Flyers 5: Takeaways from Game 2 of Flyers-Canadiens
There were a few ways to view Game 1 of the Flyers series with the Canadiens. The second period of that game was the worst the Flyers had played since arriving in the bubble in Toronto, but they had survived it and came away with the lead. Then they played a lock-down third period that secured the end result and a 1-0 series lead.
The opportunity was there for the Flyers to take a 2-0 series lead after having what many viewed was only a B-minus, C-game from the Flyers. There were some who viewed Game 1 as a missed opportunity for the Canadiens, while others saw it as a game where the Canadiens showed they could hang around in this series.
Man, did they prove that in Game 2. From the start, the Flyers were flat and sloppy and forced into bad decisions with the puck. Montreal took full advantage. Before the Flyers even had a chance to get a shot on goal, they trailed 2-0. Even in a period where the Flyers played a style more true to their game, they were outscored 2-0. A power-play goal midway through the third was just icing on the cake in a 5-0 rout by the Canadiens that made it a new series.
Here are 5 takeaways from Game 2 of Flyers-Canadiens.
1. A Horrible Start
There are slow starts, and there was this. The Flyers have had slow starts this season. They have had games where they had to survive the first period. For a few moments, it felt that way.
When the Flyers allowed an early goal, chalk it up to a disorganized shift in your own zone to start the game. It happens, and the Flyers haven’t been that team for most of the season and especially in the playoffs. But from that goal, it was all Montreal.
It took the Flyers 17 minutes to get a shot on goal. Seventeen. That can’t happen in the playoffs. It really can’t happen against a 12-seed.
For whatever reason, the Flyers got away with their most average game since the playoffs began on Wednesday night and still won. And maybe they thought that if even their most average game could win in the playoffs, that this series would be easy. Newsflash, it won’t.
Montreal commanded the play in that opening period and only an abbreviated power play made the shot totals somewhat level toward the end of the period. The Flyers started the game falling behind in shot attempts, 20-3. Montreal’s strategy was pretty clear: fire from everywhere. It worked too. Twice, Montreal scored on rebounds, both in the opening period.
And how did the opening period end? It closed with the Flyers winning a face-off in the offensive zone where the puck split the defenders and rolled down the ice and everyone was just watching. Max Domi was skating hard after the puck, chased it down and got a breakaway. Shayne Gostisbehere took a holding penalty because he appeared to put his arm around Domi and even if it was a phantom call made by the official at center ice, the Flyers frustration was on full display right there. There was no coming back from that unless you could turn the game around early in the second with a quick goal.
2. Special Team Struggles
In this series, the Flyers were supposed to be the superior team on special teams, but that simply hasn’t been the case. After a game with just four power plays between the two teams - and the Flyers were 1-for-3 in the opener - the Flyers were 0-for-5 on the power play and Montreal was 2-for-5.
Starting with the power play, it goes back to Montreal’s strategy. The Flyers want to make quick passes, get set up and make the perfect play. Except that isn’t working. Montreal is taking away the cross-ice passes, blocking the lanes and not allowing for a lot. They are taking time and space away that allows the Flyers to maintain possession, but not make much of a play.
Perhaps the most glaring part of the power play came during a 5-on-3 for 1:38 in the second period. It’s 3-0 and this was the Flyers chance to start to make things interesting again, to maybe get inside the Canadiens’ heads. The Flyers let that chance get away too, and while Carey Price was good during that, there wasn’t some spectacular save.
Now to the penalty kill, which also had its struggles in Game 2. If the Flyers weren’t going to get things going on the power play, they needed to get the penalty kill working to keep the margin where it was.
If the Flyers are going to have a prayer in a playoff series, they need to win the special teams battle. This is the worst that the penalty kill has looked in a game, but the power play struggles have become a trend. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t change this outcome, but it can have an effect on others as the series progressed.
3. Lineup Changes
Make no mistake about it, changes are coming. You can’t have that kind of effort and not expect it.
The Flyers have played five playoff games now. In the first four - all wins - it’s easy to overlook the struggles of top players to contribute offensively because winning is a cure-all. Now that you have not only lost, but been completely embarrassed, it falls on the best players on your roster.
Defensively, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier were each a minus-2. They had not been on the ice for a goal against in games against Boston, Washington and Tampa Bay. Montreal doesn’t have the star power that any of those teams do. If you are off of your game on any night, it will show on the scoreboard.
So where will these changes come? One has to be defensively. The pairing of Justin Braun and Gostisbehere was definitely the most glaring pair on the ice. They were each a minus-2 as well. Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim didn’t play too poorly and the pairing of Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen were better, so don’t expect changes there. Robert Hagg should be expected to come into the lineup simply for size and physicality, two areas where the Flyers looked like they were lacking. Braun fits that description more, so it’s possible that Gostisbehere is again the odd-man out.
At forward, Michael Raffl was on the ice for warmups, and while he didn’t play, it means he’s close. He could definitely be back in the lineup, and there isn’t really any reason to think that more changes could come beyond that. There really wasn’t a single forward who stood out, so it falls on everyone, but the bottom six is where you could see the most changes.
4. Montreal Momentum
You can’t understate how big a game Sunday’s Game 3 is now for the Flyers. This hasn’t been their best effort in either game. In Game 2, they were downright embarrassed. And now they face a Game 3 that will shift the series in one team’s favor.
For Montreal, this has to now feel a little bit like the Pittsburgh series in the qualifying round. Even with two games in the books, it’s now a best-of-five and they clearly know they can be successful there.
Montreal really has all the momentum now too. They showed they could hang with the Flyers in Game 1. Then they dominated them in Game 2. For the Flyers to get control back, they have to find a way to silence the Canadiens.
5. Injury Added to Insult
As if the result of Game 2 wasn’t bad enough, seeing Travis Konecny leave the ice was even worse. The Flyers have been able to win games without certain players this season, but losing one of your Top 6 forwards during the playoffs is never a good thing.
First off, remember that Konecny missed three games due to a concussion in December and the Flyers lost all three games. Konecny is also an energy guy who knows how to stir the pot while having a scoring touch. It hasn’t been on display since arriving in Toronto though, and the frustration was starting to come through.
Perhaps that would have motivated him moving forward, but now he’s obviously a question mark for a game on Sunday night that is just two days away.
Konecny blocked a shot that hit his foot and he was in a lot of pain exiting the ice. There is no update on his status, but hopefully we’ll be able to learn something in the next day or so before Game 3. Even if Konecny playing on Sunday seems like a longshot, losing him long-term would be worse for the Flyers. Of course, long-term is only as far as the end of this series for now, and the Flyers need all the help they can get to get back into this series.