An early lack of discipline and conversions on scoring chances got the Philadelphia Flyers in a hole against the Arizona Coyotes. Darcy Kuemper is among the top of the list this season when discussing the top overall goaltenders. When that is the case, the Flyers need to play more aggressively on offense. While that wasn’t the struggle in the second and third periods, the first five minutes of the game haunted Philadelphia. The Coyotes snapped the Flyers five-game winning-streak and three-game winning-streak against Arizona with the final score, 3-1.
In the first five minutes of the game, the Philadelphia Flyers were at their low point. Brian Elliott was constantly having to leave his feet while the Arizona Coyotes were on the offensive. Claude Giroux was called for two separate minor penalties, the first offense resulting in a goal for the Coyotes. Phil Kessel crashed the net and tapped the puck hard enough to score on Elliott. To close the period, Arizona led 1-0.
The second period was the best period of hockey the Philadelphia Flyers offered this game. Phil Myers did take a penalty in the period, but the penalty kill was able to rebound from the first period. The Flyers had two more opportunities on the powerplay when Jakob Chychrun and Nick Schmaltz both received penalties. Darcy Kuemper was getting peppered, but ultimately came away unscathed. Sean Couturier almost had an equalizing goal, but Kuemper didn’t allow it.
Something felt like it had to give for the Philadelphia Flyers after rebounding momentum in the second period, but the Arizona Coyotes had other plans. Conor Garland was able to jam the puck past Brian Elliott to give his team a 2-0 lead. To follow, late in the third period, Matt Niskanen cut the Coyotes lead in half, 2-1. The Flyers just needed some late-game heroics, but a questionable call on Kevin Hayes put Philadelphia down a man. Phil Kessel would then close the game the same way he opened the game, with a powerplay goal.
Like a Moose Out of Water
“Moose” didn’t have a bad game against the Arizona Coyotes. He has his moments, but they’re costly. Early on in the first period, he and the Philadelphia Flyers seemed to lag against the Coyotes offense. This lagging in speed caused Claude Giroux to go into the penalty box twice, but Arizona only needed the first time to capitalize. In the time that it takes to “get your skating legs,” Elliott was already beaten.
Brian Elliott is one of the best back-up goaltenders in the NHL because he knows his role on the team and he is technical between the pipes. Early in games, the Philadelphia Flyers defense tends to be flat. Fix that aspect and come out hot. It’s contagious and that is why most teams who score first in the NHL often win their games. Against a Vezina Award candidate like Darcy Kuemper, the defense cannot be lax and Elliott had to be at his best.
Could it be that Darcy Kuemper is a late bloomer in the NHL? The Arizona Coyotes goaltender made his debut in the NHL during the 2012-2013 season with the Minnesota Wild. Last season, as a starting goaltender, Kuemper played 55 games for a 27-20-8 record. He had a 92.5% save percentage and yielded a 2.33 goal against average. Those numbers are good on paper, but he has only improved at 29 years old.
Put this into perspective: Carter Hart is only 21 and this season is posting a 91% save percentage and yielding a 2.35 goal against average. Most goaltenders don’t hit their prime until they’re around 24 years old. The next time the Philadelphia Flyers play the Arizona Coyotes is on January 4th, 2020. In that game, I hope Darcy Kuemper is head-to-head with Hart. That game could solidify Hart as a top goaltender this season if he has a strong December to accompany.
Good Effort, Poor Execution
This game is one where the Philadelphia Flyers seemed to get in their way, going against the philosophy of how to beat a good team with a great goaltender. At times, specifically on the powerplay, the special teams unit seemed to be looking for an extra pass too often. Setting up something elaborate proposes a stronger challenge to execute, so simplifying on the powerplay should have been an adjustment. Take the shot from the point a little more often and see what comes of a redirection or rebound. Matt Niskanen ripped a shot on net that found its way past Darcy Kuemper.
Next, the Philadelphia Flyers are at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to host the Ottawa Senators. This game takes place on Saturday, December 7th at 1:00 pm. Be sure to give a follow for more Flyers coverage at EricReesePSN on Twitter.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports