Of the Flyers in the month of October 2019
All this downtime has left me with a lot of time to think of our current Philadelphia Flyers and the roller coaster of a season they have been on up till this “break”. I keep thinking about all the great times they have had throughout this season, whether it was the 9 game win streak that started in late February, the shootout win against the Bruins with the infamous Marchand flub, or the way the season kicked off all the way back on October 4th against the Blackhawks in the Czech Republic.
On the same token, there have been quite a few bad times we have had as a fan base this season. The embarrassment we received at the hands of the Penguins early in the season, the dreadful stretch of games in the wake of the Oskar Lindblom Ewing Sarcoma Diagnosis (which no one can fault the players for playing the way they did after receiving that kind of news), or the yearly let down of the Disney on ice road trip the Flyers are forced to embark on every year.
Like with any team in the NHL, there are good games and bad games and they are all mixed around throughout the course of an 82 game season. What I’d like to do is highlight some of the best and worst games that the Flyers have played over the course of the 2019-2020 season. I’m going to pick one game as a representative of each and talk about the good, the bad, and everything in between. I’m gonna try to break down big moments, key plays, and big players…good or bad. So with all of that out of the way, let’s get started where it all began way back in October of 2019.
Philadelphia Flyers 7, Columbus Blue Jackets 4
This game looked like it had the makings to be a bad game, but the Flyers started to show some early signs of what would be a season long theme of fighting back and scoring in the third period. That’s precisely why I chose it as the best game of the month of October. This game was back a forth affair that started out in favor of the Flyers with a Jake Voracek goal in the first period, but Boone Jenner (who is quickly becoming a player who scores every game they play the Flyers) scored just a short time after to tie the game up at one and would be the score at the end of the first period. The back and forth continued between the two teams when Dubois and Van Reimsdyk scored for their respective clubs, but this was the point where the Blue Jackets decided to take control of the game with another Jenner goal late in the 2nd and a Anderson goal early in the 3rd. At this point it looked like the Flyers were going to revert back to their former selves under the Hakstol regime and just give up in hopes of fighting another day. Flyers fans, myself included, probably felt the same way. I mean we were used to seeing that type of mentality after the past few years of mediocrity and slow starts to begin the season. But this would not be the case as the Flyers started to show signs of their never say die attitude. With half of the third period over, Gostisbehere would rip a vintage Ghost bomb that deflected into the net off a defenseman while both teams were playing at 4 on 4 and Van Reimsdyk would tie the game back up two minutes later with another goal. This is when the Flyers opened up the flood gates and let the Blue Jackets have it. While on the penalty kill, new offseason addition Kevin Hayes would use his long reach to intercept a pass and bring the puck down the ice all by himself to score a short handed goal. That Hayes goal would end up being the game winner. Raffl and Konecny scored an empty netter and a power play goal respectively and the Flyers would use their barrage of third period goals to beat the Blue Jackets 7 to 4.
Why I chose this game as the best of the month is that this game showed what would be a theme of this Flyers team throughout the season, which is a team that will fight back after getting kicked in the teeth so to speak and a team that can and will score in the third period. This game was back and forth early on with each team trading goals, but the Blue Jackets took control. For the past few seasons, this would usually mean the team would get sloppy and rarely up up a fight to get back in the game. Heck the Flyers had a reputation with the fan base of not being able to beat teams that they would be in direct competition with for a playoff spot with or stepping up in big games. Most analysts had both the Flyers and Blue Jackets as bubble teams with a chance to make the playoffs if things broke their way, but another loss would keep the trend of seeing the Flyers waste away again hoping to make the playoffs (if they got lucky) only to get knocked out quickly by a better team. I mean the Flyers were coming off of a western Canada trip where they lost all three games against three beatable teams, but this game started to how signs of a spark and of a Flyers team that would not be the team of old.
What’s been a trend of the Vigneault style of play is just how much better the Flyers seem to get over the course of a game. The Flyers tend to keep pace in the 1st, pick up speed and scoring in the 2nd, and dominate in the 3rd. This game was no exception to that rule. Even though the Flyers didn’t score till halfway through the 3rd period, they looked like the more dominant team throughout that period and tended to control play before they ended up opening the flood gates. We got some vintage goals from Ghost and JVR that gave the Flyers the momentum and then just when things looked like they would swing back in the Jackets favor with a late power play opportunity, new acquisition Kevin Hayes showed why the Flyers traded for his rights and ultimately ended up signing him to that big contract by being a force on the penalty kill and scoring a huge short handed goal. In one short play, that goal put a dagger in the Jackets momentum and morale and helped the Flyers secure a much needed win against a division opponent they would be competing with all season long.
Player of the game: James Van Riemsdyk
Play of the game: Kevin Hayes short handed goal
Flyers 4 Blackhawks 3
I mean who doesn’t love a good “home” opener? The Flyers got the chance to play for an international audience that was special due to the fact that Jake Voracek was playing in front of family, friends, and fans of his home country of the Czech Republic. A lot of preseason woes were cured and Konecny started his breakout season by scoring twice on a lowly Blackhawks team.
