The Hat Trick: What we learned in the most frustrating Flyers loss in forever

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This game was the equivalent of an existential crisis. The Philadelphia Flyers are no longer in a playoff spot. Going into last night, the Flyers were two points of jumping into third place in the Metropolitan Division. After a 5-0 thrashing from the last place in the Metropolitan Division New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia needs to find an identity. The identity cannot be playing down to opponents just to wonder “what if” in case they are looking from the outside come the NHL postseason.

Everything about this game escalated quickly. Within the first thirteen seconds of the game, Blake Coleman scored the game-winning goal. In less time it takes to fill a cup of coffee, add cream, and put on a lid. With 19:47 remaining in the first period, the New Jersey Devils put the Philadelphia Flyers down on their home ice. It was also the only period where the Devils led in shots before intermission, 10-9.

Alain Vigneault is a coach that normally is great with adjustments during intermission. With 18:21 remaining in the second period, Damon Severson increased the lead for the New Jersey Devils, 2-0, on the powerplay. Now the penalty kill wasn’t serving its purpose. The defenseman that was highlighted in our “Spying on the Saboteur” pregame piece proved to be an asset. The Philadelphia Flyers were 0/2 on the powerplay at the end of the second period, held without a goal, but led in shots, 25-15.

Usually, the Philadelphia Flyers can find a way to rally. Tonight was the opposite of that as the New Jersey Devils scored goals in every possible way you can in hockey. With 18:50 remaining in regulation, Pavel Zacha scores a short-handed goal. Miles Wood then added two more, one against Brian Elliott and another against Alex Lyon after Elliott was pulled. The final shot total favored the Flyers, 46-18, which if you let that sink in…the Devils scored on every attempted shot in the third period.

A “Prove It” Game

Tonight was a “prove it” game for Shayne Gostisbehere. While people will say “it wasn’t all on him,” I agree with that sentiment. Just about every player had a terrible evening on that ice in Orange and Black. However, I am convinced that Gostisbehere is not going to attempt to get physical on the forecheck to contain the puck in the offensive zone. It was something that jumped out at me in the second period when he had a hit lined up and decided to play the puck.

In a game where you are fighting for a momentum swing, playing the body is essential. Robert Hagg ought to be in the lineup and Shayne Gostisbehere should be a healthy scratch against the Washington Capitals. As I think of my own “Trade Experiment” piece regarding Gostisbehere, it may be worth trading him for another reliable defenseman. Call the Nashville Predators regarding Mattias Ekholm.

A Trap Game?

No, I refuse to chalk this loss to the New Jersey Devils under the file of a “trap game.” The Devils played their best tonight and the Philadelphia Flyers never left the locker room. Brian Elliott was left out to dry by the lazy defense ahead of him in the first and the third. Some calls were testy, such as Travis Zajac not being called for tripping Claude Giroux in the slot, but that alone wouldn’t change a thing about this game. It’s a bad habit that the Flyers adopted when they play down to inferior opponents, so you cannot call this a “trap game” because this just happens too often.

Positive Reinforcement

As a writer, I take pride in trying to find a silver lining in each game. Performance-wise, there simply isn’t one to illuminate. The Philadelphia Flyers need to find their heart and play up to primetime opponents and keep that energy through the remainder of this season. There are things to celebrate, which are all milestones. Jakub Voracek played his 900th career NHL game while Claude Giroux and Ivan Provorov played in their 300th consecutive NHL game tonight.

Next, the Philadelphia Flyers are away at the Capital One Arena in Washington, DC to visit the Washington Capitals. This game takes place on Saturday, February 8th at 7 pm. Be sure to give a follow for more Flyers coverage at EricReesePSN and PhiladelphiaSN on Twitter!

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