Flyers 5: Takeaways from Saturday’s Flyers-Penguins Game
Typically, in a game that is potentially there for the taking, the Flyers have the effort level needed to win. They may lose because they can’t get out of their own way with a mistake or two, but they have the effort level necessary. In Saturday’s game, a game that was there for the taking, they couldn’t match the urgency level the Penguins showed.
In the third period, the Flyers looked tired. They looked like the tank was empty. And the Penguins, certainly not at their best, were able to take advantage with one goal that proved to be the difference in a 4-3 result. And it doesn’t get any easier, as the Flyers are right back on the ice on Sunday.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s Flyers-Penguins game.
1. Special Teams Struggles Continue
This game started out eerily similar to the Tuesday game. The Flyers had a power play just 56 seconds into the game and did nothing with it. Just like Tuesday, they managed to score first at even strength. And then their penalty kill was the letdown.
The Penguins got a power play just seconds after the Flyers took the lead. In another minute’s time, the game was tied. The Flyers let another power play go by the wayside later in the period, then were scored on again on another penalty kill before the period concluded.
The Flyers have allowed 64 goals in 21 games this season, just over three per game. Some of that is certainly lopsided by losses to Buffalo and Boston early in the season and the Lake Tahoe game just a couple weeks ago. But what is really becoming an extremely troubling trend is how frequently they are being scored on while shorthanded.
Of the 64 goals allowed by the Flyers this season, 20 of them have come while trying to kill a penalty.
The Flyers don’t seem to have any problem when the game remains at 5-on-5. They are able to score goals and prevent a lot of offense the other way. But on special teams, this team can’t even seem to function.
The power play is stale. Whatever they try to do, teams are pretty much up for it. They get the occasional goal, but too often, they have a chance to put their stamp on a game with special teams play and simply don’t take advantage.
Meanwhile, the PK is simply caught standing still half the time. There are wide-open passing lanes. Inside positioning at the net is always available.
Special teams can make or break a team, especially when playoff time rolls around. The Flyers have been off to a good start and have a good record to this point in the season, but there’s a reason why they aren’t right there at the top, even for the lack of games played. This special teams play won’t cut it in the playoffs, and now that it is officially March, the playoff race is on.
2. Late Goals Doing Damage
The Flyers allowed the Penguins to get the lead in the first with 1:59 remaining. They allowed the tying goal in the second with 1:50 remaining. Late goals will kill you.
Both goals were obviously unique, the first coming as the Penguins’ second power-play goal of the afternoon and the second on an even-strength leaky goal by Brian Elliott. Both were also preventable.
When the PK is struggling, sometimes the best cure is to stay out of the box. At the end of a period, you need to lock everything down, and that includes your goaltending. Elliott has been great for the Flyers this season, but you need a save on that.
Ultimately, the late goals proved to be killer. The Flyers could have gone to the third carrying a lead. Instead, they were in a situation where they needed to win the final period.
3. A Bad Change
The Penguins got the only goal of the third period at 10:41 and it proved to be the difference. It was the result of a bad line change for the Flyers that allowed the Penguins to out-number them the other way and get the positioning needed for an easy rebound goal.
A closer look at the play shows the Penguins breakout. The Penguins exit the zone with two players charging up ice and the rest going to the bench for a change. The Penguins defensemen don’t matter to this play, as they are out of the picture for the remainder.
At the same time, the Flyers have both defensemen back and it’s a standard 2-on-2. Brandon Tanev comes off the bench for Pittsburgh and jumps into the play. Nolan Patrick can be seen checking where his teammates are on the ice and signaling for a change as well. He heads off the ice.
Upon entry, Evgeni Malkin drops a pass to Jared McCann. Both defensemen adjust their positioning as McCann slides the puck to Tanev. This is where the play breaks down for the Flyers.
As Tanev cuts in, he’s got Justin Braun nearby. Ivan Provorov is playing Malkin. But McCann is still uncovered as Oskar Lindblom is late getting back into the play and Joel Farabee and Sean Couturier are still coming in off the bench. It allows McCann to drive the net and be in the perfect position for the rebound.
The error in the change is Patrick. If Patrick stays on the ice, the Flyers have numbers to counter Tanev’s entry off the bench, while two other players would have been able to change. That could have closed off the numbers and made for a tie up at the front of the net and not a clean look at the rebound.
Instead, the player left to try to catch Tanev is Lindblom, who was deepest in the offensive zone when the transition started. That’s how McCann ends up so wide open and able to score from prime real estate.
4. No Urgency Down Stretch
Even with the Penguins getting that goal off the bad change, there was still 9:19 remaining in the third period for the Flyers to find an equalizer. The problem is that the Flyers lacked the urgency and energy needed to actually do it.
The final two minutes were a great example. The Flyers barely got a sniff of the offensive zone with the goalie pulled. They could not match the hunger and urgency that the Penguins had.
Could it have been fatigue from five games in eight days? Sure. But that’s no excuse. Alain Vigneault even noted after the game that the Penguins had played just as often as the Flyers in recent days. This was the same schedule for both teams and fatigue wasn’t a factor.
But it was not the type of third period you want to see. When an opportunity like that is on the table, all it took was winning a period. The Flyers couldn’t get an edge and didn’t have the compete level after allowing the go-ahead goal to erase it.
It’s even more problematic that they still have one more game to go before this stretch of six games in nine days comes complete.
5. Coming Home
On the bright side, the Flyers do get to return to the ice at home. It will be a significant milestone, as the Wells Fargo Center will host fans at an event for the first time in almost one calendar year.
That should be a lift for the Flyers. They have long-awaited to have fans back in the building. This week was also their first foray in an arena with fans and it sure seemed to help the Penguins on Tuesday, even without their captain.
Now the Flyers get to welcome back fans as part of the home ice advantage. It comes at a good time too. The next four games will be played on home ice for the Flyers.