The Philadelphia Flyers did not get the result they wanted against the Pittsburgh Penguins. A chippy first period and a strong first half to the second period got the Flyers out to a 2-1 lead, but then they unraveled en route to a 5-2 loss.
The young guns played well in the game, with Travis Konecny scoring a goal and Nolan Patrick picking up an assist, but a few costly mistakes and a bad matchup were enough to do the Flyers in against the Penguins.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ 5-2 loss to the Penguins.
The kids are alright
There weren’t many bright spots in the game against the Penguins, but the younger players certainly made their mark.
Nolan Patrick made a great play on Jake Voracek’s goal, and then Travis Konecny was relentless in jamming away at a loose puck to eventually lift it into the back of the net. Patrick and Konecny each got points in the game, with Oskar Lindblom bouncing back as well.
Voracek’s goal came on a shift that the second line started in their own zone. They won a battle and Lindblom took control of the puck from just inside the blue line. He skated it to center ice and handed it off to Voracek, who got it in deep. Lindblom and Voracek went in after the puck and stole it away from Olli Matta in the corner. The puck got played up the wall, where Andrew MacDonald made a great play to pinch and keep the puck in the offensive zone.
It went right to Derick Brassard exiting the zone, but the new-Penguin couldn’t corral it as Patrick backchecked hard to steal the puck. Patrick threw it to the wall towards Voracek, who threw it back in front where it bounced off Brassard’s stick and in. Patrick was in position either way, and still picked up a point on the goal.
It was a hardworking shift where all three forwards and a defenseman played a part. Lindblom got in deep on the forecheck, MacDonald kept the play alive, Patrick got the puck back, and then Voracek got the goal.
Konecny’s goal came on another hardworking play. Once again his line started in the defensive zone, but they won the faceoff and got the puck up ice quickly. The Penguins cleared the Flyers’ first entry, but they got it back and got possession in the zone shortly thereafter. Konecny eventually got the puck along the boards (after another good pinch by MacDonald), patiently weaved his way into the circle, and threw a puck into the middle that deflected off a stick and bounced on net. Jarry couldn’t handle the shot, leaving the rebound at the side of the net for Konecny to jam home from practically behind the net.
That gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead, one that they would hold for less than four minutes before surrendering three goals in the second period, and an empty-netter in the third to seal the game.
Konecny was hard on himself for a turnover leading to a goal against (we’ll get to that later), but he had a good game against the Penguins. He had the goal, set up another great chance for Giroux, and drew a tripping penalty in the third period.
Patrick and Lindblom were the young guns that really shined for the Flyers. Lindblom was once again inches from his first NHL goal as he batted a puck out of midair that just went over the crossbar, and he was continuing to play his game all night long. He had a rough back-to-back in Florida in terms of possession numbers, but that was not the case in this one.
Lindblom’s 72.22% corsi for (13-5 shot attempts) was behind only linemate Jake Voracek (75%, 21-7) as the best on the team, and Patrick was right behind them (71.43%, 15-6). Lindblom and Patrick also helped generate eight of the Flyers’ 23 5v5 scoring chances, while Voracek was on the ice for over half (12) of them. Lindblom also led the team in 5v5 expected goals for with 82.22%.
The second line did get the benefit of not primarily playing against Malkin or Crosby, but the Penguins’ third line still has Brassard and Kessel. In the Patrick vs. Brassard matchup the Flyers won the shot attempt battle rather handily (9-3).
The young guys continue to be the shining stars in the second half of the season. They are a big reason for the Flyers’ success, and even in a loss you can look to them as a bright spot.
Filppula buried by Crosby
While the top two lines, and Nolan Patrick’s line specifically, had a strong game, the bottom-six was another story. Particularly the new third line of Jordan Weal, Valtteri Filppula, and Wayne Simmonds.
With Dave Hakstol wanting to matchup Couturier against Malkin, which makes sense, and wanting to keep the rookie Patrick away from Malkin or Crosby, which also makes sense, he elected to primarily use Filppula against Sidney Crosby.
Teams like the Penguins are going to create matchup problems for any team, especially after acquiring Derick Brassard, but the matchup that Hakstol kept going back to on Wednesday night was not working. Of the Flyers’ four lines, Filppula’s line is probably the fourth-best (read: worst) choice to go head-to-head against Crosby.
The top line took Malkin and the second line got bottom-six matchups while it’s the checking line’s responsibility to go against one of the opposition’s top two lines. Filppula drew that matchup instead of Scott Laughton, who had almost certainly been a better two-way center this season.
Sidney Crosby feasted against Valtteri Filppula. Let’s just take a look at the numbers at 5v5.
