Chuck Fletcher set the lineups for the first three games. He emphasized a few forwards when the Flyers faced the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. Last night versus the Washington Capitals, there was an added emphasis on the defense. Fletcher successfully deployed a lineup that consistently hit the ice hard in the first period. The second period, however, separates good teams from the rest:
“Second periods are reflections of good teams. The teams that are feeling like they are up at the upper echelon, they tend to have good second periods, and if we want to become a good team, we have to clean up our second periods.”Brad Shaw; 9/28/2022
An answer like that is evidence that Brad Shaw was arguably the second most important acquisition for Philadelphia in the offseason. In 2021-2022, nary was there an energetic second period. Alain Vigneault and Mike Yeo would credit the goaltending often for keeping the team in the game, lucky to keep the deficit to a minimum. Compare 2019-2020 (41-21-7,) when competitive performances mostly extended throughout three periods, to 2020-2022 (50-69-19,) when the lineup often strayed away from the game plan.
Ultimately, it is a puck management issue; puck control, line changes, player shift times, etc. Composure on the bench means keeping in tune with the details on the ice. Those smaller factors directly correlate the probability of carrying over the momentum of a good opening period to the dreadful Flyers’ second.
“To some extent, that’s recognizing the pulse of the game a little bit, being a little bit more plugged in. Recognizing that most of the elements of the game are more important because your margin for error is slimmer. You can get caught on a long shift. You combine all those things, and it is a test for teams that aren’t feeling that night. That’s definitely something we want to improve on. We recognize that if you can weather the storm in the second period and get through it a lot of time, you get that second wind or third wind in the third, and away you go.”Brad Shaw; 9/28/2022
John Tortorella wasn’t pleased with the performance against Buffalo, and last night versus Washington didn’t fix anything. He runs a hard camp, the skating is some of the most intense that these NHL players experienced in their careers.
Interestingly, Ian Laperriere cited player fatigue when discussing Morgan Frost after the loss to the Sabres. Shaw implied the same notion when discussing Wade Allison:
“I thought there was a lot of try and maybe fatigue played a part [of] how he didn’t have the necessary second effort that you need to have success at this level.”Brad Shaw; 9/28/2022
Both forwards, Frost and Allison, played in at least two of three preseason games, including the victory over the Bruins.
To this point, Tortorella hasn’t assembled a lineup. He observes from above, where the game seems to move a little slower and the perspective is a lot different. In his camp, Tortorella is intensely conditioning his roster and learning about his players based on his gut instincts. The result of the preseason games doesn’t matter, but the effort and conditioning do. Without those two elements, it doesn’t matter if a player is familiar with a particular system; a commitment to becoming harder to play against begins with consistent, formidable performances born out of preparation.
When Philadelphia hosted Boston, they were opportunistic in their scoring chances. Against Buffalo, they weren’t as opportunistic but kept peppering goaltenders with shots on goal. Versus the Capitals, they were stifled in the second period. Kevin Hayes directly referenced the performance in the second contributing to a losing effort:
“We got hemmed in too much. I think we had two shots in the second for about eighteen minutes. Can’t win games like that, but that’s what preseason games are for.”Kevin Hayes; 9/28/2022
The Flyers cannot and will not win games if the second-period slide continues. Tortorella and Shaw identified the issue early, which is a testament to quality coaching. They’ll need to adjust as early as Saturday, October 1st, 2022, at the TD Garden.
(Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)