Flyers 5: Takeaways from Sunday’s Flyers-Islanders Game
There are nights when the Flyers give a good showing, look competitive, at times look like the better team. Even in those games, it seems the Flyers are finding new ways to lose.
In this game, the Flyers did everything but score over the first 40 minutes. Then the Islanders started to make their push and ultimately took care of things in an overtime that they dominated.
It spoiled an otherwise outstanding goaltending performance on the Flyers end and showcased the Islanders budding young star in goal once again.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s 1-0 overtime loss.
1. Working Overtime
Death, taxes, and the Flyers and Islanders going to overtime.
If you thought this occurred regularly in last season’s playoff series, this season put that to shame. The Flyers already had to win three games in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs en route to forcing a Game 7 by virtue of overtime winners, so when the first two games of the season between the two went to overtime, it wasn’t that much of a shock.
But this has really become something else. From March 18 to April 18, the Flyers and Islanders played six times. This was the fourth that required overtime.
Of the six games this season out of eight that have required overtime, all four in Philadelphia went to the extra session. Ironically, only the two games in Long Island that required overtime also went to a shootout. All four in Philadelphia were decided within the five minutes.
That certainly shows that these two teams constantly play competitive games against each other. With the exception of one 6-1 loss back on March 20, the Flyers and Islanders have played in seven one-goal games this season. Ultimately, the Flyers won the first three, then proceeded to lose the next five.
2. One Bad Bounce
It’s pretty rare to get a game like this where you are still looking for the first goal beyond the 60 minutes of regulation. There was this sense that it would take one mistake that ultimately did a team in.
That one mistake and one bad bounce went against the Flyers.
The turnover was by Kevin Hayes, as the Islanders regained possession of the puck and never gave it up for the remainder of the game. The bad bounce came off the stick of Travis Sanheim, who was simply trying to break up the cross-ice pass that Nick Leddy was attempting to get to Jordan Eberle.
Instead, the puck caught the stick and deflected toward the net, as Brian Elliott sprawled out to try to play the pass across, going through his legs and into the net. That’s all it took for the Flyers to find another way to lose another game this season.
3. Goalie Duel
Both of the goalies in this game stood out. Early on, it was Ilya Sorokin. Later in regulation, it was Elliott.
The Flyers opened things up by taking eight of the 12 shots in the first period. It’s not that the Flyers overly tested Sorokin, but you saw his poise and his positioning and just how on point he was.
That carried into the second, when play was much more wide open. Plays went back and forth, with plenty of open ice available. Both goalies were outstanding in the middle period.
By the time the third period rolled around, it was Elliott’s turn in the spotlight, doubling his save total with 13 in the final 20 minutes of regulation. Three times in a row, he used the glove to make excellent saves.
Elliott is certainly not in the same position as Sorokin. Elliott is in the twilight of his career and a serviceable backup. Sorokin is a rising star that could easily take over the starting job in the near future. Elliott went toe-to-toe with Sorokin the entire night until that one unfortunate bounce proved to be the difference.
4. Memorable Night for Oskar
Away from hockey, this was certainly a special night for Oskar Lindblom. At the time of his cancer diagnosis in December 2019, the Flyers had already celebrated Hockey Fights Cancer night for the 2019-20 season. In the wake of his diagnosis, they brought back the special Hockey Fights Cancer warmup uniforms for another game as Lindblom continued his fight.
Then, when COVID hit and the NHL went on pause, Lindblom’s treatments continued to completion, and he had beaten cancer. That said, there was no way to have that public acknowledgement of his journey.
Sure, there were players around the league who showed their support and respect, but there was no way to have the fans salute him. The Flyers honored him with a special moment upon his return at the start of the season, then had another moment when fans were welcomed back to Wells Fargo Center on March 7.
But this was really about making this night Oskar’s night. Lindblom got a solo lap from his teammates to start warmups. His teammates all wore No. 23 uniforms, again the Hockey Fights Cancer special uniforms, during the warmup. Lindblom was in the starting lineup. He also got another moment from the fans during the first TV timeout. Lindblom was visibly holding back emotion as the fans, opposition, officials, and his teammates once again saluted his fight.
“I didn’t expect myself to react like that. I didn’t know there was supposed to be anything about me during the game, so it was emotional,” Lindblom said. “I was just trying to hold it together and focus on the game, but amazing moment and I will remember that for the rest of my life.”
5. Running on Fumes
From the final weekend of February all through the month of March, the Flyers didn’t have more than one day between games. They played 19 times in 33 days. After getting two days off between games, the Flyers were right back on that roller coaster ride. They have played 10 games over the last 16 days.
Finally, the Flyers are getting a legitimate break. They have three straight days without a game before the homestretch of the season, the final 11 games over 19 days.
By now, most of those games will be virtually meaningless. Four of those games are against sure-fire playoff teams in Pittsburgh and Washington. Five are against the New Jersey Devils, who are also headed for the offseason in three weeks time.
But the amount of hockey these players have had to endure over the last month and a half is truly staggering. It was no surprise when Alain Vigneault admitted what most could see already.
“We are running on fumes right now,” Vigneault said. “So, we need to re-energize here. For the first time in a long time, we’re going to have three days in between games. That is going to be beneficial for us. Then after that what you have to do is you have to stay in the present. There is still 11 games right now to be played. You got to play one game at a time and focus on that. That’s what we’re going to try to do. Stay in the present and do our jobs.”
While you can forget about the prospect of playoffs at this point, there are certainly a lot of big decisions the team is facing down the stretch. The break allows for some time for some energy to be built back up, for guys to seemingly reflect on where the team is and how far they have fallen.
Let’s face it, when you are in the moment and trying to play game after game as constantly as the Flyers have, it leaves very little time for reflection or to truly work on things. Every team had to deal with that schedule, but when you are losing games like the Flyers were, it’s hard to shake that off and find the energy to play.
It will definitely go down as a lost season, another year of falling into the mediocrity that has defined this team for the last several years. But there are still games to be played, and those final few can be the difference between making a few adjustments ahead of next season or an even greater shakeup.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.