Flyers 5: Takeaways from Thursday’s Flyers-Islanders Game
Following Wednesday’s game, following the utter embarrassment of a 9-0 defeat and a seven-goal period for the opposition, the Flyers reached the halfway point of the season facing an important crossroads. Mathematically, they are far from out of the playoff picture. A three-point margin can easily be overcome with a stretch of excellent play.
But they needed to avenge for that loss as quickly as possible. There was no exception, this was their season.
For 40 minutes, the Flyers played with the urgency that was needed to reflect just how dire this game was. There was nothing the Islanders could do to solve it. The Flyers finally broke through in the second and appeared to never look back.
Just shy of eight minutes into the third, though, the Islanders broke the ice. They found a way to get on the board. And as the game hit the final 8:32 of the third, the Flyers were facing a situation they had been in before. All they needed to do was stick to the gameplan and execute and they would be walking away with a huge two points.
Just as it was in the playoffs, the Islanders brought that wave of pressure the Flyers couldn’t take. Two goals in 34 seconds tied the game up and it was back to the beginning.
On the back end of a back-to-back, coming off a 9-0 drubbing, it was going to take something deep down for the Flyers to win this game. They got it from a line that was powered by their captain, and the goal came from their strongest player, one whose name was branded by an entire hockey community, city, and locker room.
Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s 4-3 Flyers win.
1. Oskar Strong
One of the players not involved in Wednesday’s disaster of a game and not to blame for any part of it was Oskar Lindblom. Lindblom was out of the lineup after seeing limited ice time in Monday’s win against the Rangers. Alain Vigneault called it a chance for him to reset.
Did he ever.
Lindblom was flying on Thursday night. As part of a new-look line with Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny, Lindblom was in the center of a lot of the action. He scored the first goal of the game going to the net and picking up a rebound. He did a lot of the hard work to help set up the second, a deflection by Giroux, but didn’t receive an assist.
Last season, Lindblom was often used as a source of inspiration. He was battling cancer, and doing so without complaint of the road that was ahead. When it seemed like the Flyers needed a boost, he was there to simply provide a spark from afar.
Now back on the ice, Lindblom certainly showed what Oskar Strong meant in the final minutes of this game. The Flyers needed this game, and all of the hard work done to secure a 3-0 lead and then protect it throughout the first 40 to 50 minutes of the game was gone with just over five minutes to play.
Leave it to Lindblom to look like the player he was before the cancer diagnosis in that clutch moment. His quick release on a shot from the slot was the difference with 2:22 to play. It didn’t just get the Flyers the two points they needed in Thursday’s game, it may have very well been a season-saver.
2. Backing Up His Words
There wasn’t any exceptions after Wednesday’s game, everyone deserved to have the finger pointed in their direction as to who was to blame. But in situations like that, it’s often the captain that draws the most attention.
Following the 9-0 loss, Vigneault said that it was a question of pride and good leadership. Giroux certainly didn’t hide his frustration, but focused more on the fact that the team played the next night. He said it was a good thing they had another game right away. He said the team needed to wake up.
Giroux stood by those words on Thursday, because his line was without question the best for the team in the game. With Lindblom and Konecny, this line combined for seven points in the 4-3 victory, producing three of the four goals in the game.
It’s the second time this week that Giroux has stepped up and essentially strapped the team to his back in a game that they needed to have. Does he have his flaws as a player? Sure. But you can’t question his desire. He wants to win. And this season, he’s seemed to play his best when the team needs it most.
3. No Brotherly Glove
Carter Hart was back in goal just one night after entering a game in relief and allowing four goals. For two periods, Hart looked sharp and certainly was doing his part to keep the Flyers in the game and in position to win.
But lately, there’s been a bad trend in Hart’s game. This season, he is being beat to the glove side at a high frequency. A look at each of the Islanders goals shows that there was at least a chance to be able to potentially stop the shot. He faced an clean shot from Michael Dal Colle that opened the scoring for the Islanders. There needed to be a save. The goal from Sebastian Aho was off the stick of Travis Sanheim, so Hart gets a pass there. On Oliver Wahlstrom’s tying goal, Hart has to go left to right quickly to pick up the backdoor pass, but it does hit off his chest before going in.
It was in those late third-period moments that we saw more of what Hart needs to work on. Some of it is confidence. Some of it is positioning. Some of it is just execution.
It wasn’t an awful game from Hart by any stretch, but it was far from what was typically expected of him. It might be what should be expected from him right now though, because as he works through this, there are going to be moments like that where he allows more than he should or a soft goal gets through.
4. Proving Capable
Let’s go back to the first 50 minutes of regulation and the Flyers response to a 9-0 loss. That was going to be the most important thing.
The response was that of desperation. This was a team playing with urgency. This was a team doing everything they could to shut down the opposition and take advantage of their chances. For almost 50 minutes, they were in command with a 3-0 lead.
So, they are capable of playing this type of game. They can shut down the best in the division and hang with them. This isn’t a question of talent. It remains a question of execution and consistency.
Of course, the collapse of a 3-0 lead in a matter of six minutes doesn’t help matters. In some cases, like on the first goal the Islanders scored, you need a save to keep you moving in the right direction. It was actually a well-defended play by the Flyers and a shot that should have been stopped.
On the other two goals, you started to see some of the defensive breakdowns creep in.
It wasn’t a total defensive breakdown on the second goal, though Aho does get good positioning. At the very least, your goalie is still able to get square to the shooter, but the deflection off a stick and Hart’s positioning may have cost them on that play.
But it’s the play 34 seconds later that tied the game that shows how mistakes are finding a way into the net. It starts off a lost face-off. As the Islanders move the puck back to the blue line to set up the play, Nick Leddy gets control at the right point and draws the attention of three Flyers. Konecny is the only one of the three in the right position there. Leddy is his man in this coverage. Lindblom is close by with Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the picture, but skates right by him to also play the puck-carrier. And Sanheim is way out at the top completely abandoning his post.
This actually draws Phil Myers out of position as well. Myers is supposed to play the right side, but is now on the left keeping an eye on Kieffer Bellows. Giroux is also not playing tight coverage on Wahlstrom as he goes to the backdoor. This leaves the lane wide open for the pass and the eventual tying goal.
As frustrating as it is, it was the first true defensive breakdown the team had all game. It just came at the worst time. That said, the Flyers showed prior to that moment that they are capable of playing the defensive style to keep up with top teams in the division.
5. Taking the First Step
If there was any silver lining to a 9-0 loss, and there’s not much of one, but it only counted for two points in the standings. It wasn’t like that one game necessarily killed the Flyers season. It certainly put them on alert that the next game was a must-win.
The Flyers got that win in Thursday’s game, but it becomes the same thing. It’s just one win. It’s just two points. It’s not a cure-all, and it’s not a total step in the right direction.
There are two more games against the Islanders, one Saturday and another on home ice on Monday. This level of play needs to carry over. This can’t be a one-game thing where the team goes back to bad habits or lacking the will to work hard and win battles.
In the final 10 minutes of the third, the Flyers may have lost the legs as the back-to-back started to come to a close. The Islanders were the fresher team coming in and the Flyers had worked so hard to that point. You still need the 60-minute effort, but you also need to survive the inevitable push that will come from the opposition.
In the end, the Flyers still got the win they needed. It went from being a rather dominant performance to a difficult game that wasn’t pretty, but produced the desired result. It needs to keep trending that way.