Flyers 4 Devils 0
This was first game in front of the Orange and Black faithful and what a better way to introduce the team to the fans this season then by shutting out your division rival at home? Carter Hart finally got the first shut out of his career and did it in spectacular fashion. That glove save on Taylor Hal is a save of the year candidate and Hart may have bested it later in the season in Colorado. Hart looked unstoppable and showed flashes of how dominant he can be. All in all, it was a good way for the Flyers to come home from a long overseas trip before going back out on the road.
Philadelphia Flyers 1 Pittsburgh Penguins 7
Oh boy….where to start with this one? It’s one thing to suffer a blowout, those are never fun, but it’s another thing to suffer a blowout at the hands of your most hated rival… in their own building. The Flyers were coming off of a bad game against the Islanders two days beforehand and the troubles continued for the orange and black shortly after this game got started. Elliott was not good in net and gave up a long shot from the point by Justin Schultz about 6 minutes into the game. The Flyers were being outworked and outplayed in all aspects of the game and it showed when McCann was able to score a wide open goal after the Flyers turned it over behind the net and lost the ensuing puck battle. About 30 seconds later, the Penguins poured it on and made it 3 to 0 after another defensive breakdown by the Flyers lead to an easy goal for Dominik Simon. The game was much out of reach based on how Elliot and the Flyers were playing that night. Of course the Penguins weren’t done having their way with the Flyers and everyone’s least favorite Penguin Sidney Crosby scored with about 5 minutes remaining in the first period to add a nice cherry on top of this horrible Tuesday night sundae. Jake Guentzel and Zack Aston-Reese would continue to pile it on late in the second period with each of them scoring a goal of their own and Domink Kahun would add one more goal for the Penguins with about 6 seconds remaining in the game to give the Penguins a touchdown on the scoreboard. Oskar Lindblom did score with about 2 minutes remaining in the game to prevent the Penguins from pitching a shut out, but that isn’t much of a bright spot all things considered.
There wasn’t much to like about this game or the Flyers as a whole this night. The Flyers lost all of their momentum and fight that they had gained from the Columbus game a few nights ago and just submitted to the will of the Penguins. They didn’t even look competitive from the very start of this game and the Penguins took advantage by pouring on 4 goals in the first period. It not like the Flyers could use the excuse that they were playing on the second half of a back to back as the cause of their sloppy play. Granted they were playing their third game in four nights, but this was a division game against your most hated rival in the sport and this was how you show up? You’re telling me the team couldn’t get amped up to go into Pittsburgh, where had generally played well since the opening of their new arena a few years back, and put up some kind of a fight? It’s one thing to go into Pittsburgh and get beat by the Penguins, but it’s another to not even put up a fight and get boat raced in the first period. I mean the Penguins are a good team and they do have two of the best players in the league in Crosby (who ended up having a 3 point night) and Malkin, but what happened to the Flyers was just unacceptable.
This was probably the Flyers worst game of the season. The goalie didn’t look good, the defense was still trying to find their pairings and rhythm, and the forwards just looked like they didn’t care. It was just a bad game from beginning to end. The Flyers were very up and down in the month of October, but this was probably their lowest point. If you could list the worst games of the season (which I will attempt to do in future articles), this one probably tops the list. Sloppy play? Check. Defensive breakdowns? Check. Blowout? Check. The best player on the other team having a big night? Check. Losing to your division rival? Check. Losing to the biggest rival in your sport? Check, Check, and Check. Take the tape of this game, throw it in the trash, burn it, and then go bury it deep in the earth.
Worst Flyer of the game: Brian Elliott
Worst play of the game: The turnover, failed clear, failed puck battle, and failure to cover McCann on the second goal of the game.
Flyers 1 Flames 3
The Flyers have never been able to play well in Calgary and that trend continued this night as well. The Flyers were outplayed and didn’t look like they could hang with the Flames. The Flyers ended up making Calgary goaltender David Rittich look really good even though he’s an average goaltender. The Flyers ended up getting out shot 38 to 22 and Brian Elliott, in his first game of the season, played well for the most part, but the team in front of him looked like they were asleep the whole night. Probably jet lag from traveling all over Europe, the United States, and Western Canada in the span of three weeks.
Flyers 3 Oilers 6
Talk about a game where the score makes the game look a lot closer than it actually was. The game didn’t start out so bad, with the Flyers and Oilers being tied up about halfway through the first period, but that wouldn’t be the case later on because by the time half of the third period was over it was 6 to 1. The Flyers tried to put up some semblance of a fight by scoring twice in the final 5 minutes of the game, but the Flyers didn’t look competitive at all and ended up giving up two power play goals. McDavid, Draisatitl , and Nugent-Hopkins were all over the scoreboard and to make matters worse, former Flyers defenseman (and maybe the poster child of the Hakstol era) Brandon Manning scored on a point shot from the blue line. The Flyers should be ashamed they let that happen.
What did you think? Agree or disagree with either of my selections? Did I exclude a game you thought should have made the list? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @snapp1eapp1e
photo credit- NHL.com