The Philadelphia Flyers embark on their second leg of ten games. A shutout loss wasn’t what they expected.
The Philadelphia Flyers began this season with a 6-2-2 record. Heading into a critical stretch over the next ten games, the Flyers mustn’t feel content.
Coming into town are a hungry Toronto Maple Leafs team. In the Atlantic Division, they’re competitive. Another example of a team with postseason aspirations.
Brooke Destra nailed it in the preview of tonight’s game: Carter Hart has kept Philadelphia in games. He was a primary reason why the Flyers earned a point against a severely depleted Pittsburgh Penguins team. Against Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, Hart must be top-notch.
Did Hart put more points on the table for Philadelphia? Could the Flyers find a way to produce more quality scoring chances? Will they start strong heading into the second batch of a ten-game spread? Here’s how it played out tonight at the Wells Fargo Center:
The performance of the Philadelphia Flyers special teams loomed over the first period. On the bright side, the penalty kill bailed out an early penalty against Scott Laughton. Sean Couturier and Nate Thompson nearly synced for a shorthanded goal. Jack Campbell made his first huge stop in a string of many in the first period.
Then, on two powerplay opportunities, the Flyers seemed to have backpedaled. They couldn’t convert the first chance. Boos began to reign after a lackadaisical showing.
The second powerplay chance was even worse. Carter Hart left home to play the puck twice, avoiding danger.
Hart is a part of a tandem that ranks fourth in the NHL. Philadelphia needs strong performances between the pipes to be the norm if they’re going to spoil opportunities. Defensively, Justin Braun and Patrick Brown were both fundamentally sound. Braun took away shooting lanes, and Brown disrupted opposing offensive zone entries. Into the first intermission, the game remained scoreless.
Beginning the period, Sean Couturier and Nick Seeler gave Auston Matthews the business. Seeler rubbed Matthews out of a rush down the wing, perfectly executed. Couturier can stay stride-for-stride with Matthews, which is a sight to behold.
Rasmus Ristolainen continued to bully forwards within the slot. He leads the team in hits. If he can continue his current string of performances throughout the season, he’ll be the foundation of the Philadelphia Flyers’ defense. Encouraging play from him since the win on the road against the Washington Capitals.
You wouldn’t believe it, but to this point, the Flyers led the Toronto Maple Leafs in shots, 23-19. Those shot totals are padded by powerplay opportunities, which Philadelphia is 0/3.
Then, controversy crept into the story arc of this game.
Jake Muzzin crossed a pass towards the crease. William Nylander made an intelligent play, lifting Oskar Lindblom’s stick while crashing the crease. The puck deflects off of his skate, which kicks forward following the deflection. Originally called “no goal,” the officials overturned the ruling. The Maple Leafs take a 1-0 lead into the third period.
Carter Hart continued to bail the Philadelphia Flyers out. Keith Yandle turned the puck over too often. Then, Ivan Provorov served a penalty for slashing.
Hart was dialed in, but volume finally caught up to him. William Nylander scored his second of the game. Sean Couturier and Travis Sanheim were sloughed over a little too far, leaving Nylander one-on-one with Hart. This time, his stick (not his foot) extended the lead.
In a late rally attempt to get back into the game, the Flyers went on the powerplay for the fourth time. Michel Therrien needs to reassemble the original powerplay units. Shaking up the formula hasn’t helped. They’re 0/4 this evening. The lack of execution on the powerplay is accountable for the lack of scoring.
Ondrej Kase, who took a dirty shot at Scott Laughton earlier, scored his one-hundredth NHL point when he increased the Toronto Maple Leafs score to 3-0.
A shutout loss never serves a good purpose, but Philadelphia must answer on the road versus the Carolina Hurricanes.
Next up, the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Carolina Hurricanes. The puck drops at 7pm.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre