November 2nd, 2019 may as well been Harold Ramis’ “Groundhog Day” for the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Sometimes, the NHL just works in strange, cruel ways where two teams who played similar games against different opponents meet each other and play the same game again. The Maple Leafs played the Washington Capitals before coming to Philadelphia, losing to the Capitals in overtime. The Flyers played the New Jersey Devils before coming back home to the Wells Fargo Center, winning in a shootout with Carter Hart. Now, after the smoke cleared, Toronto defeated Philadelphia in a game where goals were scored at almost the exact pace, ending after an 11 round tour in a shootout.
Brian Elliott received the nod from Alain Vigneault to be the starting goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Toronto Maple Leafs. I went on the record in my preview piece to say that I disagreed, thinking that Carter Hart should have started. Almost six minutes into the first period, Travis Sanheim repeats the same error he did against the New Jersey Devils, which was losing his footing and allowing a goal. Kasperi Kapanen was one-on-one with Elliott and converted after Sanheim fell on his own. Just over 15 minutes into the first period, the Flyers answered with a powerplay goal from Ivan Provorov at the point off an assist from Claude Giroux.
Just over three minutes into the second period, Claude Giroux took it upon himself to show his fine finesse of the puck along the goal line and jammed the shot home on Frederik Andersen. Giroux baited Mitch Marner just enough to squeeze by on a smooth deke but was aware enough to see the Toronto Maple Leafs penalty kill pinch in to block the passing lanes. Again on the powerplay, Giroux added another point this game and provided the Philadelphia Flyers with their first lead. Just about two minutes left in the second period, Jason Spezza was credited with the equalizer after Travis Sanheim was unable to clear the puck from the crease. The shot originally came off the stick of Ilya Mikheyev, but Spezza snuck in to tap the puck past the line.
About 30 seconds into the third period, Travis Sanheim made up for earlier blunders by putting the Philadelphia Flyers back ahead by a goal. Coming from the top of the point, Sanheim put a shot on goal where a rebound was given up by Frederik Andersen. Sanheim followed up, coming from behind the net to put a backhand shot on his rebound in for the lead. Just over five minutes into the final frame of hockey, a four-on-four scenario took place, leading to the equalizer from the Toronto Maple Leafs again. This time it was Auston Matthews who sliced his way through the Flyers defense and beat Brian Elliott with his speed on a classic wrap-around goal.
It’s time for overtime hockey, which I always love. The Philadelphia Flyers seemed to have a higher percentage of scoring chances in the overtime period, including a breakaway by Travis Konecny. If there is anyone this season you want on a fastbreak with the game on the line, it is Konecny, but he was stopped by Frederik Andersen. Onward to the dreaded shootout. The Toronto Maple Leafs would outlast the Flyers through 11 rounds of shooters until Andreas Johnsson was able to put a shot past Brian Elliott to secure the win, 4-3.
Over the past two games, Travis Sanheim been the butt of the cruel joke simply because he hasn’t been able to stay up on his skates. Against the New Jersey Devils, that led to a goal from Sami Vatanen. This time, it was a goal from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Kasperi Kapanen. It isn’t a lack of poor defense from Sanheim, it’s just poor fundamental execution. The most frustrating part about these two goals is that ultimately, both teams were kept in the game to reach overtime and these errors are more of a fluke than a term of development.
When Derian Hatcher was on the Philadelphia Flyers, he was rated by his peers to be one of the worst skaters out of the entire NHL. When Scott Hartnell was on the Flyers, we had the “Hartnell Down” donation for each time Hartnell fell on the ice. It was a term of endearment. On a defense that isn’t the star of the show by any means, Travis Sanheim has to tidy up. However, Sanheim did redeem himself with the goal he put on the board.
A multiple point night for the Philadelphia Flyers captain is nice to see, especially when he was in the limelight for the game. This season, the Flyers youth has earned their stripes, but some games have been taken over by the Philadelphia veterans. The powerplay assist to Ivan Provorov and the powerplay goal in the second period is what Claude Giroux contributed. I was surprised to see that he wasn’t able to carry that momentum into the shootout, but sometimes better goaltending wins out. The Flyers weren’t on the receiving side of a victorious result tonight regardless of mostly sound performance.
Questioning the Start of Brian Elliott
My initial feeling is that Carter Hart should have received his second consecutive start for the Philadelphia Flyers tonight since he got the win against the New Jersey Devils on Friday. That win was one to boost the confidence of a young, very talented goaltender. I thought that Alain Vigneault’s decision to play Brian Elliott was a strange move after a struggling goaltender found his way back into the win column. The scenario of how the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs turned out with Elliott going to a shootout, he didn’t prove that he was a better option than what Hart showed the night prior. I would argue that Hart would have been the more prepared goaltender to take on a shootout against the Maple Leafs, especially after the confidence restored in winning one against the New Jersey Devils.
Next, the Philadelphia Flyers are home at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania against the Carolina Hurricanes. This game takes place on Tuesday, November 5th at 7:00 pm. Thank you for reading and be sure to give a follow for more Flyers coverage at EricReesePSN on Twitter and Instagram!
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports