A Good Point: Thoughts after Penguins 3, Flyers 2 (OT)

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Carter Hart has now officially lost more games than he’s won this season – and yet he’s been the best player on the ice for a team that has registered at least one point in seven of nine games.

It’s such an interesting dichotomy, but that’s hockey.

So is what happened in the Flyers 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the first game in an 18-game gauntlet against good hockey teams and talented division rivals that will give us an indicator of exactly what kind of team the Flyers have this season.

Losing a game to the Penguins, who were without their coach, their two best centers, a top line winger, and three starting defensemen, either because of injury or Covid-19, one could argue is something you can’t let happen. The pessimistic view is the Flyers let a point slip away and also gave a divisional opponent an extra point that could come back and haunt them down the road.

The optimistic view is the Flyers, also missing a couple of key pieces with Ryan Ellis and Kevin Hayes still sidelined, went on the road against a disciplined Pittsburgh team, and, trailing in a close game, where able to score a late third period goal to force overtime before losing there, which gives them a good road point that they were only a couple minutes away from not having at all.

The reality is that it was a very good hockey game. Both teams played well. Both teams generated a bevy of scoring chances. Both teams were backed by stellar goaltending.

Tristan Jarry was the game’s third star, but should have been its first, as he made 36 saves for the Penguins in a hard-earned victory.

Hart, who made 33 saves in a hard-luck loss, wasn’t voted as a star, but should have been No. 2 behind Jarry.

Hart is now 3-2-2 for the season, but has a 2.41 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. There is no doubt that he has been the Flyers’ best player so far this season as he has rebounded nicely from the 2020-21 season that we’d all like to forget.

“I thought ‘Hartsy’ played a pretty outstanding game,” said Scott Laughton, who scored the game-tying goal. “He gave us a chance to win. He’s dialed in right now.”

He is, no doubt, despite his record:

Of the three goals Hart allowed, none were really on him. The first goal was only 16 seconds in, when Brock McGinn tipped in a Matt Mathieson shot from the point:

If you slow down the video you can see the Flyers lost contain of the front of the net and McGinn was able to sneak into a great spot unscathed and tip the shot past Hart.

He’s coming from Travis Sanheim’s side of the ice, but it looks like Sanheim got caught in no man’s land thinking the Flyers were going to get to the loose puck on the wall, which allowed McGinn the time and space necessary to make the play that he did.

The second goal Hart allowed was on a fan and then an unexpected screen, which is hard to put on the goalie either:

Hart went down to stop Jake Guentzel’s first shot, which never came because he whiffed on the attempt. By the time Guentzel recovered the puck and shot again, both Penguins center Jeff Carter and Flyers defenseman Justin Braun ended up screening Hart and he never saw the second shot. That’s simply a bad break.

Some will argue that Hart got a little too far out of position on the game-winner, and maybe he did, but he still makes the initial save on the play and then the follow up shot barely squeaked over the line:

“I just missed my post, I had kind of a slide of a desperation over,’’ Hart explained. “He jammed it into my pad, I didn’t have enough stability to hug the post to keep it sealed and he kind of jammed away at it.’’

As for the Flyers offense, they got a power play goal from Travis Konecny that was just a sick effort on his part after a fake shot-pass from Claude Giroux gave him the extra second he needed to make such a move:

Konecny really seems to come to play against the Penguins for some reason. He led the team with six shots on goal  and now has 13 points (6G, 7A) in his last nine games against the Penguins. In his career, Konecny is 9-10-19 against Pittsburgh, his best against any NHL team.

Laughton tied the game with just 2:52 to play in regulation with this slapper:

Laughton has goals in back-to-back games as the Flyers’ third line has been sensational of late. James van Riemsdyk has points in three of his last four games and Oskar Lindblom has had a ton of good looks recently.

Possession-wise, they’re one of the top lines in the NHL through nine games.

“Their zone time, possession time, their shot time, I have to think it has top be one of the better ones,” Vigneault said. “I keep thinking that if they keep playing the way they’re playing they’re going to get rewarded and they helped us get a point in this game. They’re getting so many good looks and grade-A opportunities that they have stick with what they are doing and the right process.”

A few more tidbits after this one:

  • This may just be an early season anomaly, but the Flyers have yet to win a game in which they trailed at any point (0-2-2). They are 5-0-0 when playing from ahead or at worst, tied.
  • The Flyers have allowed 24 goals this season. Guentzel’s was the first one though with Ivan Provorov on the ice at 5-on-5. That’s how good he’s been at even strength.
  • With his assist on Konecny’s goal, Giroux now has 11 points (5G, 6A). It matches a career high in points through the first nine games of the season. This marks the fourth time he has done it: 2014-15 (finished with 73 points), 2017-18 (finished with 102 points and was fourth in Hart trophy voting as league MVP) and most recently in 2018 (finished with 85 points.
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