Capital Punishment: Thoughts from Capitals 5, Flyers 2

© Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It was as big of a game as the Flyers have played all season.

Five points behind the idle Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers needed help from the Islanders, who took on the Montreal Canadiens. They got it via a 2-1 victory, but that score didn’t go final until after the final horn had sounded at Wells Fargo Center.

More importantly, they needed to help themselves. Simply put: they didn’t. One could argue that coach Scott Gordon’s decision to start Carter Hart was one part necessary and one part strategic. With Hart healthy enough to play and the impending back-to-back games at home against the Capitals and on the road versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gordon had to get his Wunderkind netminder a start; starting Brian Elliott in back-to-back games simply wasn’t an option. The strategic aspect came down to another Brian Elliott issue, namely his woeful performance against the Caps just eight days before: four goals allowed on 19 shots good for a .789 SV% in just north of 24 minutes of action. It was the first game Elliott’s save percentage dipped south of .900 since he returned to the lineup on February 19th. Those four goals were also the tied for the most he’d allowed over that nine-game stretch, along with a 36 save overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carter Hart had to better. He couldn’t possibly have a worse game, right? Well…

The first period was a Jekyll and Hyde performance in two of the three zones. For roughly six minutes to start the game, the Flyers seemingly dominated play in the offensive and neutral zones. The were flying all over like bats out of hell. Sean Couturier created a shot from the slot then laid a huge hit at center ice, followed by another by Ryan Hartman:

With much-needed energy propelling them forward, it seemed somewhat inevitable that they’d score first. That didn’t happen. With just 2:53 off the clock in the first period, Brett Connolly got his sensational night off to a good start:

Six and a half minutes later, he earned a primary assist on Lars Eller’s second of the game for Washington:

Woof. The puck appeared to glance off Ivan Provorov’s stick and find its way directly onto Eller’s stick. The Flyers finished the period being outshot 11-5 and failed to take advantage of a late Brooks Orpik penalty for interference.

Scott Gordon’s team came out with a minute left on the Orpik minor and lit the lamp as the PP expired. Shayne Gostisbehere had an interesting sequence: ripped a shot off teammate Travis Sanheim’s foot, whipped a pirouette that would make Kristi Yamaguchi blush, and set up JVR for the Flyers’ first:

The Flyers were riding high until an inexplicable holding call on Radko Gudas left them shorthanded. Luckily, the team was able to kill off the Caps’ first power play. Things felt like they were trending in the right direction. At least they were until Brett Connolly went into the Flyers’ defensive zone untouched and had his way with a listless Hart:

I felt like the first two goals were solely on the Flyers’ skaters, but this third goal – with Phil Myers and Shayne Gostisbehere glued to Carl Hagelin – should’ve been stopped by Carter. He had a clear line of sight to Connolly and while one could argue it’s a tough spot to be in as a goalie, I’d argue it’s a save Hart has to make. Any semblance of Orange & Black momentum was stomped on just over a minute later as Tom Wilson – who had been previously laid out by Couturier – netted Washington’s fourth of the night:

This one was also on Hart. He overcommitted to his glove side and was helpless to stop an unmarked Wilson in the slot. I’ll credit Travis Konecny for his effort to close down, but it was too little too late. With 7:38 left in the period, Ryan Hartman set up Scott Laughton for his twelfth goal of the year (adding onto a career high for goals in a single season) to cut the lead to two. Unfortunately the Flyers couldn’t carry momentum forward and ended up shorthanded with a minute remaining in the period as Michael Raffl went to the box for holding.

After killing off the Raffl penalty to start the third, the Flyers held the Caps to just two shots on net through the first five and half minutes of the period. Then it happened. Raffl did it again. While trying to get himself into better position just inside the Caps’ blue line, he appeared to ever-so-slightly hook his man, leaving the Flyers shorthanded once again. After a Washington minor penalty gave the Flyers roughly thirty seconds of unsuccessful PP time, Nicklas Backstrom went to the box with 10:54 remaining in the game. The Flyers barraged Braden Holtby with a flurry of shots akin to an Afro Thunder “Ready 2 Rumble” power-up. Chance after chance proved futile and a slap-shot from Claude Giroux’s favorite left circle capped off another missed opportunity. After failing to capitalize on a Nick Jensen minor, the Flyers’ effort amounted to the kind of stretch we saw in the first two months of the season, one devoid of hope and confidence. The damage the absence of Jake Voracek left couldn’t be overstated. Aside from Scott Laughton, the role players who had so admirably stepped up in Monday’s win over Ottawa provided not even a modicum of inspiration. An Evgeny Kuznetsov empty netter pulled the proverbial plug on the Flyers’ postseason hopes.

