One thing is for certain – no team in the history of sports has ever lost a game in this fashion before.

And no team should ever have to lose this way again.

But it happened. The Flyers lost to the Nashville Predators 6-5 in such an inexplicable manner that it will forever be remembered – especially here in a city where things like this are bronzed for posterity in our always-jaded minds.

There’s a lot of shame that needs to be shared for this outcome – and yes, that’s shame, and not some late-night typo for blame.

Because this is nothing short of shameful and, frankly, there are too many people involved to split up a blame pie into something that is truly tangible.


Shame on the NHL for changing its protocol for the umpteenth time in the past two decades to allow this unfathomably ridiculous procedure to exist.

Shame on Frederick L’Ecuyer and Justin St. Pierre – two men who should do their jobs in obscurity for forcing themselves and their will into a game at the wrong time and in the wrong manner.

Shame on Dale Weise for thinking that mugging is acceptable, even if he and others had gotten away with it the previous 19 times (allegedly) it happened in the game.

Shame on Andrew MacDonald for not being a mind-reader.

Shame on Dave Hakstol for not grasping the basic scientific concepts of time and place. And secondly, shame on him for individually costing his team at least one point, if not two.

Shame on us for getting this fired up over a regular season loss in the fourth game of the hockey season, thus rivaling the soccer hooligans who were screaming on Twitter last night that the apocalypse was upon us because the U.S. Men’s National Team didn’t qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 31 years.

Yes, it was an epic, dumpster fire of shame shared by many, many people.

And here are the takeaways from it as we sift through the piles of ash and still-too-hot embers that are crackling mid-air around us this morning.

1) What happened?

There’s a chance you missed it. Some of you may have gone to bed early. Some of you may actually have been watching soccer. So to quickly recap – the Flyers fell behind the Nashville Predators with former coach Peter Laviolette and former fan-favorite forward Scott Hartnell 3-0 in the second period.

But, at the halfway point of the game, the momentum started to switch and the Flyers responded with five unanswered goals, looking like a team on a mission that would not be denied, only to have it completely unravel in the final eight minutes to lose the game in regulation 6-5.

It’s those final couple minutes that will be talked about ad nauseam.

That’s because of the completely epic fail on the part of so many that made it come to pass.

With the Flyers ahead 5-4 and time ticking off the clock as they were precariously clinging to that one-goal lead, the game’s officials, L’Ecuyer and St. Pierre, each whistled the Flyers for a penalty on the same play.

The first, on Weise, was, in fact, a penalty, but it was also the kind of thing that happens repeatedly in a game and goes uncalled. We’ll break it down more in a minute. Later, on the same play, MacDonald was whistled for a penalty for basically being in the wrong spot. A real gray area call, but one that shouldn’t have been made considering all the circumstances surrounding it. Again, we’ll break it down in a minute.

This gave the Predators a two-man advantage, and then with Laviolette pulling his goalie, an absurd three-man advantage, for a full two minutes, with 2:41 to play.

Of course Nashville tied it – on Hartnell’s second goal of the game no less – but what do you expect when the other team is allowed to play with twice as many skaters?

Then things went completely down the rabbit hole.

Hakstol, looking at video replay on his bench, decided to challenge that the Predators were offside, and thus should never have scored the goal.

Looking at the replay, it was a long shot, at best, that the call would be overturned. Hakstol felt it was more of a 50/50, either way, it’s a tough gamble because – the NHL has instituted a new and ridiculous rule that gives the team who challenges a call a minor penalty for losing a challenge – we’ll break that down too.

Suffice it to say, the Flyers lost the challenge, the Predators got ANOTHER two-man advantage on which they scored the winning goal.

Claude Giroux, who had a pretty forgettable game, shattered his stick in frustration across the crossbar of his team’s net as soon as the final horn sounded.

Reports from my colleagues who were present in Nashville said the Flyers were slamming doors and punching lockers in the locker room after game, cursing their rotten fortune. The Flyers should have been coming home feeling good about the way they played on the tough season-opening road trip. Instead, because it ended on the sourest note possible, they find themselves disappointed at a .500 record that they likely would’ve happily signed up for if given that option.

Let’s dive in to the individual events.


2) The Challenge

I’m tempted to crucify Hakstol first. But I feel compelled to point a big ol’ finger at the NHL for its utter stupidity in adopting this rule to begin with.

Hockey is easily the fastest of the four major sports. Things happen so quickly, that it’s often necessary to see a replay first to confirm what exactly just happened.

Although I am notoriously tough on officials, I do recognize that they have a very difficult job on their hands with hockey. Unlike in the other major sports, they have to be in nearly as peak condition as the athletes playing the game to be able to skate with them and keep up with the speed of the sport.

So you can understand if they miss something.

But we have the benefit of instant replay in pro sports for a reason now. Replay is a tool to help fairness in sports exist, not to make the officials look bad.

Sadly, the NHL thinks of it the other way around.

Rather than encourage the use of technology to reach the right result, they are trying to deter the use of instant replay by assessing an exorbitant penalty on a team who wants to make a legitimate challenge on a close play.

In baseball, if you lose a challenge, you don’t get another. In football, if you lose a challenge, you lose a timeout. That used to be the rule in hockey. Now, if you lose it, you are assessed a bench minor penalty for delay of the game.

That’s one giant middle finger from the league to coaches, who are only otherwise trying to get the right outcome.

Of course, the NHL changes rules constantly from season-to season. It leaves players, coaches and fans scratching their heads more often than not, destroys game momentum with excessive penalties being called, and ruins the enjoyment of good, spirited hockey for those who love the purity of the game.

And the NHL wonders why so many still consider it a niche sport. Stupidity like this – and the constant tinkering of other rules – makes it a Mickey Mouse operation at times, which is greatly unfortunate.

So, shame on you NHL.

Now to Hakstol.

Knowing this is the new rule, and knowing the potential predicament you put your team in if your challenge fails, you better be 100% certain that there is clear video evidence to overturn a call on the ice:

None of that existed, and yet Hakstol challenged the play anyway. And it cost his team a point.

Here’s how you break down his options in the moment:

  1. If he doesn’t challenge, the score is tied 5-5 with 1:17 to play and the Flyers have to kill :36 seconds of a 5-on-4.
  2. If he challenges and wins, the Flyers are still ahead 5-4, the clock reverts back to the time of the offside play, and the Flyers are still trying to kill a two-man (three with the goalie pulled) advantage.
  3. If he challenges and loses, the score is tied 5-5 with 1:17 to play, and the Flyers have to kill :36 seconds of a 5-on-3 and another :41 seconds of a 5-on-4 just to force overtime.

What are his best odds of securing points (any points) in the standings?

I don’t have the advanced algorithm that breaks down odds of winning at each moment in a game – nor do I really trust that algorithm but that’s another conversation for another day – but I would bet the odds on No.1 and No. 2 to be about even, and the odds of No. 3 being high enough to deter the notion of challenging there without some level of certainty.

Obviously, Hakstol didn’t have that. He let the emotion of the game get the better of him and made the wrong call. That, my friends, is unacceptable.

Here’s what he had to say about it afterwards:

“I don’t want to get into the details of it… I made the call and it wasn’t overturned.”

Did he understand the ramifications if he was wrong?

“It’s obvious it’s going to go one way or the other. Our guys had fought hard to get to that point.”

Would he do it again, given the chance?

“I’ll evaluate that more later… as we look at this particular situation and really break it down.”

My translation then is this:

Video coach Adam Patterson – who I know personally and I can assure you is meticulous in his work and is incredibly good at what he does – alerts Hakstol that there may have been an offside missed on the play. Hakstol takes a quick look at it, is caught up in the fact the team made a dramatic comeback only to let a two-goal lead slip away on what were questionable penalty calls, and decides to challenge without 100% certainty that the video will clearly show the play was offside. He realized his mistake after the game, but was still too upset about how everything broke down that he said he would “evaluate it more later.”

This is a crucial coaching mistake. You have to be better than that in the moment. If the Flyers miss the playoffs by one or two points at the end of the season, there’s a good bet we all hearken back on this misjudgment by the coach. Because it’s something that can not happen. Period.


3) The Penalties

How did we get to Hakstol’s faulty decision? Two penalties on the same play.

First, the Weise penalty…

He was trying to get to the puck that was dumped in. He was mildly interfered with by two Predators. It’s a play that happens countless times in a game. So, he tried a swim move to get around the defender – again, a move that happens a lot in hockey and isn’t often penalized.

