Ducks in last year’s playoffs. Elliott has now lost eight-straight playoff games between three teams. He lost three with the Blues to the Sharks, four with the Flames to the Ducks, and now one with the Flyers.
Dave Hakstol said after the game that his instinct would be to go back to Elliott for game two, but that could easily change by puck drop on Friday night. Mrazek played well and came up with a few tough saves to keep the game somewhat respectable until the third period.
With Matt Murray on top of his game, the Flyers are going to need their goalie to match that. Whoever it may be.
Young guns gain valuable experience
It was hard to find a few positives in such an embarrassing loss, but there were a handful surrounding the youth on the team.
Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, and Travis Sanheim all got their first taste of playoff experience in game one. It’s not going to be a game that any of them want to remember, but it can only go up from here.
It was a poor game overall for the team, and it was a mixed bag for the young guns. Patrick and Lindblom struggled a bit on the second line, with the latter taking a stick up high and then getting hit along the boards to make things worse, but Provorov, Konecny, and Sanheim all had solid individual games.
For one, Lindblom and Sanheim were the only two Flyers players to not be on the ice for a goal against. That’s kind of a fluke thing, but it also shows that Sanheim didn’t make too many crucial errors in his first playoff action.
Sanheim actually led the Flyers in corsi for with a 70.59% clip. He also only allowed two scoring chances against in his 13 minutes at 5v5 play. Sanheim actually allowed just three shots attempts all game long at 5v5, while the Flyers generated 10. He wasn’t sheltered either, with three offensive-zone starts, three neutral-zone starts, and four defensive-zone starts. He shutdown the third line as well, with the Flyers winning the shot-attempt battle 6-0 with Sanheim and third-line center Derick Brassard on the ice.
Provorov was right behind Sanheim with the second-best corsi for (62.5%) by a Flyers defenseman in the game, and also was on the ice for a team-high 12 scoring chances for. That’s at least something he can take into game two.
On the offensive side of things, Travis Konecny thrived with the puck. Well, for as much as a player can thrive in a shutout loss. He was right behind Provorov with 10 on-ice scoring chances for to lead Flyers forwards, and his on-ice corsi for of 16 shot attempts was tied with Couturier for the team lead.
The young guns gained some valuable playoff experience in game one while having solid individual efforts. Now they need to take that anger, let it burn, and come out on fire in game two.
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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