In a classic trap game, the Flyers responded to Wednesday’s closed-door, a player’s only meeting by coming out flat-footed against the Devils and losing in an awful 5-0 fashion. Here’re five of my takeaways after a game where the Flyers probably should have won and lost a chance to steal an easy two divisional points against a team below them in the standings.
- Shayne Gostisbehere returned from injury and there’s a line of reasoning after tonight’s game that thinks maybe he shouldn’t have. The Flyers were playing their best defensive hockey of the season and Alain Vigneault chose to sit Robert Hagg to get Gostisbehere into the lineup. While that’s a sentence that would have received cheers in past seasons, I’m not so sure about it this season. Gostisbehere looked a step behind all night, which makes sense when you consider he just missed a lot of game time and has to re-acclimate to game speed. Part of the issue may have been that he was on the third pair with Justin Braun and that really limited his ice time and offensive chances. But, when given a chance to create some offense in the third period, he turned the puck over at the blue line and Miles Wood ended up scoring a breakaway goal that got Brian Elliott pulled from the game.
- And, speaking of Brian Elliott, I know a lot of people are immediately going to look at goaltending as a cause of the 5-0 final score. And while Brian Elliott has played some of his best hockey since Carter Hart went down to injury, he just didn’t have the goods tonight. And that’s not a knock on him. Especially because the team didn’t have their best tonight, either. For how well he’s played over the last handful of games, Elliott deserves to get the luxury of a bad game. This game against the Devils just hurts extra because it comes against a team at the bottom of the standings and it’s a game the Flyers should have won. Shayne Gostisbehere talked to how the Flyers let Elliott down in his post-game interview: “We left Moose out to dry. He saved us a few times, kept us in the game the first period. For us, we have to bear down a little bit.” Not to be outdone, Elliott also took responsibility for the Flyers’ poor start tonight: “They’re a fast-starting team and I didn’t make the save, and we didn’t make a couple plays in the corner and it ends up in the back of your net.” There’s no need to place blame. Everyone was responsible for tonight’s outcome.
- The powerplay: YIKES. There was all this talk leading into Thursday’s game about how the Flyers are practicing with a new-old-look 1-3-1 power-play setup. The highlight was Claude Giroux setting up on the left side again. And, if you have been paying any attention to Flyers twitter, Giroux on the left side was supposed to solve all the power-play woes the team has had this year. But it’s never that easy, is it? The Flyers ended the night 0/4 on the power play and none of the opportunities looked particularly dangerous. The best chance the Flyers had was when there was a delayed penalty and Jake Voracek’s shot hit the post and the puck rolled slid across the goal line without crossing it. The Flyers were having trouble settling the puck, masking tape to tape passes, and completing passes quick enough to pull the Devils out of their defensive positions. Full marks to New Jersey for staying in their lanes and making life miserable for the Flyers. And full marks for Alain Vigneault recognizing the power play struggles in his post-game interview: “ I should have denied. Our power play was terrible. I don’t know what else to tell you. Every time we were on the power play, they were having chances towards our net. So, we should have denied it after the first one. We should have figured it out. I will next time.”
- Philippe Myers had a game to forget. Claude Giroux took responsibility for Blake Coleman’s first-period goal, just thirteen seconds in. Alain Vigneault also mentioned that it was a terrible way to start a game: “From the initial face-off where G should be first on that puck, and he should be moving it … and they are able to be first on the puck and they obviously made a really good play. But, at the end of the day, they made us pay for our mistakes.” That defensive flub set the tone for the rest of the game and the Flyers never managed to recover. To cap off Myers’ night, he got leveled by a huge John Hayden hit right before the end of the second period. While he retreated to the locker room before the end of the second, he returned at the start of the third period. Hopefully, that means there were no concussion worries. Myers will be a good NHL defenseman but he’ll have this kind of game as he gets used to adjusting to NHL play.
- Kevin Hayes is a penalty-killing dynamo. Want to know how? The Flyers were 2/3 on the penalty kill tonight. And, if you were wondering, the only time the Devils scored was because Kevin Hayes was in the penalty box. His ability to track the puck on the penalty kill, then shield the puck from the opponent, is unmatched. And, at a time when the Flyers had a legitimate chance to claw their way back into the game, Hayes generated some shorthanded chances that led to the Flyers forcing offensive zone face-offs. If you are not a fan of the Kevin Hayes signing then I think I can confidently say that you are not a fan of hockey.
I didn’t get a chance to work Joel Farabee into one of these five points but I think his exclusion from the lineup is just as important. A solid third and fourth line help win hockey games in the current NHL landscape and, while Andy Andreoff had some plays where he attempted to create offense, the energy he brought to the lineup did not replace what Farabee does for the team. It’s in the Flyer’s best interest to get Farabee back into the lineup sooner than later.
Jeff can be heard weekly on The Broad Street Bully Podcast. He also helps covers Flyers games for WRDV. Follow him on Twitter at @unmeasuredtakes.