- Sidney Crosby
- vs. Filppula (7:12)
- 12-3 shot attempts, 6-1 scoring chances, 3-0 goals
- Not vs. Filppula (7:58)
- 2-8 shot attempts, 1-4 scoring chances
- vs. Couturier (3:33)
- 0-7 shot attempts, 0-4 scoring chances
- vs. Laughton (2:28)
- 0-1 shot attempts, 0-0 scoring chances
- vs. Patrick (2:06)
- 2-0 shot attempts, 1-0 scoring chances
- vs. Filppula (7:12)
It’s pretty astounding. Crosby had a 80% corsi for against Filppula, and a 11.11% corsi for against anyone else.
Filppula’s expected goals for percentage in the game was so bad that I’m not even mad, it’s amazing. He had an expected goals for of 2.61%. Two point six one percent. He generated 0.03 expected goals, while allowing 1.12. That is incredibly bad.
Pittsburgh is going to create huge matchup problems for most teams, but adjustments need to be made. It was clear that Filppula was not keeping up with Crosby. That’s when an in-game adjustment needs to happen. Try Laughton, who played just 6:49 at 5v5, seven minutes less than Filppula’s 13:57. Hell, try Patrick’s line to see what they can do. Mix things up with the top line. Just don’t keep going back to the well if the water is poisoned.
It’s not just Filppula, but he takes the brunt of the blame. The bottom-six needs to either play similar minutes, or it needs a revamp. Laughton and Michael Raffl are too good to just be playing seven minutes a night, and Wayne Simmonds is being wasted on his line. Filppula is a shell of himself and Weal has been a huge disappointment.
We saw a potential playoff preview on Wednesday night, and hopefully it was the only time we see Filppula against Crosby.
Penguins cash in on Flyers’ mistakes
The Florida Panthers made the Flyers pay for their mistakes on Sunday afternoon, and the Penguins did the same thing on Wednesday night. Two of the Penguins’ three even-strength goals came immediately after a poor play by the Flyers.
The Flyers and Penguins were tied at two in the latter half of the second period when things took a turn for the worse. The fourth line got the puck in deep on a change, but Michael Raffl couldn’t win the battle along the wall. That would’ve been fine in a vaccum, but Robert Hagg had pinched down to that side as well with no forward in position to cover for him. There are times when forwards are to blame for not covering a pinching defenseman, but this was simply a poor decision to pinch by Hagg, and it cost him.
Jamie Oleksiak got the puck in the slot and quickly passed it up to Crosby for a two-on-one rush. Andrew MacDonald took the passing lane away, and Petr Mrazek made the inital save on Crosby’s shot, but Connor Sheary was there to deposit the rebound. A bad pinch by Hagg and a bad rebound by Mrazek gave the Penguins a lead
Late in the second period, just after the Flyers couldn’t convert on a power play, the Penguins made them pay again. Travis Konecny, who was stuck on the ice on a long shift after the man advantage, couldn’t control the puck along the boards after Radko Gudas passed it up to him. Jake Guentzel’s shot then hit off Brandon Manning’s skate right to Connor Sheary, who put home his second goal of the period.
In between those two goals, on the Flyers’ power play, Jordan Weal whiffed on a wide-open net in front. It could’ve been the difference between a 3-3 game and a 4-2 game heading into the intermission.
The Penguins capitalized on their chances, the Flyers didn’t, and that was ultimately the big difference in the game.
Power-play woes continue
The Flyers have gotten five power plays in two of their last three games, and they have just one goal between them. In fact, they are now in a 1-for-19 rut after a poor performance against Pittsburgh. Going all the way back to early February they are 4-for-34.
They had plenty of chances on the power play, or at least opportunities, but they couldn’t get much set up against the Penguins. They had just four shots on goal over the course of 8:43 during their five power plays, including a bad effort midway through the third period.
Special teams play can make or break a game, and while the penalty killers did their job in killing off three of four chances to the best power-play team in the league, the Flyers’ top guns couldn’t get it done on the power play.
Once again it comes back to the Penguins executing and the Flyers failing to execute. They were with them at 5v5, particularly in the second period, but a few mistakes cost them.
A missed chance to gain crucial points
Not only did the Flyers miss out on their five power-play opportunities, they also missed out on a chance to grab a share of first place in the Metropolitan Division again with a four-point swing against Pittsburgh.
The Flyers are still in fantastic position to make the playoffs, with a date with Pittsburgh becoming more and more likely, but this could’ve given them a little boost moving forward. Home-ice advantage takes hold in the playoffs and just a few points could be the difference between a game seven in Philadelphia or across the state in Pittsburgh.
The Flyers are now three points behind Pittsburgh with a game in hand, and two points behind Washington with one more game played. They have a three-point lead on New Jersey, who sit in the first Wild Card spot.
Photo by Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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