Flyers-Panthers: Postgame Review
This was another one of those wild early-season games where scoring is high and defense, at times, appears optional.
The Flyers have certainly been involved in a number of these games early in the season and Tuesday was no different.
For the Flyers, it was a rare shootout win against the Florida Panthers, and certainly any way to pick up two points is good. But the game should have never made it there and that's the bigger concern for the Flyers.
How do you even begin to break down a game that featured a five-goal period, a three-goal comeback, a goalie change by the team leading and a shootout that pitted two backup netminders against one another? Well, let's try to. Here are the takeaways and analysis from a wild game at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.
- Pick-ing Them Up - Perhaps the wildest part of the game wasn't anything with the scoring, but between the pipes. You don't often see a team change goalies with the lead unless there's an injury. And while Brian Elliott did get run over by Frank Vatrano after allowing the second goal to Florida, this was far enough past that to be unrelated to injury.
Elliott gave up four goals on 23 shots. The first one was definitely on him, a sharp-angle shot by Vatrano that had eyes but should never beat a goaltender. The second goal by Vatrano could have been prevented, but it was more a fortunate bounce off the endboards for Florida that aided that goal and Vatrano catching everyone off guard.
There wasn't much Elliott could do on the third or fourth goals for the Panthers, which makes you wonder if Dave Hakstol saw something that forced his hand, something that said his team needed a jolt to finish off the game. Hakstol has lamented in the past about keeping the timeout in his pocket or not making a goalie change when he potentially could have. In last Tuesday's debacle against San Jose, it made some sense to put Elliott out of his misery. Here, with a 5-4 lead, it was certainly unconventional.
That put Cal Pickard into a game cold. Of course, the first shot he has to face is from the shifty Panthers captain, Aleksander Barkov, unimpeded on a breakaway. That's not even fair. And Barkov made Pickard look downright foolish.
But from there, Pickard picked up his teammates. The toughest thing he had to do beyond entering the game in the third was facing three Florida shooters one-on-one in a shootout. He wasn't able to stop Barkov again, but he got a fortunate bounce on Vincent Trocheck's attempt and stopped Vatrano to solidify the win.
- Second Period Scoring Barrage - Whatever was said between the first and second period, well, it worked, because the Flyers had played another sloppy opening period and came out a completely different team.
The thing about the Flyers season opener in Vegas was that in the second period, the goals came rapidly against a really good team that counters with speed and doesn't give up a lot to the opposition. The Flyers scored four goals within six minutes in that game.
On Tuesday, it was relatively similar. The Flyers struck for three goals in the first nine minutes of the period to take a 3-1 lead. They added two more late to make it 5-2 with 2:57 to play in the second period.
The goals were coming from different sources too. Travis Sanheim set up Wayne Simmonds. Robert Hagg had a shot deflected by Jordan Weal. Claude Giroux took advantage of a turnover. Christian Folin and Scott Laughton set up Simmonds' second goal. Shayne Gostisbehere made a pretty play to set up Giroux's second.
For all of the goals that were scored for the Flyers, they still allowed two in the period, a total of seven goals between the two teams. And apparently, that was only the beginning in this wild finish.
- Lost Boys - There's a lot of players that just looked a little lost or overmatched right now. One of them is Ivan Provorov. He did take a shot off his foot early and looked like he was constantly testing it out or fighting some pain all game, so there could be something to that, but he's still not at his best after six games.
It was also pretty telling to see Mikhail Vorobyev's playing time completely disappear. Vorobyev played just 8:04 in the game, and seldom in the third period. Michael Raffl was getting third-line shifts. Laughton took over at center in the third. Vorobyev was completely phased out.
It doesn't mean he's coming out, but it wouldn't be shocking to see Corban Knight, who was medically cleared to return on Tuesday, in the lineup for Vorobyev.
- Folin Comes Back Strong - In warmups, the thought of a second pairing featuring Hagg and Christian Folin sent shivers up the spines of Flyers fans. They were already crucifying the pairing before the game even began. At the end of the night, that may have been the team's best pairing defensively.
Folin had a strong game. He was physical, he made only one or two noticeable mistakes and quickly made up for them in recovery on his assignment and looked more comfortable with Hagg than he did on the ice in the second game of the season. He even got involved in the offense a bit.
Folin was in for Andrew MacDonald, which was said to be a coach's decision. That said, remember that MacDonald was supposed to miss the start of the season with an injury and came back very early. He's been off to a pretty bad start and you wonder just how much the injury or effects from it have to do with his performance.
- Where's the Defense? - This game was an interesting progression. The Flyers had a sloppy first period, but the only goal for Florida could easily be pinned on their goaltender. The second period was solid overall, with the only two goals for Florida coming on a power play that took just eight seconds and a fortunate bounce that fooled several in the building.
The third period and two goals for Florida to tie the game was the result of non-existent coverage. On Evgenii Dadonov's goal, the Flyers had the top pairing on the ice and Dadonov got behind them both. On Barkov's goal, the Flyers were trapped in the offensive zone and it was virtually shootout practice for Barkov.
Defensively, this team has to get better. Simple as that. The mistakes being made are typically all in coverage or off turnovers. The Flyers cannot have sloppy play in their own zone and they can't get trapped in the attacking zone like they did in this game.
Interestingly enough, the poor coverage on the fourth Florida goal was probably the reason Dave Hakstol makes a goalie change. That was a wake-up call to the rest of the team, telling them they needed to finish off this game and that one great offensive period wasn't going to win it. It actually backfired, because they left Pickard out to dry on the first attempt he faced.
Look, the Flyers will certainly take the two points no matter how they get them in October, but games later in the year will be decided by teams with better defense, not offense. The Flyers last two wins have been a case of "it doesn't matter how many goals we give up as long as we score more than the opponent." That may work for now, but it won't later in the season as other teams tighten up.
By the Numbers
How good were the Flyers in the second period? Not as good as you may think actually. The Flyers really made their chances count though. The Flyers had 14 shot attempts in the second period to Florida's 13 at even strength. They scored five goals. That means only nine shot attempts by the Flyers were stopped by Michael Hutchinson, blocked or missed the net. The Panthers had absolutely dominated the first period to the tune of a 71.88 CF%, but the Flyers maintained play for the last 40 minutes at even strength by the possession numbers. The Flyers were also shooting in dangerous areas in and around the slot for most of the night.
Stat of the Game
A little bit of everything for Robert Hagg in this game. He had an assist on Jordan Weal's goal, was a plus-2, had two shots, five hits, one blocked shot and played a solid 19 minutes even.