As much as it pains me to write, perhaps Anthony was right all along. It appears it’s time to look ahead to the off-season.

For more Flyers coverage, be sure to check out The Press Row Show pregame and intermission shows before and during home games via Facebook Live on the Crossing Broad Facebook page and Periscope via Crossing Broad, Anthony, and Russ’ Twitter accounts. Also, subscribe to our Flyers podcast Snow the Goalie ([iTunes] [Google Play] [Stitcher] [RSS]), leave a 5 star review, and follow us on Twitter:@AntSanPhilly @JoyOnBroad

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12 Comments

  • Lenny Dykstra’s PC March 15, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Any update on Duke Johnson?

    Thanks, I’ll hang up and listen.

    Reply
    • Kevin Conley March 15, 2019 at 10:05 am

      These articles are really well written. How come the other three teams get terse, miniscule analysis and the Flyers get in depth, unpredictable play by play with tons of insight?

      Flyers lose? The miracle run is over. Team honks. Praise Scott Gordon.

      Flyers win? Stick a fork in them. Done. Here is who fucked dudes on each play.

      It’s a great read for anyone who watched the game. Albert Einstein will be able to write these stories eventually.

      I have to read Flyers articles on this site now to know how they end. This is the same go getter journalism that the core four got praised for for so many years.

      Reply
  • 1975 was 44 years ago! March 15, 2019 at 9:37 am

    The Flyers have been an elite franchise for generations.
    –Flipper

    Reply
  • Ghost of PWHA past March 15, 2019 at 9:40 am

    These articles are so boring. How come the other three teams get deep, detailed analysis and the Flyers get lazy, predictable play by play with no real insight.

    Flyers win? The miracle run continues. Team is great. Praise Scott Gordon.

    Flyers lose? Stick a fork in them. Done. Here is who fucked up on each play.

    It’s just boring to read for anyone who watched the game. A computer will be able to write these stories eventually.

    I don’t have to read Flyers articles on this site anymore to know how they end. This is the same lazy journalism that the core four got roasted for for so many years.

    Reply
  • Ed Snider's yarmulke March 15, 2019 at 9:42 am

    Carter Hart is an overrated stiff.

    Reply
  • Bleeding orange nation March 15, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Just ran into a hot goaltender.

    Reply
  • So Taguchi - Phillies Legend March 15, 2019 at 10:39 am

    Now that we have our wunderkid goalie of the future locked in, we just need to develop and offense that can score 6 goals a night to cover the 5 he gives up and we are all set. Blue skies ahead, baby!!!

    Reply
    • Hollis Thomas March 15, 2019 at 10:41 am

      hee hee hee hee good one

      Reply
    • Call me "Ed" March 15, 2019 at 11:38 pm

      Scored 6 tonight against Toronto…

      Reply
  • Steve Mason Elite Unemployed NHL Goalie March 15, 2019 at 10:43 am

    It’s a sad day when those gentle shoves by “Coots” and the guy the Flyers and the media are so desperate to make a fan favorite Ryan “First Round Bust” Hartman are considered “huge hits”.

    I miss hockey.

    Reply
  • BG March 15, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    The third goal was absolutely not Carter Hart’s fault. Not sure if you’ve ever played hockey before, but an untouched player with what felt like hours of time in that space is not on a goaltender. That said, the fourth goal was rough and Hart did not play very well. But he also didn’t get very much help. Lots of growing pains for the young guys last night.

    Reply
  • JULIAN March 15, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    Bottom line is they are winless against Columbus this year and 1 win against Pitt and winless I believe against Washington all teams ahead in standings. They still need to get Coach Q

    Reply
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