Power-less Play: Maple Leafs 3, Flyers 0

Photo credit: © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

In hockey, perhaps more than any other sport, there’s a nod to the importance of veterans. A veteran front office executive is given more leeway than a younger counterpart. A veteran player has built equity with a fanbase if his play drops off or a lower-tier veteran player has forged relationships with a number of coaches and players to land himself another contract. A veteran head coach is backed by the clout he’s earned by racking up wins. Sometimes that veteran head coach builds a staff with other veteran coaches, who choose to implement tactics that are mind-numbing.

The Veteran Braintrust

Following a disastrous 2021 season, there were questions surrounding the future of head coach Alain Vigneault and his top assistants Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo. Vigneault dodged questions about his plans to return for the 2021-22 season, while murmurs cast doubt on his desire to return to the bench unless a major overhaul were to occur in the following offseason. Chuck Fletcher admitted in an interview on Snow The Goalie that he and Vigneault had talked about a wishlist, which Fletcher accomplished masterfully.

Having jettisoned Jakub Voracek –who former president Paul Holmgren said in a STG interview to be released later today needed to move on– as well as former #2 overall pick Nolan Patrick, and defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Phil Myers, Fletcher’s job was done. All eyes then had to turn to Vigneault and his staff.

The Veteran Assistant

The sky is far from falling. However the Flyers coaching staff has fallen back into bad habits tactically, specifically in regards to the team’s power play. This was the deployment of a first period power play opportunity for the Flyers, who had been outplayed in virtually every zone on the ice and could have been down three goals had it not been for the strong play of Carter Hart:

Years ago Jay Pharaoh did an uncanny impersonation of Stephen A. Smith on SNL, exclaiming that when it came to LeBron James’ Miami Heat team, forward Chris Bosh should have been nowhere near a basketball. This same logic can and should be applied to Ivan Provorov’s presence on the top power play unit. Provorov is a damn good defenseman at even strength and the penalty kill. However, he doesn’t have elite abilities with the man advantage. His inability to maintain or regain possession for his team as the puck arrives near the blue line has been as documented as Hart’s sketchy decision-making with the puck behind his net.

This was later rectified midway through the second period, when veteran defenseman Keith Yandle replaced Provorov on the top unit:

That’s well and good. Golf clap to assistant coach Michel Therrien for making that personnel adjustment, but clap immediately withdrawn for the other glaring issue that has made its way back into the gameplan:

Why in the Year of Our Lord 2021 is Claude Giroux spending time on the right side of the ice, when he’s best suited to set up shop near his favored left circle? I get it, he’s not Alex Ovechkin. Sometimes he whiffs on a one-timer. Other times he smashes it in. Sometimes he sets up a beaut like this:

This is all to say that Michel Therrien needs to stop getting cute and roll with what has worked throughout Giroux’s career. The Flyers are currently 18th in PP% at 18.8% on the season, however that’s a bit skewed. After scoring four power play goals in the first four games of the season, the Flyers have found the net just once in their last five games and twice in their last seven overall. Two goals in 21 opportunities is not a winning formula. Nor is generating just four shots with the man advantage in four opportunities as they did on Wednesday night. This team is built to be a legitimate playoff squad. If Therrien can’t turn things around, Vigneault will have to make a change.

Veteran Performance in Net

This game could have gotten ugly early had it not been for stellar play from Flyers netminder Carter Hart. After facing 12 shots in the first period, things dipped down in the second, before the bottom fell out in the third, with Hart making 12 saves on 14 shots, including this one to bail out Yandle:

Credit where credit is due. Carter Hart looks to be back to form after a down 2021 campaign. He’s sporting a .924 SV% through eight games to go with a 2.49 GAA. His 3-3-2 record is far from indicative of the effort he’s given thus far this season. The home/road splits will be something to keep an eye on, but thus far this season, Hart has given his team a chance to win whenever he’s been in net. Like Bundy said on the podcast at the start of the season, this team will go as far as Hart takes them.

Real Veterans

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the real veterans. Thursday marks Veterans Day in the US and Remembrance Day in Canada. On Wednesday night, the Flyers hosted Military Appreciation Night at the Wells Fargo Center.

If you missed the story of Staff Sergeant Rico Roman, who was awarded the Purple Heart following his third tour in Iraq, go out of your way to read up on him or watch this short video on his story.

If you or someone you love has served in the military, thank you. Seriously. Thank you.

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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