The Philadelphia Flyers let a point slip away on Tuesday night as they lost in a shootout to the Devils. They led 3-1 and then 4-2 in the second period, but the Devils stuck back quickly both times and then were able to tie the game with the goalie pulled to force the extra session.
Travis Konecny was dominant in the game with a goal and several other great plays, and Claude Giroux picked up two points to continue his great stretch, but the lackluster play in the defensive zone and inability to close a game out cost the Flyers in a big way against the Devils.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ shootout loss to the Devils.
The ups and downs of transitional play
The Flyers got off and running against the Devils in the opening minutes of the game. Nolan Patrick’s line started the game and had a good shift of offensive pressure, and then the top line came onto the ice. They got caught in their own zone for a good part of their shift, but they were able to contain the Devils and then create a goal of their own.
Ivan Provorov sent the puck around the boards, where it hit off Sean Couturier and back to Shayne Gostisbehere. Gostisbehere hit Giroux with a pass as he was exiting the zone, and Giroux looked up ice. He could have just exited the zone and tried to chip it in deep, but instead he made a fantastic backhanded saucer pass across the ice to Konecny, who was streaking down the right wing. Konecny reached out his stick to receive the pass in stride, then skated into the circle and sniped a goal.
It was an incredible pass by Giroux and shot by Konecny that began the night of ups and downs for the Flyers in regards to transitional play.
The next goal in the game didn’t come until early in the second period, and it wasn’t a great goal, but it came after a play in the netural zone to start a rush. Radko Gudas’ exit pass to Jordan Weal was a bit too strong, and the puck bounced off his stick to a Devils defenseman, who sprung Taylor Hall up the left wing. Hall entered the zone down the wing and just threw the puck on net, which is where the rush stopped. It should’ve stopped with a save and a whistle, but instead it stopped with a goal as Michal Neuvirth could not seal the post and allowed the puck to somehow squeak through. Gudas played the rush well, keeping Hall to the outside, and Manning tied up Hischier in front, but unfortunately Neuvirth gave up one of those soft goals that he’s been known to give up here and there.
On the other hand, Nico Hischier’s goal was the direct result of the Flyers defensemen playing a rush poorly. After Provorov turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and may have been slewfooted, Andrew MacDonald looked like he had never played hockey before as he defended the two-on-one rush. He was in front of Hischier when the pass was made to Jesper Bratt, then MacDonald moved over towards Bratt, opening up a lane to pass it back to Hischier, who one-timed it past Neuvirth to bring the Devils back within one goal just 10 seconds after Giroux scored on the power play.
We saw the Flyers capitalize off the rush early in the game thanks to a great play by Giroux and Konecny, but unfortunately weak goaltending and defensive play allowed the Devils right back in the game with two goals off the rush of their own.
The back-and-forth second period
Most of the action of last night’s game occurred in the middle stanza. Each team scored three times, with a few of the goals coming minutes (or just seconds) within one another.
The Devils tied the game at 1, then Laughton scored 43 seconds later to take a 2-1 lead. There was nearly five minutes without a goal after that, but then there were four goals scored in a span of 5:33. The Devils answered a Flyers goal 2:41 later, then the Flyers answered back 2:42 later on the power play, with the Devils getting the last goal of the period just 10 seconds later.
It was definitely an up-and-down period to say the least. We saw the good of the Flyers bouncing back after a bad goal with the third line working hard in front of the net to retake the lead, but we also saw the poor play of the top pair to allow the Devils to get back in the game after the Flyers took a two-goal lead.
Whether you believe in “momentum” in a game or not, this period certainly had a lot of shifting tides. It looked like the Flyers were going to pull away after two straight goals until the Devils got one back, and then we thought the same thing for a mere 10 seconds before the Devils scored again to make it a one-goal game.
On one hand, it’s great that the Flyers were able to answer after the Devils scored their first two goals. On the other hand, it would’ve been nice if they could’ve kept the Devils from answering 10 seconds after they took their second two-goal lead. Unfortunately they couldn’t and it ultimately ended up costing them.
Patrick line generates chances, bottom-six gets results
The Flyers got some production out of their bottom-six in Tuesday night’s game. The team looks a bit top-heavy with two strong lines that are each generating chances and getting some results, and the bottom-six joined in on the offense against the Devils.
Nolan Patrick and his linemates still led the way for the Flyers in terms of the advanced stats, as Patrick had a team-high corsi for of 67.74% (21-10 shot attempts) as well as 75% scoring chances for (9-3), but that was the only line that didn’t generate a goal. The top line had Konecny’s snipe, and the bottom-six had a goal each in the second period.
The new third line (or fourth line, depending on the day) got back on the board on Tuesday night. Michael Raffl sniped a goal over the weekend, but that was really all the line had been able to produce in the goal column. They changed that against the Devils with a good goal in front of the net.
