Flyers fall in similar fashion

If you were asked to sum up the Flyers early season thus far, you would likely describe it as a slow start with periodic exciting finishes. Lately, the exciting finishes have been more like predictable late two-goal deficits and the only excitement is making bets on when Hakstol will pull the goaltender for an extra skater. Last night they didn’t show up until almost the 9-minute mark of the first period, and by the time Mason made his way to the bench, I don’t think many people had that old feeling like the boys had a comeback in them.

 

After the game coach Hakstol said the team “Did a lot of good things” … “It was the right effort” … “We need a similar effort tomorrow night”. I’m not a rocket scientist, but  if by similar, you mean not showing up until the 9-minute mark and being out shot not only in quantity but quality and allowing your opponent to outplay you in critical moments of the game, I don’t see that game having a positive outcome either. Don’t get me wrong, there were stretches where the Flyers played well and a few individuals really shined. But when the coaches pair Nick Schultz and Luke Schenn for virtually the entire game, I am just a bit worried.

The game was not without its bright spots. The Flyers dominated on face-offs after a few games where it seemed like only Claude Giroux could win one; and they did at times really take the hitting game to the Canucks which did create some weak turnovers and offensive chances. The highlight of the game for Flyers fans was the Giroux second period goal that tied the game. It was vintage Giroux, after receiving the outlet pass from Voracek, he used his strong skating to get around the defense and go in on Miller and beat him high with the backhand.

 

Giroux’s highlight reel goal was needed to tie the game after an ugly start where Vancouver scored at 1:08 of the first period with a sweet play of their own when Horvat squeezed the puck neatly onto Hansen’s stick which allowed him to go in alone against Mason and used a nice deek move to deposit the puck into the gaping net. The Flyers scrambled for awhile in the first period but finally got it together when they mustered a flurry of chances on Miller, but as usual, Miller stood tall as he does often against the Flyers. It was not until around the 15-minute mark that Miller was truly tested on a great chance by Lecavalier who played a pretty good game paired with Sam Gagner and Brayden Schenn; at least better than R.J. Umberger.

The second period started like the first with some sloppy play and one terrific back checking play by Rafl who broke up a rush from behind and who also was one of the better skaters tonight for the Flyers. The Canucks looked like they were going to keep up the pressure when Horvat took advantage of a young Manning and went around him like a turn style and went in on Mason, but Mason was up to the task. After a few Vancouver chances, Giroux carried a defender on his back and pushed the tying goal past Miller. The Flyers carried a lot of the play throughout the second period but only got ten shots on goal and most of those were perimeter shots that Miller ate up with no problem. The Canucks, on the other hand, had the far better quality chances and if not for a few other good saves by Mason and an incredible save by VandeVelde who swept the puck out of the crease just before it could cross the goal line; this game would have been a blowout.

Just when you thought the Flyers would be able to go to the dressing room with a tie, there were matcing minor penalties called on Giroux and Daniel Sedin. In the ensuing 4 on 4 Horvat, who was all over the place tonight, made a nice play taking advantage of the extra room and skated from behind the net to fire a shot over Mason’s shoulder who seemed screened by a trailing Schultz.

Photo by Heather Barry

Photo by Heather Barry

The third period was almost uneventful. The Flyers never really seemed to mount the attack they would have needed when trailing late in a game. And Vancouver was content to play the game at center ice with the lead. But then Manning and his lack of NHL experience were exposed again as he got caught pinching, but not pinching, at the blue line and caught nothing but air as the Canucks Jake Virtanen poked the puck past him and was off on a rush. Virtanen scoring his first NHL goal at 8:28 pretty much sealed the Flyers fate. Vrbata added an empty-net goal to finish the scoring at 19:50.

In the end, Mason made 24 saves on 27 shots and looked good considering some of the quality chances he faced. Another bright spot was the play of Michael DelZotto who was paired with Streit, both played in upwards of 24 minutes each.

The loss in Vancouver brought the losing streak to four games. The Flyers go into Edmonton to face Connor McDavid and the Oilers with a defense that is filled with Nick Schultz and Brandon Manning. A similar effort will probably lead to another loss.

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