Flyers 5: Takeaways from Wednesday’s Flyers-Maple Leafs Game
Wednesday’s game for the Flyers against the Toronto Maple Leafs was the first in a stretch of 11 games in 21 days. It should have served as an opportunity to make a strong first impression as they face some of the league’s best teams.
What they were handed by the Leafs was another one of those nights where a few things don’t break the way you hope and the performance is overall just one to forget. The goaltending was something that continues to remain consistent in a positive way. The special teams and overall lack of scoring also remains consistent, which presents some concerns as the team hits the road.
Here are five takeaways from Wednesday’s 3-0 Flyers loss to the Maple Leafs.
1. Missed Opportunities
As the first period progressed, both teams were getting scoring chances and piling up shots. It had the feel of a game that ultimately ends 5-4 or 6-5. On the Flyers end, the chances they were getting were showing one thing early. Jack Campbell looked a bit shaky, leaving a number of rebounds.
That doesn’t sound like the start of a 36-save shutout win, but in Campbell’s case, a few bounces going a goalie’s way were more than enough to allow him to settle in once again. It also allowed the Leafs to get their bearings about them in the defensive zone, and play the game they needed to prevent the Flyers really any quality looks.
The Flyers also had two power plays in that first period. From the very start, there was essentially nothing generated, right down to zone time. The Flyers struggled to gain entry into the zone and grab possession for longer than a second before they were back to chasing the puck down the ice. This happened four times over the course of the night, and only once did the Flyers actually generate more than one shot on goal while a man up.
Going back to their fourth game of the season against Florida on Oct. 23, the Flyers are just 3-for-25 in the last seven games on the man-advantage. Since their 5-3 win in Edmonton in the fifth game of the season, the Flyers have just nine goals in the last six games. That won’t get it done against the teams they have on the schedule coming up this month.
2. Hart Stays Solid
Once again, the only reason this was even a game was because of Carter Hart. It was another impressive showing for Hart, despite the three goals allowed. His numbers got a boost late in the game with the 3-0 margin already secured, as he finished with 30 saves on 33 shots.
That said, Hart now has a 3-3-2 record in his eight games played this season, which is certainly not reflective of his performance. Last season, Hart was disappointing and a big reason why the Flyers struggled to be in games right from the start. Right now, Hart is being let down by his teammates in the lack of production.
It’s not like Hart is just making a large number of saves across a few games to start the season. He’s making difficult saves and delivering one quality performance after another. In a couple of these losses, notably to Calgary and this one to Toronto, Hart has basically held up the fort until he couldn’t any longer, and the opposition finally strikes for the inevitable tally that puts a game out of reach.
The Flyers will win a lot of games this season behind goaltending like this. But at some point, Hart needs some help. When you consider that the team has scored a grand total of two goals in his last three starts, it’s hard for these performances to result in wins. That said, there isn’t enough that can be said for how well Hart has looked so far this season, and that’s certainly encouraging for the Flyers.
3. Another Reversal
More than half of regulation passed before either team scored a goal. When one did find the net, it was another strange reversal of a call on the ice that proved to be the difference in the game.
Toronto’s first goal was already a strange enough play on the surface. After entering the zone, a centering pass by Jake Muzzin deflected off the stick of Travis Sanheim, vaulting it into the air. As it came across the slot, it hit the skate of William Nylander and went into the net. Immediately, it was waved off for a kicking motion.
However, a review proved to be the Flyers’ worst enemy again. For several minutes, the officials reviewed the call and ultimately overturned it, calling it a deflection. It’s a challenging call, because the replay certainly shows it to be a deflection more than a kick. It also was ruled no goal on the ice, so there did need to be conclusive evidence to overturn it. It’s a fine line between goal and no goal, but it seems that the right choice was ultimately made.
That said, it’s never a good way to fall behind in a game that was a goaltending battle all night to that point. It kind of sucks the air out of the balloon. It’s an unfortunate way to lose a game, but the writing was also on the wall with the previous missed opportunities the Flyers had prior to that.
4. Nylander Strikes Again
Speaking of opportunities, Nylander scored in a much more conventional way to help the Maple Leafs cash in on one of their power-play chances at a crucial time of the third period.
The Flyers were already 0-for-3 on the power play themselves, and Ivan Provorov’s slashing penalty at 4:25 of the third was just the second man-advantage for the Leafs. It was essentially a must-kill for the Flyers, and after surviving the first 40 seconds, they just couldn’t get the clear they needed.
Nylander was left open in the slot and made a brilliant shot, letting go a wicked wrister that beat Hart in a flash. That was seemingly game over right there, and turned out to be the case.
5. The Road Gets Tougher
The thing about missed opportunities in a game like this is that it can be easy for things to snowball the wrong way. The Flyers don’t get much of a break from here after having three days off since last Saturday’s win in Washington. Their weekend also figures to be a lot tougher.
Next up on the schedule for the Flyers: the 10-1-0 Carolina Hurricanes on the road. The Flyers have yet to lose back-to-back games this season, but this is a different animal. Then right after facing the team sitting atop the Metropolitan Division, they get a matchup with the Dallas Stars the next night.
It’s only the beginning for the Flyers, who need to continue to find ways to put games like this behind them. They also need to find solutions to their problems quickly. The power play has struggled. The scoring has started to dry up. They could desperately use injured players Ryan Ellis and Kevin Hayes back in the lineup to at least try to turn the corner.
Alain Vigneault chose to focus on the play of the third line and how they are close to breaking through on their chances. He’s said that for three games now, and it has amounted to a total of four goals in that time.
It’s not enough to hope to simply turn the corner and get a little more lucky or get the bounces. You have to eventually do your part to create those. There wasn’t enough of that on Wednesday, and trying to solve that problem on Friday is going to be quite the task.