Missing a Gear: Observations from Bruins 5, Flyers 4 (SO)

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Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

What a game. Some good. Some bad. If nothing else, it was entertaining. Blown leads? Check. Goal line saves? Check. High speed death machine 3-on-3 overtime? Check. A shootout? Unfortunately for the Flyers, check.

Let’s get into what went right, what went wrong, and how to bounce back from the team’s first shootout loss of the season.

 

The Good

 

The Captain Sets the Tone Early

It’s not like Claude Giroux has struggled to make any kind of an impact this season. He had three assists in two games against Pittsburgh to start. While he didn’t get on the scoresheet in either Buffalo game, the captain had been called upon to flank Morgan Frost when the 21-year-old was inserted into the lineup to replace Selke Trophy winner Sean Couturier.

With Couturier and Frost both out, Giroux set the tone early on the power play:

It might not be as flashy as the full-body one-touch slapshot into the back of the net, but the skill required to fire a top-shelf laser past Tuukka Rask cannot be overstated.

It’s always kind of funny when people complain Giroux isn’t scoring goals at a high enough rate. Sure, he had a 13-game goalless drought in the Toronto bubble, but it’s tough to extrapolate those numbers to this season. In fairness, he’s only scored 30+ goals once in his career, during the 2017-18 season. With Couturier and Frost out, they might need the captain to bit a bit more selfish and rip a few more shots on goal.

JVR’s Boosted Play

A season ago, head coach Alain Vigneault made a habit of listing a number of high paid veteran players who needed to “drive the bus” for the team. One of those players was James van Riemsdyk, whose 5-year, $35m deal signed in the summer of 2018 appeared to be a massive albatross entering this season. JVR played an identical 66 games in 2018-19 and 2019-20, though he found the back of the net eight fewer times in the latter. There were stretches when van Riemsdyk found himself in Vigneault’s bottom six. He was a healthy scratch multiple times in the Toronto bubble.

Something is different this year. After Tuesday night’s win against the Sabres, Alain Vigneault went out of his way to praise the 12th-year wing:

I asked van Riemsdyk if his head coach’s affirmation had a positive affect on his game:

JVR:

“Yeah, you know what it’s always huge… Certainly whenever you have the confidence of your coach, that’s something you gotta earn, but at the same time when you have that confidence of your coach, I think it definitely gives you a little bit of a boost… It’s nice to that I can have that confidence from him…”

If the Flyers can continue to get contributions from a motivated JVR, especially while he’s causing mayhem in front of the net, they just might be able to weather the storm offensively until Sean Couturier can return.

The 700 Point Man

I wrote a post on this when it happened, but Jakub Voracek had a heck of a game on Thursday night. He took sole possession of 5th place on the Flyers all-time assists list on this play:

Then recorded his 700th career point with this puck of the skate of Travis Sanheim:

The most impressive of his assists was his third and final of the game:

Jake has been automatic on that play through the early part of the season. The tic-tac-toe passing that results in Voracek completing a cross-ice pass to the back post is a great example of how skilled and dangerous this team can be in the offensive zone.

 

The Bad

They lost.

 

Blown Leads

Maybe I buried the lede here, but there’s a reason Carter Hart sounded as frustrated as he did in the post game press conference. He flat-out said the team came out, well, flat in the third period:

It sure did. Boston got on the board less than a minute into the first period:

Roughly a minute later, Charlie Coyle got Boston to within one:

That’s the one goal Carter Hart admitted he wanted back following the game.

With Boston on the power play with 6:49 remaining in regulation, Nick Ritchie capitalized:

It doesn’t matter that Boston isn’t the same juggernaut they’ve been in years past. You can’t let them get a chance on the power play late in the third period at home. It can’t happen.

It got even worse for the Flyers about two minutes later when Brandon Carlo of all people found the back of the net:

To recap, the Flyers had leads of:

  • 1-0
  • 2-0
  • 2-1
  • 3-2

On a positive note, they were able to salvage a point on van Riemsdyk’s second goal of the game, which forced overtime, but defensive lapses like this cannot happen.

Shootout Leaves A Lot to Be Desired

The Flyers practiced shootouts after just about every practice in their abbreviated training camp. You wouldn’t know it based on their performance against Boston. Jake Voracek – who had the hot hand – was stonewalled, as were Travis Konecny and Claude Giroux.

Jake DeBrusk won the shootout with this filthy top-shelf finish over Carter Hart’s right shoulder:

I’m a bit surprised we didn’t see Ivan Provorov or Nolan Patrick in the shootout. Both guys put on a highlight reel practicing shootout moves on the days I saw them in camp:

Maybe they’ll get a look next time.

Another Injury

Defenseman Mark Friedman had his number called in this one with Shayne Gostisbehere still out due to COVID protocols and Phil Myers listed as week-to-week with a fractured rib. Midway through the second period with the Flyers leading 1-0, Friedman got tangled up with Boston’s Brad Marchand:

Some argued that it appeared Friedman attempted to disengage and Marchand took advantage, taking him down to the ice face-first. The officials disagree as no penalty was called.

Alain Vigneault explained after the game that the belief is that Friedman was okay and merely kept out for precautionary reasons.

The injury forced the Flyers down to five defensemen for the second time in two games. We’ll see if he’s back in the lineup on Saturday or if the recently recalled Sam Morin, who was moved to left wing in training camp, could get a look at his natural position.

 

The In-Between

 

The first taste of 3-on-3 action of the season for the Flyers was something to see. If you haven’t had a chance to take it all in, do yourself a favor and watch the OT. The Flyers had some excellent chances, but Tuukka Rask was absolutely masterful in the extra session:

Next Up

The Flyers play the Bruins again in Boston on Saturday at 7:00 PM.

For more Flyers coverage, follow Snow The Goalie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony SanFilippo and Russ Joy provide pregame and intermission coverage of every Flyers home game from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page, YouTube Live, and Twitter, and their Twitter accounts   

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