After Hall scored to tie the game at 1, Laughton’s line was put on the ice to try to get something going. They responded with a good shift and a short cycle that resulted in a goal. Jordan Weal wheeled into the zone, stopped in the corner, and got the puck back to the point. Andrew MacDonald patiently waited for a lane to open up, nothing really did, so he smartly got the puck down low to Michael Raffl at the side of the net. Raffl sweeped the puck out in front to Laughton, who beat his man to get position at the top of the crease and got just enough of the shot to get past Kinkaid.
That line has been able to cycle and control the puck for a good portion of their shifts recently, and they’ve arguably been the most consistent line in terms of doing what they’re asked. They’re a great checking line and can chip in with a goal here and there.
On the other hand, it was a bit surprising to see a goal from the fourth line. The forwards on the line didn’t get the goal, but they got assists as they got things set up in the offensive zone and provided the traffic in front.
Dale Weise intercepted a cross-ice pass after a failed clear by Radko Gudas and started up the ice. He lumbered through the netural zone and slid the puck over to Valtteri Filppula on the right wing as he entered the zone. Filppula held the puck as he waited paitently for Gudas to enter the zone and fed the defenseman for a one-time shot that got through the traffic in front provided by Jori Lehtera and Weise, and the puck found twine.
It looked like it was going to be a game where all four lines chipped in to help get the win, and all four lines did their job in one way or another, but it only resulted in a loser point rather than two points.
Power play can’t put game away
The Flyers were only able to score on one of their five power plays against the Devils, and those four missed opportunities came back to haunt them. One of them was shortened due to a Couturier penalty, but that can’t be an excuse for a generally passive power play.
The Flyers’ biggest missed opportunities came in the third period. They were gifted a power play 3:26 into the period, but couldn’t do anything with it, and then again with 3:50 left in the period, but didn’t capitalize again. That power play in the final minutes is the one I want to focus more on.
Travis Konecny did a fantastic job in his own zone of chipping the puck off the boards to himself for a rush up ice, in which he made a move towards the net and drew a penalty. The Flyers went to the power play with a chance to put the game away if they could convert. They had done it once already in the game, and had a handful of other chances on their previous four power plays.
The top unit won the faceoff and got set up, then the got a shot off after Giroux and Gostisbehere played catch for a bit. Unfortunately that shot was blocked, and the Devils cleared the ensuing faceoff. Giroux then started up ice from his own zone, but the puck slid off the boards and hit the linesman’s skates, rather than continuing up ice, causing the Flyers to regroup in their own zone. Jake Voracek eventually got the puck into the zone several seconds later, but the Devils broke up a pass and cleared it again.
That was it for the top unit, and the second unit came on the ice with Brandon Manning taking Valtteri Filppula’s spot on the wall. I don’t mind that swap as much as some might, as it’s a negligible difference really with Manning having the defensive upside in a one-goal game. The second unit set up in the zone, but Konecny’s attempted pass back to the point from behind the net was broken up, sending the Devils the other way. Konecny had Patrick along the left wall to give the puck to, but instead made a risky pass that the Devils were able to hop on. Patrick entered the zone with speed after they got the puck from the Devils in their own zone, but this time Konecny’s pass back to Patrick was broken up and cleared.
The Flyers had just one shot attempt (blocked out of play) on the man advantage. Killing two minutes of the clock with a one-goal lead is good, but getting pucks on net for a potential goal would be even better.
Neuvirth shaky in first start as ‘the guy’
The Flyers announced before the game that Brian Elliott will be missing five to six weeks with an injury, meaning that it will be Michal Neuvirth’s net for the foreseeable future. Obviously a trade is an option, but right now it’s Neuvirth’s net and he needs to step up.
Unfortunately, Neuvirth looked a bit shaky in his first start as the Flyers’ go-to guy. He allowed a horrific goal to allow the Devils to get on the board, then allowed a goal on a shot from the point as well after the Flyers killed a penalty off. Don’t get me wrong, Neuvirth made some key saves, but he has to come up with big, timely saves as the team’s default starter.
The goal that Hall scored is inexcusable. Plain and simple. It can not happen. Neuvirth gave that goal up, and no matter what way you slice it, he gave up four goals and then a fifth in the shootout in the loss. Yeah, he made 32 saves, but that crucial 33rd save made the difference.
By no means is this loss on Neuvirth at all, as the Flyers blew two two-goal leads in the game, but it’s a reminder of how much of an impact goaltending can have. Brian Elliott was a rock for the Flyers in the crease, and Neuvirth is either hot or cold. He’s been able to go on hot streaks in the past, and he’s capable of it this year, but last night wasn’t a great start for Neuvirth.
- This game could’ve been a four-point swing for the Flyers, if they closed out the win in regulation, but instead the Devils gained two points and the Flyers gained one. That one point will be important in the long run, but right now it’s infuriating that they gave away those extra points to a team trailing them closely in the standings.
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