(Photo: Kate Frese)
By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
It's a game where the scoreboard doesn't tell the whole story. The Flyers 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night was much closer than the final score.
That said, it was also a game that could be summed up in three words: That's. So. Flyers.
The Flyers have become a punch line of sorts in the bad-luck loss genre, and it was just the kind of game they got against the Devils. The issue wasn't the bad luck, it was working to find a way to overcome it. That didn't happen, and it has the Flyers at .500 through four games of a five-game homestand that started with such promise.
Let's break it down in our Postgame Review.
This game wasn't a loss for lack of effort, though at times the Flyers were outworked by the Devils. This was a case where the Flyers peppered the New Jersey net with solid chances early, still fell behind, couldn't get a break and ultimately fizzled out in the end.
The Flyers didn't have just the five posts. There was a disallowed goal — more on that in a minute. There was a glorious chance for Wayne Simmonds to cut the lead to one with an empty net in front of him. His shot somehow caught the desperate reach of Keith Kinkaid.
Kinkaid was solid, but he wasn't spectacular. He owes a good part of that shutout to the cage behind him and some luck of his own, but he did make a few great saves to take away Flyers chances and keep them off the board.
If the Flyers hadn't come out and watched a winning streak and points streak fizzle out on Tuesday, you could almost accept a loss like this a little more, one where the effort and chances were there but the scoring wasn't. When it's the second loss in a row and has you trending back in the direction of October, it's not good.
Let's start here: yes, there was contact between James van Riemsdyk and the glove and mask of Kinkaid. Yes, it was the right call.
The issue with this call, though, doesn't come from what the final decision on the ice was. It comes from precedent.
The contact was pretty clear on replay, so why did Dave Hakstol challenge? Maybe because the Flyers have had that very call go against them in the past. It's the usual questions. Is the goalie out of the blue paint? Was the contact minimal and non-affective of the puck entering the net? The problem here is that too much gray area has always remained on these calls, and one no-goal call in Philadelphia on that play could have been a goal call somewhere else or in another game for the Flyers. It's too inconsistent.
And that's why Hakstol challenged. It's been called a goal before, even with the contact. If it had been called by the book in every case, Hakstol probably doesn't challenge there. But knowing that very call has gone against him, he wanted the officials to look again and see if the call was reversed.
Unfortunately, for the better part of 40 minutes, that was the only goal Elliott allowed while stopping everything else that came his way, including several point-blank chances.
Elliott had been in a zone entering this game. He stopped all 16 shots faced in relief last Thursday. He pitched a 33-save shutout on Saturday against Chicago. On Tuesday, in a loss to Florida, he still stopped 28 of 30 shots. And on Thursday, he had stopped 23 of 24 shots before one final blow.
Kyle Palmieri scored the goal that probably sealed the Flyers fate at that point with 6:08 to play. But to make matters worse, Elliott could not continue.
Once again, Cal Pickard is the top goalie in the system now. The Flyers will need a call-up for Saturday most likely. The Flyers Wives Carnival is Sunday and the goalie carousel just keeps on spinning.
This is not just a problem in terms of adding scoring. This is actively costing the Flyers games.
Remember in seasons past when the power play, while not lights out by any stretch, was still near a 20 percent success rate, and typically found a way to score a big goal in a big situation? The Flyers last two losses were a 2-1 nail-biter against Florida and Thursday's 3-0 loss that was still a 1-0 game with seven minutes left. The Flyers had just one power play on Tuesday, so not quite the same effect, but with four power plays all before New Jersey's second goal, the Flyers had a chance to even the score and take the lead. A 1-for-4 night is pretty typical for teams with a good power play.
The Flyers have the personnel too. That's the biggest factor. They have talent on the power play, but simply can't execute, whether it's the pressure from the opposing penalty kill — and the Devils put on a clinic in that department — or just trying to do too much and coughing up a chance. Whatever it is, it needed to be fixed weeks ago.
Early, JVR's presence was felt. He applied a great screen on the first hit post of the night by Travis Sanheim. He was also around the net frequently and either tied up before he could make a play or not quite in the right spot to pick up a rebound.
Either way, for him, this game was going to be more of a feeling out process and he looked good all things considered.
"As much as hitting four or five posts, I think we did a good job of staying focused on what we have to do. Power play needs to get one. It’s very frustrating right now, but like I said before, I really think we’re playing some good hockey. We need to get it done." – Flyers forward Claude Giroux
"It’s goalie interference by nature. I think by the fact that, there’s a gray area but with the fact that James’ glove hits his glove whether it’s outside the blue paint or where the goaltender is set up, before the puck goes in the net. I don’t want to get into the details of it. I’ve seen it and that’s what it is." – Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol
By the Numbers
The Flyers finished the game with a 56.99 CF% at 5-on-5 and 16 high-danger scoring chances. Just no goals. The Devils, meanwhile, had a 43.01 CF% and just seven high-danger scoring chances.
Stat of the Game
Blake Coleman had a three-point game and also led the Devils with five shots.