Slow Starts are Quicksand for the Flyers

NHL: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers
Nov 13, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Brendan Leipsic (28) scores a goal against Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart (79) during the first period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Much of the focus when speaking with players after Wednesday’s game was focused on the first period starting slow and the recovery in the second period. The Philadelphia Flyers battled back against the Washington Capitals, but Brendan Leipsic’s early goal proved to be enough of a fight. In the first period, the Flyers shot production was overmatched by the Capitals, 16-5. Playing defensive, not generating scoring chances, and showing an inability to possess the puck was the first-period theme for Philadelphia. The Flyers are more likely to win games when they are the first team to score.

After the game, Matt Niskanen stated “I think we just got more competitive. We were slow-moving in the first period.” Against teams who are as strong as the Washington Capitals, there isn’t any room to come out of the locker room at puck drop without energy. A flat first period is the way of a former season under a former coach. Alain Vigneault doesn’t subscribe to that brand of hockey. “Some certain guys, for whatever reason, are a little bit off and you’ve got to find ways during the game to see if you can’t grind one out,” Vigneault said.

The captain, Claude Giroux, provided some insight on what took place during the first intermission when the Philadelphia Flyers were back in the locker room with Alain Vigneault. It spoke highly of the locker room leadership and culture. “We know we didn’t play good in the first, he came at us pretty hard. We didn’t panic, we didn’t start yelling at each other, we know we can play better,” said Giroux. Vigneault is a very transparent coach to a team of talented veterans and promising youth. That switch turned on in the second period, as the Flyers would only allow the Washington Capitals six shots.

Moving forward, the intensity was infectious from the Philadelphia Flyers. Carter Hart continued his stellar performance. Matt Niskanen credited Hart, “He was one of our best players in the game, he gave us a chance to make a push in the second.” Alain Vigneault added, “You need some saves and we got some saves. All our games lately have been tight and hard-fought. Great goaltending on both sides. Six out of seven in OT, can’t get much tighter than that.” Hart’s performance against the Washington Capitals was good to be named the first star of the game honors.

Catching up with Carter Hart, he provided his thoughts on maintaining a point towards the NHL standings after the shootout loss:

“They’re the top team in the league right now. They’ve been rolling and for us to be in there right with them shows that we can be in with top teams in the league. We’ve been playing like it lately, we’ve been playing really good hockey. Nine out of the last ten points has been remarkable.”

Carter Hart; Post Game; Washington Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers; 11/13/19

In this goaltender’s duel of a game, the Philadelphia Flyers now know that they have a goaltender than can battle any other netminder in the NHL.

Without a doubt, the Philadelphia Flyers are contenders this season. They play as they belong against quality hockey teams, but the first period has not been the strongest time this season. Playing the role of ‘Cardiac Kids’ can only last for so long. The worst part is thinking “what if” after playing the best in the league into overtime. Alain Vigneault’s team isn’t dwelling on “what if,” but they are focusing on unleashing against the Ottawa Senators.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports