The Philadelphia Flyers turned in another poor effort against a rival that resulted in a 5-1 loss. This time it was the New York Rangers who stopped the Flyers in their tracks, as the Flyers’ winning streak came to an end last night.
Nolan Patrick’s line generated an early deflection goal by Jordan Weal, but that was all the Flyers could come up with in the loss. The third line was one of the few positives in the game, as was Shayne Gostisbehere’s return after missing a game with the flu.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ loss in New York.
Another dud against a rival
It looked like the Flyers might’ve turned a corner after their win on Saturday as they checked off two boxes: a rare win in Newark and a rare win after a layoff. But that wasn’t the case. The Flyers turned in another poor performance against a reeling Rangers team.
The Flyers have been playing well over the past couple of weeks – their last seven games to be exact – but their five wins have been undermined by the two losses in that span. The first came on home ice after three days off in a loss to the Penguins and the second came last night against another one of their biggest rivals, the Rangers, in New York. Both games felt very similar as the Flyers felt like the better team during the early stages of the game, but things unraveled in eventual 5-1 losses.
In both games the Flyers scored one of the first two goals of the game, but things quickly went downhill as their opponent took over. Against the Penguins it was a four-minute span in the second period in which the Flyers were outscored 4-1, including two goals by fourth-liners, and last night it was two goals late in the first period, one on the power play and one shorthanded, that started the downfall. Once Michael Grabner scored midway through the second period to make it 4-1, the Flyers looked out of place and all hope was lost.
In games like these where the players are searching for answers as they are bleeding chances against, it would be a prime opportunity for the coach to slow the game down. Calling a timeout or changing the goalies could do that. A timeout after the fourth Rangers’ goal would give the Flyers a chance to regroup and assess the situation. A 4-1 deficit isn’t insurmountable, especially with about 30 minutes left to play, and a timeout could help change momentum.
Against the Penguins and again last night it was clear that Michal Neuvirth would enter the game at some point. But instead of getting him into the game after the third or fourth goal that Brian Elliott allowed (including a few soft goals), Dave Hakstol waited until the third period to put Neuvirth in net both times.
Criticizing Hakstol’s lineup decisions is almost meaningless at this point because every coach around the league makes similar decisions, but situations like these are something that a better coach might take advantage of. Calling a timeout may not have saved the Flyers last night, or against the Penguins, but it would show that he has his finger on the pulse of the team and can try to make in-game adjustments. The same goes for making a goalie change. I’m not saying that Hakstol deserves to be fired for that decision, or any of the decisions he’s made this season, but it is an area that he needs to improve upon. Saving your timeout for the end of the game only matters if you’re within a goal or two, if you’re down by two or three in the middle of the game and your team looks lost, call a timeout.
You can point the finger at Hakstol if you want, but it would be unfair for this game. Ultimately a game like this was bound to happen sometime. The Flyers were the better team in the first period, made a few untimely mistakes that cost them, and got beat in the goaltending battle and on special teams. It’s a bit worrisome to see two duds against your rivals, but luck certainly plays a factor as well. They got outworked by a hungrier Rangers team and everything spiraled out of control after a few mistakes. It’s just one game; shake it off and get back at it on Thursday.
Patrick thrives again
For the second time in the last three games Nolan Patrick’s line dominated possession. It’s been good to see the rookie take some strides here early in the second half of the season, and his line was one of the few bright spots in the game.
The third line was the Flyers’ best line on the ice against the Rangers. Of course they scored the lone goal, and they also led the team – by far – in the shot attempt battle. In 12:31 at 5v5, Patrick had a corsi for of 75% (12 shot attempts for, 4 against), and a scoring chances for of 88.89% (8 scoring chances for, 1 against).
The stats show it, but it was just as easy to see with the eye test. They were buzzing in the offensive zone on multiple shifts and had some of the team’s best scoring chances. Jordan Weal set up Patrick for a one-time chance in front of the net that they unfortunately couldn’t convert on, but it was good to see them creating opportunities and moreso see Patrick fitting in on that line.
Weal has taken a step forward as the season has moved along and it makes you wonder if his earlier injuries left lingering effects that went away recently. He scored the lone goal in the game and now has points in five of his last six games. Both he and Patrick have been looking better recently and it’s resulted in great play from the third line.
Weal’s goal came on a great deflection in front, but the zone entry prior to the goal is what made the play happen. Wayne Simmonds and Patrick entered the zone nearly simultaneously with Patrick moving slightly ahead. He dropped the puck back to Simmmonds at the top of the circle, but his shot sailed wide. Patrick then alertly went back to cover the point as Radko Gudas’ pinched in for the shot that was tipped home by Weal. Patrick didn’t receive an assist on the play, but plays like that one are why he’s going to become a top-six center in the NHL.
Manning stuck in glue
Brandon Manning has been the third-pairing defenseman in the Flyers lineup over the past several games for his reliability and consistency, and he was consistently getting beat by the Rangers on Tuesday night.
Manning was caught flat-footed a few times in the game, including both of the early breakaway goals. On Rick Nash’s goal where he split the defense some of the blame can go to Radko Gudas, or maybe Travis Konecny for going in too deep, but Manning needs to recognize that Nash is streaking down the center of the ice. Instead he was watching the puck and watched it all the way into the back of the net behind Brian Elliott.
On the second breakaway, Paul Carey’s shorthanded goal, Manning completely misplayed the situation. Yes, the play doesn’t happen if Weal doesn’t fall down in the offensive zone, but Manning was completely at fault. Manning turned to skate backwards immediately when the Rangers picked up the puck like he was defending a two-on-one in his own zone. Peter Holland saw that and immediately gave the puck to Carey, who was in all alone and beat Elliott.
Manning isn’t the fastest defenseman, but if he skated straight back and tried to keep up with the play, he may have been able to negate Carey’s chance at best, or at worst turn it into an odd-man rush. Brandon Manning’s presence on the second power-play unit baffles me, but how he decided to play that rush baffles me even more.
Despite being nearly-directly at fault for two breakaways against, Manning did not see less ice time as the game moved along. In fact, he saw more. Manning played 5:32 in the first period, 5:42 in the second, and 6:25 in the third. I hate using this example because there are different circumstances with the growth and reliability of a player, but if Travis Sanheim had made a mistake like either of the ones Manning made, let alone both, he would’ve seen much less ice time in the final two periods.
Brandon Manning is a seventh defenseman in the NHL. He can spot start on the third pair, but he should not be in the lineup while a blossoming rookie is a healthy scratch. Travis Sanheim has his flaws as a young player, but he had been playing better prior to his stretch of healthy scratches. I can get behind scratching Sanheim for Manning if a more experienced defensive-defenseman is needed for a few games. Hell, I can live with it if the team is winning consistently and Manning is playing average hockey. But losing a game like this partially because of Manning’s mistakes early in the game should result in Sanheim replacing him in the lineup on Thursday.
Gostisbehere impresses in return
Shayne Gostisbehere made his return to the Flyers lineup last night after missing one game with the flu. He looked like he was perfectly fine on Tuesday night, as he led the Flyers defense in ice time and was one of the few good players on the ice.
Gostisbehere led the Flyers in ice time at both even strength (18:49) and overall (22:19). He had a few strong defensive plays, including a one-on-one rush against the much bigger Rick Nash in front of the net in which he knocked the puck free.
He and Provorov have played very well together since becoming the Flyers’ top pair and that did not change on Tuesday night, nor should it change moving forward. Gostisbehere had a defense-high corsi for of 72.41% (21 shot attempts for, 8 against), and an impressive scoring chances for of 76.92% (10 for, 3 against).
The impact Gostisbehere has on the Flyers defense cannot be understated. He has transformed into a two-way defenseman this season and he helps solidify the rest of the pairs. Manning’s miscues on the third pair counteracted some of that on Tuesday night, but overall Gostisbehere brings a great dynamic to the unit.
Elliott can’t come up with a timely save
The Flyers didn’t play well on Tuesday night, but they didn’t get any help from their goaltender either. Brian Elliott had a bad night against the Rangers that resulted in him being pulled after 40 minutes of play. Elliott allowed five goals on 21 shots in his two periods.
You can’t blame a goalie for giving up a breakaway goal, but giving up three breakaway goals on three tries is something you can blame them for. Elliott got beat clean by Nash, then Carey, then Grabner, who is someone that struggles to score on breakaways and scored a soft goal on Elliott.
Brian Elliott has been strong for the Flyers in the crease overall, but it would’ve been nice if he came up with a big save on one of the breakaways. Nash’s tied the game shortly after the Flyers opened the scoring, which took the Flyers’ momentum away, and Carey scored with 10 seconds left in the first period to completely deflate the Flyers heading into the locker room. Grabner’s goal was the back-breaker though, and Nash’s second only piled on as Elliott gave up another bad goal.
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