By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
The Flyers were thrown a huge curveball hours before the start of Saturday’s game. Carter Hart was unavailable as the result of a lower-body injury. That threw Alex Lyon into action.
From the beginning, the Flyers were going to be behind the eight ball. They don’t have the talent to compete with the Washington Capitals. That’s been obvious throughout the season. So the result is not much of a surprise.
The Capitals’ superstar was given the opportunities to unleash his lethal shot. The Flyers third-string netminder did an admirable job given the circumstances. The Flyers continued to get an impressive start from one of their young players.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s 6-3 Flyers loss to Washington.
1. A Tough Spot
It was certainly a shock when Alex Lyon led the Flyers onto the ice for warmups. Apparently, that wasn’t the plan even as of the final few hours before the game.
Alain Vigneault told the media following the game that Carter Hart tweaked something near the end of the Pittsburgh game. He was able to practice on Friday, but apparently didn’t feel right on Saturday morning and was ruled out. The plan was already for Brian Elliott to skate on Saturday morning and then get the day off, so with Hart unable to go, Elliott was thrown into the backup role. He’ll still start on Sunday, so it appears as if Hart is out for that game too.
Lyon admitted that finding out about the start just hours before the game was a challenge.
“It was exceptionally difficult. I really like my preparation and I take pride in my preparation,” Lyon said. “At the same time, that’s what I get paid to do. That’s my role on this team, so it just goes with the territory.”
Lyon added that he usually begins preparation 24 hours before a game, but also said that in COVID times, when things can change quickly, you need to be prepared.
Obviously, it wasn’t the greatest start for Lyon. He allowed five goals. But honestly, his performance was admirable and even at times impressive. Lyon stood in to face 40 shots and made 35 saves. While it wasn’t a lights out performance, it was certainly one that kept the Flyers in the game for the most part, especially as they chipped away at the lead.
2. Dealing with Injuries
Carter Hart was not the only injury the Flyers were dealing with. Tanner Laczynski was ruled out earlier in the morning, and Nolan Patrick was also not on the ice after taking a shot off the side of the head in Pittsburgh.
It wasn’t really much of a surprise for Patrick. Even if he is feeling fine, being precautionary doesn’t hurt in this situation.
Laczynski was a bit of a surprise though, especially in a time when there is a lot of playing time available for someone like him looking to make an impression.
Hopefully Laczynski’s injury isn’t something too serious, though it sounded more like his situation was going to potentially linger for a bit longer. Patrick could be back in the lineup on Sunday evening, based on how Vigneault sounded.
3. The Great 8
Alex Ovechkin was the first overall pick in 2004. He’s been in the league for nearly two decades and at 35 years old, he’s still the best in the business from his office on the power play.
Ovechkin got his chance again twice and buried a pair of one-timers. That’s goals No. 729 and 730 in his career. He’s one shy of tying Marcel Dionne for fifth all-time.
The more you see him, the more you simply have to marvel at his shot and how he’s able to continue to deliver it with such vigor. He’s a legendary shooter, a generational talent, a true all-timer.
Just this season alone, Ovechkin has torched the Flyers. His pair of goals, plus an additional assist for three points in the game, made it eight goals and 12 points for Ovechkin on the season against the Flyers in six games. Last season, the Flyers faced Washington five times and held him to no points.
That’s the anomaly though. Ovechkin has traditionally always had the Flyers number, and just when you think the Flyers have the personnel and the system to mostly silence him, he’s right back on that tear.
4. Wading Into New Waters
Let’s look at one of the true bright spots of the last two games for the Flyers. Wade Allison made a strong first impression in his NHL debut on Thursday. He continued it on Saturday.
While it wasn’t quite as noticeable of a game from Allison in terms of scoring chances, he was in the perfect place to log his first NHL goal on the power play in the third period.
It was a pretty goal, as Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes helped set up the 23-year-old rookie at the side of the net for the slam dunk into an open net. Allison pumped his fist and yelled out in celebration.
For a prospect that has been through a long journey to this point, battling injuries throughout his college career and already in his professional career, that may be the biggest concern in terms of him succeeding.
It’s pretty obvious Allison has the chops to play in this league. Two games in and he’s made a noticeable impact at the NHL level and has his first goal. At the start of his pro career with the Phantoms, he scored in his debut and continued the success through the next few games.
It remains to be seen if he can remain healthy, but if he does, that could be the first of many goals to come for Allison.
5. Losing Momentum
Take your pick on this one, as each of the three Flyers goals was met in rapid succession with a response by the Capitals.
At the end of the first period, the Flyers struck with one second left on a true buzzer beater. Ivan Provorov fired through a screen and beat Ilya Samsonov to tie the game at one in an otherwise underwhelming period for the Flyers.
That should have helped shift some momentum going to the second. Instead, it took just 33 seconds for Dmitry Orlov to get on the board and give the Capitals the lead right back.
After James van Riemsdyk scored on a breakaway to tie the game, the Flyers committed a penalty and allowed another Ovechkin power-play goal within 47 seconds. Even after Allison’s first goal, which pulled them back into the game with just under 13 minutes left in the third period, the Capitals were able to come back and respond in the next 2:13, essentially putting the game away.
“We spent far too much time in our zone defending,” Vigneault said. “We gave them a power play goal off a loss face-off. Their goal that took us out of the game, 5-3, was another loss face-off, clean in the right in the back of our net there. We’re going to have to re-energize, regroup and get ready for tomorrow night’s game.”
It’s certainly not the first time this has happened this season to the Flyers. It’s been a common theme how quickly a positive moment where the momentum should shift instead goes right back in the favor of the opposition. It’s one of the many areas of inconsistency that needs to be addressed in the future.