Mar 4, 2011, 11:28 AM EDT
I suppose, on the bright side of a Flyers loss, we can take comfort in a few of the positive things that happened for the good guys last night, while also acknowledging what seemed to be going wrong. They lost again, their first back-to-back losses since the bookends of the Christmas break. But, as losses go, even to a team not currently within the playoff bubble, it's not as though this was an awful showing. This is hockey, where losses can get downright despicable. When was the last time we saw the Flyers just look flat out terrible for 60 minutes, or blow a big lead late, not just lose a one-goal advantage in the third period?
Sure I was pissed to see them cough up a lead to a team they're much better than, and it's easy to look at the recent stretch of games and begin worrying about a slump. But in my lay opinion, that was a pretty good hockey game. It just wasn't one our side won. The Maple Leafs had a good night, a respectable showing, and they made the most of a few huge mistakes by the Flyers and some great goaltending by a kid named James Reimer. They earned a win over a better team, in said team's barn, perhaps with some added advantage due to three Flyers—including Jeff Carter—missing the game.
Let's look take a look at some tape and see what went wrong, as well as a few of the reasons we're still effing positive the Flyers are the team to beat.
In last night's pre-game post, we hoped the combination of the Flyers being short a few key forwards while playing Kris Versteeg's former team would spark Versteeg to some noticeable glory. It's not that we thought Versteeg wasn't playing well—very much to the contrary in fact; he's looked good. We just wanted to see him be the game-breaker. And, last night, he was, scoring both of the Flyers' goals, albeit in a 3-2 loss.
Versteeg's pair of goals were pretty nice, and what's particularly encouraging about them isn't just that he finished well and found the twine, it's that both goals were assisted by Mike Richards. Even in a loss, the reassuring feeling of seeing the chemistry between these two linemates build was encouraging. Here's a look at Versteeg's goals:
Without thinking too long, Richie knew exactly where Versteeg was, in part because Versteeg was exactly where he needed to be to receive a pass and have an angle on some rare open space between Reimer and his post.
One more quick positive before we go on to just a bit of what went wrong.
Tip: You don't want to be on the ice during one of those shifts where it looks like Claude Giroux has been shot over the boards out of a cannon. Which, lately, is nearly every shift he takes. Giroux didn't factor into the scoring last night, but he did paste two Maple Leafs pretty good. First, ex-Flyer Joffrey Lupul:
G'head and tweet about that one, Loops. (Lupul would in fact take to twitter with some nonsense after the game, gloating a bit about the win, and complaining that a mother had given their team bus the finger.)
And here is, without question, the check of the night, again by Mr. G.
Just another couple of reasons why this kid is the most popular hockey player in Philly these days.
Hell those hits were almost as good as this one (must click).
Now, for a bit of what went wrong. First off, they took too many goddamn penalties, particularly early. Lavs felt the game was a bit over-ref'd, and he probably has a point. But some of the calls were too easy for the stripes not to make. The Flyers spent 8 of the first 20 minutes killing penalties. With lines in FLUx, they were lucky they didn't head into the first intermission down a pair. Fortunately, the killing units were very strong, with some solid play by Ben Holmstrom in his NHL debut.
While the Leafs would go 0-7 on the power play, the need to kill that many penalties seemed to zap any cohesion or momentum the Flyers might have gained as a result of the successful kills. It's not something to harp on at the moment, as discipline really hasn't been an issue this season for the most part.
There were some costly bad decisions unrelated to penalties though. For example, this might be the worst clearing attempt we've seen all season, with Scott Hartnell not getting all of a puck when attempting to clear it through the high slot.
With the boards and point directly to the left being wide open, the clear didn't need to be dangerous, let alone foolish.
On the Leafs' second goal, I can't tell exactly what Richards was trying to do on the faceoff that led to it. You have to watch closely at the very beginning here:
It looked like he tried to go through the legs of the opposing center and get a quick outlet, but the puck didn't get far enough through, and the Leafs were able to gather it and change the direction of play quickly, while Richards was too high, too fast, to catch up. The rest of the play wasn't necessarily his fault, with everyone seeming to have trouble getting into position as quickly as the Leafs did, but it was destined for bad things from the drop. Plus, the Flyers had just lost a power play opportunity when the Flyers were whistled for too many men on the ice, a penalty Richie took responsibility for after the game. With 20 seconds left in the period, the Flyers went from being on a power play with a one-goal lead to being tied up going into the second intermission. It wasn't a pretty sequence.
The Leafs' game-winner wasn't so much the result of a bad decision, but it wasn't Flyers defenseman Sean O'Donnell's best moment.
Odie said after the game that during the contact in the corner, his helmet came down over his eyes and he lost the puck carrier. Guess that's a pretty effective way for a an attacker to undress his defenseman.
Finally, there are just some things you can't control. One is an unlucky bounce, and another is a goalie standing on his proverbial head. Here's a sequence from the final minute of the game, when, for a moment, the Flyers appeared to have won it.
So yeah, that last goal falls into, instead of on top of, the goal… And the Flyers find a way to win it in OT… How upset about the team are you today?
Obviously there's room for improvement right now. An excellent team is playing mediocre to decent hockey. But it's not time to worry yet.
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