For the first time in quite a while, the Flyers looked like the better team on Monday night. They beat Barry Trotz’s squad –– in terms of process, at least –– at their own game with a tight-checking performance.
The Flyers outshot the Islanders 37-19, including 35-13 at 5-on-5 play, had more sustained pressure, and limited their mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes still ended up in the back of their own net.
“Yeah, I mean we came to play tonight. Right from the beginning, I think we were responsible with the puck. We had several good opportunities tonight. Their goaltender was obviously a big part of their win. He made some big saves at the right time,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “It’s disappointing. But we went in their building, played a real strong game that first game, weren’t as strong the second game. I thought tonight we battled hard, but they were able to obviously get the winning one there at the end.”
The result, a 2-1 overtime loss, was disappointing, but the Flyers at least received a point for their efforts. They only won one game against the Islanders, but earned three points in the three games. Usually, that would be okay –– not great, not bad ––, but the regulation loss was a 6-1 defeat just days after a 9-0 loss to the Rangers. The Flyers have not had any sort of positive consistency this month.
Despite the loss, the Flyers played one of their best games in a while. A date with the Devils in the second half of a back-to-back set awaits, and the Flyers can’t let their strong performance be a one-off. They can’t be discouraged by the result despite recent struggles.
“It’s tough. We played a pretty good game. We outshot them. Got our chances and couldn’t capitalize and then they get 2 bounces their way and cash in,” Sean Couturier said. “It’s tough, but we have to play more like that tomorrow. Bring that same kind of game and start capitalizing on our chances and get some results.”
“It’s frustrating, in the games that we are playing good, we find a way to lose,” Couturier said of the team’s frustration level “But, like tonight, it’s a good game to kind of build on, even if it’s a tough result.”
Tough and frustrating are two good words for it. One may even go as far as saying it’s infuriating given how this season has been going.
By every metric except for the one that ultimately matters –– goals ––, the Flyers dominated on Monday night. At 5-on-5 play, they had a 57-35 advantage in shot attempts (61.96% CF), 35-13 in shots on goal, and 23-18 in scoring chances. That resulted in an Expected Goals For of 1.91-1.37, or 58.17% in the Flyers’ favor.
The Flyers held the Islanders to just 19 shots on goal in total. It was their first game this season allowing fewer than 20 shots.
They also only allowed two goals. The Flyers had allowed three or more goals in every game this month. In fact, this was just the fifth time all season that the Flyers only allowed one goal in regulation. They shut out the Sabres thrice (Jan. 19, Feb. 27-28) and beat the Devils 3-1 on Jan 28.
Brian Elliott appreciated the defensive effort in front of him.
“When everyone is doing their job, and either taking away shooting lanes or moving guys out in front so you can see the puck, it’s definitely a positive,” Elliott said.
The Flyers played a great game, but only got one point out of it. They can’t be discouraged by that and let this strong performance be an outlier.
There is a winnable game against the Devils on Tuesday night. Carter Hart will be starting and the team needs to play well in front of him.
The Flyers are entering a crucial stretch with less than three weeks until the trade deadline.
Consistency has been lacking in March for the Flyers. They haven’t won two straight games since their three-game winning streak from Feb. 24-28 against the Rangers and Sabres. On top of that, they haven’t allowed fewer than four goals in back-to-back games since then, either.
“I feel in the last few weeks, we have a good game and then we have a bad game,” Claude Giroux said. “Tonight, was a good game, and we need to build on it, get momentum out of it and obviously back-to-backs are not easy, especially with the schedule we’ve had in the last few weeks. It’s a big game for us. We need to bear down and play our best.”
If there is ever a time for the Flyers to string a few good games together and get rolling, it’s right now. They play five straight games against teams below them in the standings: Devils (once), Rangers (twice), Sabres (twice).
After playing near the top of their game against the Islanders, they can’t play down to their competition. They should come out hot against the Devils after this performance, and they should get up for the Rangers games after that 9-0 loss. The Sabres games are absolute must-wins against a team that looks like it belongs in the AHL –– or ECHL.
Despite the loss, it was a great showing against the Islanders. The Flyers can’t leave that performance on an island.
Photo: Heather Barry Images