Flyers takeaways: An ‘unacceptable’ start, ‘unfortunate’ ending, and everything in between
The Philadelphia Flyers had a rollercoaster of a game against the Devils in New Jersey on Tuesday night. They came out flat and fell behind early, but battled back to make things interesting in the third period. However, they couldn’t finish things out and lost 6-4 as the Devils broke their 10-game losing streak.
Egor Zamula was solid in his NHL debut and eight different Flyers players picked up points in the game. Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier were instrumental in the comeback efforts before things fell apart later in the third period.
It was an “unacceptable” start and “unfortunate” ending, but there were some positives in the middle, I promise.
Here are five takeaways from the Flyers’ 6-4 loss to the Devils:
“Unacceptable” effort puts Flyers in early hole
The Flyers haven’t been great at the start of games recently and that continued on Tuesday night. There were some thoughts that the Flyers could build off the momentum of their comeback win on Sunday, but that wasn’t the case.
An early four-minute power play gave the Flyers a chance to open the scoring and gain some momentum, but they did the opposite of that. They managed just one shot on the power play, which was effectively a dump-in that hit the goalie, and it was a frustrating four minutes.
“We totally lost momentum there,” Alain Vigneault said of the man advantage. “The power play wasn’t effective at all other than hitting the post, we had absolutely nothing as far as opportunities, shots towards the net, possession.”
The Devils took the momentum from the penalty kill into the rest of the first period. They dominated the frame and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
New Jersey more than doubled the Flyers in shot attempts (15-7) at 5-on-5 in the first period. They outchanced the Flyers 8-5 at 5-on-5 play, including 3-0 in high-danger chances. That resulted in an expected goals for of just 15.18% (0.10 – 0.58) for the Flyers in the opening stanza.
It got worse before it got better. The Devils scored twice in the early stages of the second period to jump out to a 3-0 lead.
“It’s unacceptable the effort we put in there the first half of the game,” Sean Couturier said after the loss. “We need to be better. We need to be more ready from the start of the game and be tougher to play for a full game. We can’t be on and off. When we’re on, we’re one of the best teams, but we gotta be more consistent.”
The Flyers definitely weren’t on in the first half of Tuesday night’s game and it put them behind the 8 ball with a 3-0 deficit.
Oskar Lindblom and the Flyers fight back
There has to be some credit given to the Flyers for not packing it in after going down 3-0. They were on the road, didn’t get any early bounces, and it didn’t seem like anything would go right for them in the game. However, just 11 seconds after the Devils’ third goal, Oskar Lindblom got one back.
Lindblom got in deep on the forecheck and the fourth line had a flurry of shots on goal. Jackson Cates and Nolan Patrick couldn’t beat MacKenzie Blackwood, but Lindblom jammed it home. It was good to get the Flyers back in the game and Jackson Cates picked up his first NHL point with an assist on the goal.
That goal was an early turning point in the game. It marked the start of a steady progression of controlling play for the Flyers.
The Devils had a shot attempt differential of more than +12 after their third goal. That swung all the way back to +15 in the Flyers’ favor by the end of the game.
“After they made it 3-0, we were the better team on the ice,” Vigneault said. “We played hard at 5-on-5, made the right type of plays, never quit, got back in the game.”
After a lackluster start to the game and frustrating finish to the second period, the Flyers kept pushing early in the third.
They won a board battle in the corner leading to Philippe Myers‘ first goal of the season to make it a 3-2 game.
Then, just 70 seconds later, Claude Giroux struck to tie the game at three in the third period for the second time in as many games. It was another beauty by the captain as well.
After that, things got rocky again for the Flyers.
“Unfortunate” ending after battling back
The Devils’ first three goals were on good puck-moving plays in the offensive zone. They converted twice on the power play then kept the puck alive for a bit of a lucky goal on a shot from the point at even strength. Brian Elliott made a few tough saves outside of those goals, so it was a respectable performance through two periods.
That all changed in the third period.
After the Flyers tied the game at three, the defense broke down and Elliott let in a goal that he will absolutely want back.
Connor Carrick chipped the puck off the boards to himself, jumped around Myers, and beat Elliott from a bad angle. It was the type of goal that completely deflates a team.
However, the Flyers weren’t dead yet. The top line went to work in the offensive zone and after a good pinch by Travis Sanheim, Sean Couturier threw a puck on net from the boards that found its way past Blackwood to tie the game at four.
There it was. The Flyers were back in it again. Well, they were in it for 11 seconds at least.
On the ensuing faceoff, the Devils got the puck in deep. There was some miscommunication between Elliott and the defensemen, and Elliott hung out behind the net a little bit too long. Yegor Sharangovich made him pay.
Now that goal was the backbreaker.
“Unfortunately, the fourth and fifth goals –– the fourth goal is one that I’m sure Moose would like to have back and the fifth one was a miscommunication between the ‘D’ and goaltender there,” Vigneault said after the game. “Unfortunate to give up that the way we battled back from that three-goal deficit.”
It was incredibly unfortunate after the veterans worked hard to overcome a deficit in the third period. But that’s the way it goes sometimes, and they wouldn’t have needed the veterans to overcome a deficit anyway if they had started out the game strong.
Vigneault noted that it was Elliott’s third start in seven games when asked about the decision to start the veteran.
“That’s the balance that is not easy to find. When he’s been fresh, he’s been outstanding … When we play him, I think this was his third game in seven nights, it’s a little bit more difficult.”
Tuesday night Elliott had a little bit more difficult time and it cost the Flyers.
Flyers’ special teams play especially poor against Devils
One of the reasons for the poor start was the Flyers’ play on special teams. In fact, it may have been the main reason.
The Flyers’ power play was absolutely abysmal early in the game. Claude Giroux hit the post off the rush and then the Flyers could barely even get set up in the offensive zone. On a four-minute power play, the team has to get some sort of pressure and shots on net. The Flyers did none of that.
On the flip side, the Devils made the Flyers pay for their carelessness. They may have escaped with a scoreless first period, but Nolan Patrick took a holding penalty with 2:15 left in the period. One minute later, Nico Hischier scored to give the Devils a 1-0 lead that they would take into intermission.
Then, early in the second period, Travis Sanheim stood up for his teammate and took an extra roughing minor in the process. Pavel Zacha scored this time to give the Devils a 2-0 lead and some momentum that they would use to score a third goal just three minutes later.
It’s not all on Patrick and Sanheim, however. The penalty kill has haunted the Flyers all season and they seemed to just watch the puck get passed around the zone before the Devils scored their two goals.
Egor Zamula shows “potential” and “upside” in NHL debut
Egor Zamula quietly led the Flyers in 5-on-5 ice time with 18:58 in his NHL debut. He played 19:16 in all situations, racking up five shot attempts (three on goal), one takeaway, and one blocked shot in his debut. Zamula had a 59.63% xGF, which isn’t too bad for a 21-year-old rookie.
Zamula is still learning and has a lanky frame, but the skills are definitely there. He made a few solid plays on Tuesday night and didn’t look out of place. There were no glaring errors for the young defenseman in his debut.
“There’s no doubt that everybody can see the potential and the upside,” Vigneault said of Zamula. “He’s gotta work and we’ve gotta work with him to help him become the best player that he can be. It was his first game and first step.”
There are seven games left in the season for the Flyers. Based on his ice time in his debut, you’d have to think that Zamula will get a few more looks at the NHL level before the season is up. However, Cam York is knocking on the door behind him after an impressive three-point game on Monday night.
All in all, Zamula’s NHL debut was a positive one. There is definitely room for improvement and fine-tuning of his game, but the ice time was there and the coaching staff saw his potential. Zamula should be in the mix for a spot on the Flyers’ blue line next season depending on what happens in the summer.
The Flyers and Devils play again on Thursday night in Newark before coming back down to Philadelphia on Saturday night.