Flyers-Golden Knights: Postgame Review
The Flyers had lost an ugly and embarrassing effort and won in a sloppy game earlier this week. Saturday's game fell under the category of gut-wrenching loss.
Cody Eakin's goal with 1:25 remaining in the third period was the only goal of the game and it came off a Flyers mistake, giving the Vegas Golden Knights a 1-0 win over the Flyers.
The overall scope of this game was more positive for the Flyers. The penalty kill was better. The defensive coverage was better. There were chances to capitalize. But as has been the case with the Flyers for really the last decade now, it doesn't seem to keep the frustrating finishes at bay. It also didn't help that Marc-Andre Fleury was in vintage form and stole a game for the Golden Knights.
Here are the takeaways from another tough loss of a different kind on home ice in our Postgame Review.
- Flower Power - Let's open with the whole reason Vegas even was in position to win the game with one goal. Marc-Andre Fleury was stellar. It may be too tough to count the number of impressive saves he made.
There was one of Jordan Weal at the side of the net after Fleury was out of position. There was one on Sean Couturier from the slot that caught Fleury's toe. There was one on Scott Laughton on a shorthanded breakaway chance. There was one on Claude Giroux on a breakaway where Giroux actually was able to out-wait Fleury and he still got his glove on it. There was one on Jake Voracek from the high slot that barely caught the pad. And there was the last one, another on Giroux, from his wheelhouse at the left circle.
With as much net to shoot at as there was, and there was a lot of it, Giroux is usually money from there. Voracek's hands even went in the air assuming the finish was coming. Fleury dove across and robbed him on that one too, one final 10-bell save to seal the shutout.
Bottom line: the Flyers had chances, but Fleury was simply better.
- Turnovers - In a game that ends 1-0, it doesn't matter when the goal is scored. It's usually a mistake that becomes magnified that let one team get an advantage.
In this case, it was a weak clearing attempt by Couturier that fluttered to Ryan Carpenter and allowed him to set up Eakin for the game-winning goal.
Couturier is a pretty reliable player in his own zone, so the failed clear doesn't look good at all. But the Flyers had made mistakes more than one in the game. There were actually a number of failed clears earlier in the game, particularly in the last half of the first period, that could have easily been finished. There was also a turnover in the second period by Andrew MacDonald that gave Max Pacioretty a chance from the slot. He hit the post with that one.
The Flyers weren't so bad with the turnovers that Vegas was coming in waves -- in fact, Vegas looked slower than usual, probably because they were playing in their third game in four days.
Either way, the Flyers still struggled with maintaining the puck and it was one relatively small mistake that ended up looking massive in the decision.
- Power Play Passing Problem - Why does one mistake with under 90 seconds to go even decide a game? The Flyers had their chances to put their stamp on the game early. The power play got two chances in the first period to strike first. The Flyers had just two shots on goal on the power play.
The problem here comes from that need to find the perfect play, which leads to constant passing. The Flyers have done this for years. It has to be set up to be a one-timer for Shayne Gostisbehere. It has to be in Giroux's wheelhouse or he'll stop it and start over. They have to connect on the cross-ice pass to Giroux or Voracek or try that tic-tac-toe passing play to Wayne Simmonds.
It just keeps leading to another mistake and an easy clear for the opposition.
We're now five games into the season and the Flyers have yet to score the first goal of a game. There was certainly a chance to do it in this game. Vegas wasn't coming with bursts of speed at the start. They were already a vulnerable team and there was opportunity to get it early with the power play. To no avail. The Flyers squandered those opportunities and in turn, squandered away the game.
The Flyers power play can't be about finding the perfect play. The top unit has less time to make their impact. The second unit needs time to get set up. By looking for the perfect play, you waste precious seconds of the two minutes you have or miss the mark completely and lose the opportunity. The mindset has to change there.
- Laughton's Impact - I feel like it's becoming obvious the Flyers would be a much weaker team without Scott Laughton.
First off, I think Laughton's been a tremendous penalty killer, and that goes far beyond his shorthanded breakaway that nearly resulted in a goal. He's tenacious on the puck. The PK as a whole was better because their willingness to clog the neutral zone and disrupt entries. Suddenly, a capable power play unit like Vegas' isn't gaining clean entry and therefore not getting set up to create scoring chances.
Right down to the last penalty kill, the Flyers were not making it easy for the Golden Knights to get set up.
Laughton had to leave the game immediately after the shorthanded bid as he lost his balance and hit the endboards with quite an impact. It didn't stop him from making his return later in the third period. He's becoming a player the Flyers need to have because he's been a hustle player with a lot of energy and ready to make an impact at any moment.
- Blue Line Improvement - With the penalty kill improvement in this game, it was easier to see where the Flyers improved defensively from one game on Tuesday to the next on Wednesday.
After the first period of Wednesday's game, I thought they had played a sound defensive game at 5-on-5. Two of Ottawa's three goals in the second and third period came via the power play, so that was a PK issue. At 5-on-5, Ottawa could barely generate anything of quality.
The same continued on Saturday. The Flyers were well positioned, not just to prevent chances, but even on shots that were designed to leave big rebounds or caught Elliott in a spot where he did leave a glaring rebound chance, the Flyers were on most occasions able to get a stick on it first or box out the defender to prevent a chance.
It was great to see Ivan Provorov look sharper than he did over the last week and really every defenseman made a solid play at one point in this game, though there were still mistakes that need to be cleaned up.
No matter, it's the type of effort that can put you in a position to win a lot of games...assuming your offense can take advantage of chances or not get completely stymied by an opposing goalie.
By the Numbers
Vegas brought their best in the third period, with 15 shot attempts to the Flyers eight for a 65.22 CF%. The Flyers had 13 high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 to 10 for Vegas, which shows you how excellent Fleury was in this game.
Stat of the Game
This was Marc-Andre Fleury's 49th career shutout and third of his career against the Flyers.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.