(Photo: Kate Frese)
Change was in the air on Monday when the Flyers chose to dismiss Ron Hextall as GM. It didn't change the results, at least immediately.
Tuesday night's game was a better one for the Flyers, a far cry from the 6-0 drubbing they took on Saturday. But in the end, a nine-minute lack of urgency cost them again. A regulation loss to Ottawa put the Flyers in last place in the Eastern Conference and 29th in the league standings.
If anything was indicative in this game, it's that the Flyers certainly know that a lot of change could lie in store, but the results aren't going to change without max effort.
Let's break it down in our Postgame Review.
- The Middle - The Flyers second period was one of their best of the season. It didn't feel like Ottawa got a sniff. The Flyers scored two goals, one on a delayed penalty call, in a period where they swarmed the offensive zone and peppered the Ottawa net with chances.
Credit netminder Mike McKenna here. He made a few notable saves that kept the margin close -- a sequence on Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny comes to mind.
But it was the type of urgency that you want to see the Flyers play with. They were quick to pucks, generating chances, physical -- all qualities that lead to victories.
The middle period was great, but it means very little if the end result doesn't go your way.
- Penalty Kill - The urgency could be felt with the penalty kill as well. This was a much more aggressive penalty kill than in the past, to the point where they generated more shot attempts while shorthanded than Ottawa had on the man advantage.
So many times this season, the penalty kill has victimized the Flyers in losses. Not this one. The Flyers were as sound as ever on the penalty kill. If there's anything that carries over, this should. Pressuring the puck can lead to opportunities the other way or at least mistakes that allow you to clear the puck and complete the kill.
The Flyers did that successfully three times when the whole building seemed to be waiting for the inevitable goal allowed.
- The Fadeaway - After having such a strong approach for the better part of 50 minutes, the last 10 were very telling.
This is a fragile time for the franchise. The GM was just fired. The coach could be next. Perhaps even players will follow as well. And you have to wonder how much of that got into their heads as the third period progressed.
Jake Voracek said after the game that the team is playing without confidence, and on Tuesday, that was true. A team that felt more sure of itself would finish off a 3-1 lead, no matter what happened in the last game or the previous five for that matter. Instead, the Flyers let up one goal, turning a two-goal lead into one, and felt themselves slipping off the ledge. It's really no different than the first 10 minutes in Buffalo or Toronto. A good team is able to take an unfortunate bounce or miscue and shake it off and avoid the snowball effect. This team just can't do that for whatever reason.
On this night, the reason was easy to identify. It's been a whirlwind last 48 hours for the franchise. And that situation was in the players' heads in that final 10 minutes.
It doesn't help their cause either, because the most important eyes within the organization are watching closer than ever.
- Next Goalie Up - You have to feel for Anthony Stolarz a bit here. The first goal allowed to Thomas Chabot was one he probably should have stopped, even if it did deflect off of Oskar Lindblom. The next three were unfortunate circumstances that can't be pinned directly to the netminder
Brady Tkachuk's first goal was just Stolarz losing track of the puck. The first chance from Mark Stone hit the post and sat behind him in the crease. He couldn't find it, and as he tried to, Tkachuk did and buried it.
Tkachuk's second goal was a skillful deflection, not even at a time when Ottawa was really pushing the play. Still, it's hard to stop a deflection like that.
Finally, Matt Duchene's goal was incredible, batting the puck out of mid-air after a partially blocked shot. In Stolarz's case, he was probably caught a little out of position, trying to play the initial shot and not the rebound.
None of that should fall on Stolarz, but at the end of the day, making 20 saves on 24 shots is just another average goaltending performance by the numbers. It doesn't help the Flyers league-worst save percentage. And it doesn't help that this was now the fifth goalie to start a game this season.
- The Crowd - At puck drop, there were noticeably more empty seats that seen in recent memory. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a Flyers game that had this sparse a crowd that wasn't influenced by weather or for the preseason.
Whatever the actual physical attendance was at this game, it was still plenty audible when chants directed toward the head coach started back up in the third period or when the boos rained down on the team as the final seconds ticked off on another loss.
At Tuesday's press conference, Paul Holmgren and Dave Scott noted the fans' loyalty and that they deserve better because they were trying to be patient in the process. The patience is running out there and at this point, removing the GM isn't changing the product that people pay to come and see. That's why you still hear the audible displeasure. I'm sure that isn't lost on the management that will hire a GM soon enough and any changes that will come as a result.
"As soon as they got that second goal we kind of got scared. You can’t do that. Every single team is going to jump on it and gain the momentum and that’s what they did. It’s only a one goal game and we’ve been in that situation so many times, I still don’t know what happened. I can’t believe we lost that game." - Flyers forward Jake Voracek
"It’s unacceptable. After two periods I thought we had them. I thought we played pretty good hockey. We had a grip on the game, it’s just unacceptable. We’re making soft plays on our blue line and it cost us the game." - Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas
"There is no excuse there. We had a job tonight to go out and get it done and we didn’t do that so there is no excuse for other things. When it’s game night you focus on the things at hand and that’s the end of it." - Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol
By the Numbers
Another game where, by the analytics, the Flyers were the better team. Even in the third period, the Flyers had 18 shot attempts to 15 for Ottawa. Both teams had four high-danger scoring chances in the final period as well. The Flyers carried a 62.24 CF% at 5-on-5 through the game. But perhaps the area where the game was lost was around the net. The Flyers took a lot of shots and got some chances, but not nearly as much traffic around Mike McKenna as the Senators had around Anthony Stolarz.
Stat of the Game
Make of this what you will. Oskar Lindblom played just 5:18, picking up an assist and getting two shots on goal. The ice time is a concern though, especially for a player that was recently part of the second line.