Flyers-Avalanche Observations: Shorthanded Lineup Costs Flyers
There are no easy nights in the NHL. With so much parity in the league, you can’t overlook any opponent. But there are several games that will pop up on the schedule where you know the team you are facing is going to be a tall task.
That was what the Flyers were facing on Wednesday. The Colorado Avalanche got off to a hot start and have consistently remained at the top of the standings. A team loaded with forward depth was going to be a difficult game regardless. Now take away your top two scoring forwards this season.
The Flyers were not able to overcome their shorthanded lineup and capitalize on chances in a 3-1 loss to the Avalanche on Wednesday night. Here are some observations from the defeat.
Dealing with Injuries
For the most part, the Flyers played a solid game. When you are controlling possession for the better part of two periods -- a 77.14 CF% in the second period and a 54.84 CF% in all situations in the third -- against one of the top teams in the league, you would like to have a better result. They had nine high-danger scoring chances for as opposed to just two allowed in the final two periods. They were outscored, 2-1, over the final two periods.
From the start, you had a sense this was the kind of game you would get. The Flyers were already going to be without Travis Konecny. Add in a late scratch to Oskar Lindblom and now the Flyers had to face a top team in the league without their two top scorers and arguably most consistent players.
There were two effects to this. First, the Flyers had to sacrifice balance throughout the lineup to put high-end players together, hence a line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek. Second, as a direct effect from the first point, the Flyers depth took a huge hit. It’s what made Colorado’s third line of Matt Nieto, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Matt Calvert so good throughout the game.
It quickly became a game where you would have liked to have seen how things go on a level playing field, when the Flyers aren’t trying to compensate for playing without their top two forwards as Colorado finally gets their forward group back together and healthy for the first time this season.
Certainly, the effort was there from the Flyers after getting outplayed in the first period, and in a 1-0 game for most of the night, you are one bounce or one quality scoring chance away from a tie game. Had the Flyers found a way to tie things up instead of fall behind 2-0 and eventually 3-0, there may be a different narrative coming out of this game.
Much like the loss to Arizona last Thursday, you can look at the effort and realize that the Flyers at least showed they could hang with one of the teams making noise in the Western Conference. Between great goaltending from Pavel Francouz and Colorado’s overwhelming depth, speed and skill up front, it just became too much.
There’s really nothing Carter Hart could do on any of the three goals allowed. The Flyers were getting peppered in the first period. It was really no surprise when Colorado scored first off a shot that was deflected twice, hit the post and left a big rebound.
For the rest of the first period, Hart was the star. In the second, with very little action his way for most of the period, he made a stellar glove save on Mikko Rantanen that would have extended the lead to 2-0 at the time. Of course, Rantanen got the last laugh with two goals off great setups to make it 3-0 and put the game away, but both goals were virtually impossible for Hart to stop and more on defensive coverages and the overall speed and skill that Colorado has.
The Flyers only had one true power play, coming with 14 minutes to play in the third period -- their other man advantage in the first period was an abbreviated 38-second power play. By this point, the Flyers were down 3-0 and desperate for offense of any kind, so they loaded up the top unit with every star veteran on the playing roster -- Giroux, Voracek, Couturier, James van Riemsdyk and Shayne Gostisbehere. Voracek had a chance at the side of the net that needed to be finished and wasn’t. The rest of the power play was all about finding the perfect play, which was quickly gobbled up by Colorado’s penalty kill.
There’s no way to know if the Flyers would have used the exact same units for the power play had it been earlier in the game, but the Flyers really need to figure out a solution soon. The power play has been an issue for much longer than a few games now. This is going on a good six-to-eight weeks of struggles.
Too Little, Too Late
Giroux finally put the Flyers on the board with 5:12 remaining in the game and the Flyers had a bit of a push with the goalie pulled late, but that pressure was just too little, too late in this game. Had the Flyers found a way to score on the earlier power play in the third or managed to put home one of the earlier scoring chances on the night, this game certainly could have gone the other way or been destined for overtime.
Instead, you have to just chalk it up to being one of those nights where the opposition was better and got the job done. Nothing else to do but move on.
The Road Ahead
The Flyers will move on with a weekend back-to-back on the road with games in Minnesota on Saturday night and Winnipeg on Sunday evening, two more challenging opponents for sure.
The big question is how healthy the Flyers will be entering the weekend. They are expected to be without Konecny through the weekend, but there is no extent to the injury for Lindblom, though he did practice on Tuesday, and Phil Myers is essentially a day-to-day case with back spasms. He could be expected back in the lineup this weekend and if the Flyers could get Lindblom back as well, it would be a lift to the lineup.
Just like after the Arizona game last Thursday, when you lose a game like this, you have to acknowledge that it may not have been for a lack of effort and try to avoid the snowball effect. There is certainly some potential for that this weekend, and the Flyers could really use a similar effort with a better result to open up the weekend in Minnesota on Saturday.