But, in this instance, when he hooked the defender, they both fell to the ice, and Weise was called for holding.

In the moment, it was absolutely a penalty, but, as Weise pointed out in the locker room afterward, he had felt the referees had put the whistles away and plays like that, which occur often, wouldn’t be called as penalties.

Well, he was wrong.

And it was only a matter of time. At that point, the Flyers had five power plays, Nashville had one. The call to balance them was coming, even if it was a bit more ticky-tack than most.

So, Weise, was wrong – it was a penalty.

But the next one made no sense….

I don’t think that’s a penalty.

For myriad reasons too. Just in general, you can’t be called for tripping a guy who physically makes a move forward to step on your stick.

But, in the scheme of the play – another penalty has already been called. The Predators are going to get a power play. If a second penalty is going to be called, it damn well better be blatant or egregious. This was neither, nor even close.

This was one epic collection of failures by so many clustered into one short span of time it was unbelievable.


4) The Comeback

Lost in this whole end-of-game fiasco was the fact that the Flyers were damn impressive from the 10-minute mark of the first period until the 10-minute mark of the third period. Those 40 minutes they skated with arguably the fastest team in hockey.

They didn’t quit. They kept coming. They showed pure determination and passion and put up five unanswered goals. They went a little something like this:

I put my Tweets in there because, yeah, who would have ever expected MacDonald, Weise and Filppula – three of the more maligned players on this roster when it comes to fan response on Twitter – to lead the charge back?

And Filppula, who everyone – including the coach – was screaming needs to shoot more – finally did and netted two power play goals – well how about that?

Weise made a hell of a play on Nolan Patrick’s first career goal. Jordan Weal with an unheralded chip to spring Travis Konecny on his goal. This is a young team that does a lot of little things well – and that bodes really well for the future. This comeback impressed me more than anything else on the entire four-game trip to start the season. Flyers fans should be especially happy about where the team is right now based off this effort alone.


5) The Start

The Flyers were a little unprepared for the speed of the Predators. It caught them by surprise. It shouldn’t have. Anyone who watched them in the playoffs last season knows just how quick of a team they are – and at one point, I indicated that although the Flyers improved their team speed, they still had a long way to go to catch Nashville.

And yet… they caught them last night.

But the start was not good. Honestly, the only guy who stuck out to me as playing well in the opening period was Travis Sanheim. This might have been his best game yet, although he only played 12:32. Still plays like this have you salivating for more:


6) The Goalie

Elliott was under immense pressure with a 6-on-3 and another power play with momentum in the final minute, so I’ll let those goals slide. But some of the stuff earlier was just ugly. Especially this one:

Everyone knows you are supposed to direct rebounds to the corner. Sometimes, you can’t. But on this one… yeah… he should have.

And then compounding things, he blows the follow-up shot to Hartnell.

I’m not going to kill the guy. Goalies, like pitchers in baseball, have bad days. This was a bad day. He looked much better in his first two starts, so you give him a little pass, but when a goalie isn’t sharp, others need to be. The team tried to cover for him with the comeback, but blew it with that unfathomable finish.


7) Loose Pucks

I limited it to seven takeaways because Nos. 1 and 2 were so darn long already – but here’s a few more items for you…

  • Shayne Gostisbehere and Jake Voracek each had a pair of assists. I thought Gostisbehere played his ass off on both ends of the ice. I thought Voracek was one-dimensional and didn’t look good in his own end. It shows the difference between two players with the same stats, and how one can have a good game and the other not.
  • Speaking of bad games, Giroux was not good in this one. Actually, the top line had a completely off night. You can’t get beat like this Claude. Gotta move the feet:

  • I find it amazing that Scott Hartnell still has impact in these games. Credit to him for finding a way as a 35-year-old playing a game that is much faster than when he broke into the NHL 17 years ago. Not a great skater, he makes up for it with smarts and a willingness to go to areas of the ice that the speed guys don’t usually like to go. He’s got three goals already – if he finishes with 20-plus, that’s one of the best one-year, $1 million contracts you’ll find in the NHL.
  • Radko Gudas has not had a great start to his season. He didn’t do anything particularly wrong last night, although he continues to go for big hits and is missing them. I’m wondering if he’s a step slow for some reason. Either way, if that continues, maybe he’s the next defenseman to come out of the lineup.