Flyers-Flames Observations: Missed Opportunity

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

In the late stages of the third period, the hard work of a Flyers rookie earned them a gift goal and a 2-1 lead. Just when you thought the Flyers had the struggling Calgary Flames right where they wanted them, a perfect bounce on a 6-on-5 allowed them to tie the game and force another overtime.

The Flames eventually won in a shootout, a missed opportunity to grab another crucial two points in the standings as Thanksgiving approaches.

Here are some observations from the Flyers shootout loss to the Flames.

Kids Day

Morgan Frost did not make Flyers history by scoring in his first three NHL games. Joel Farabee, Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom did not score goals. But the Flyers had some young players heavily involved in the play throughout.

Frost had his moments — notably his turnover that led to Calgary’s first goal, one that he took responsibility for after the game — but he was constantly around the net, had a pair of odd-man rushes that led to chances and nearly did score on a deflection at the side of the net. The turnover aside, he definitely continued to prove he belongs at this level.

Farabee made a crucial play that led to the Flyers go-ahead goal late in the third. His tenacious pursuit of the puck behind the net set up Kevin Hayes for the goal into a wide open net before David Rittich could get back into position. 

Travis Sanheim took the initial shot before Jake Voracek’s goal, one that leaked through the pads of Rittich before Voracek knocked it into the net. 

Fittingly enough, it was Kids Day at Wells Fargo Center, and the kids looked pretty good once again.

Slump Snapped

Voracek and Hayes scored the two goals for the Flyers. For Voracek, his goal snapped a 12-game goalless drought. Hayes scored for the second straight game after snapping a 12-game goalless drought of his own in Carolina.

The Flyers certainly need contributions that go beyond the top scorers on the team, and they appear to be finally getting some of that back. In Carolina, Claude Giroux had a huge game and Hayes got his first goal in weeks. On Saturday, Hayes raced to beat two defenders to the puck to bury his goal into an empty net, and Voracek dove to poke in a loose puck that leaked through Rittich. Some consistency in that area would be welcomed.

Two Bad Bounces

The Flames had not scored in their last three road games and the first two periods went by without much in terms of quality chances. It took just 61 seconds for the Flames to score in the third.

Frost lost the puck as it rolled off his stick and Mikael Backlund grabbed control, making a quick pass to Andrew Mangiapane. His shot hit off the leg of Phil Myers and changed direction, beating Carter Hart.

In the final two minutes of the third, the Flames got the game tied with another friendly bounce. Rasmus Andersson fired a shot wide that hit off the end boards and bounced perfectly to Elias Lindholm at the side of a wide open net. 

“They took out their goalie on an icing play and we played that 6-on-5 perfectly,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “There was nothing getting on the inside. Everything was on the outside. They shot the puck and missed the net by a foot. It ended up on the guy’s stick with an open net. Sometimes that’s going to happen.”

Another Shootout

It’s becoming a habit this season for games to go beyond regulation. So far this season, nine games have gone beyond regulation and eight have gone to shootouts…in 23 total games played. That’s more than one-third of the Flyers games going to the glorified skills competition.

The Flyers surprised early on, winning three of the first five shootouts. Since then, they have lost three straight, all on home ice.

Getting points in games, especially in November, is great and the Flyers have done that in 10 of 12 games this month. But a 6-2-4 record is not something to brag about either. Saturday’s game could be viewed as a missed opportunity, a chance to take advantage of a struggling team. The Flyers dominated the second period to the tune of an 18-3 shot total and only managed one goal. The Flyers have had chances, whether with power-play time or extended moments of pressure and puck possession, to bury teams and just don’t have the finishing touch to do it. 

Shayne Gostisbehere

The Flyers had 12 forwards and seven defensemen take the ice for warmups. The thought there was that Robert Hagg was on the ice in the event that Ivan Provorov, who missed Friday’s practice on a maintenance day, was not able to play. That was really never a doubt though, so as warmups progressed, everything seemed normal.

That was until Shayne Gostisbehere was not featured in line rushes. When the final rosters for the game came out minutes before puck drop, the speculation was confirmed. Gostisbehere was a healthy scratch.

This is not the first time Gostisbehere has been the odd-man out of the lineup while healthy. A few weeks ago, it was an idea that was floated around by the Flyers coaching staff and certainly by fans. Gostisbehere has struggled throughout the season. Perhaps this was the last method to get that message across.

The problem with Gostisbehere is this: everyone knows he’s not going to light things up defensively. Fans know it. The team knows it. And everyone is perfectly fine with that. Gostisbehere has his moments defensively, and the place where he provides real value is offensively. When he’s on the way he has been in the past, you live with the defensive liabilities because you can’t take a scoring threat off the ice.

But this season, Gostisbehere has just one goal and five assists through 22 games. And perhaps the writing was on the wall for this one when Gostisbehere played just 10:57 in Thursday’s game against Carolina. So while Alain Vigneault said that Gostisbehere was “a work in progress,” the reality is that patience is probably running thin with the fifth-year defenseman.

For most of the game, Gostisbehere presence wasn’t all that missed either. The team was defensively sound, only allowing goals off of bad bounces and not poor defensive coverage. Where Gostisbehere was missed was in overtime, where at 3-on-3 he has more room to maneuver with the puck and to jump into rushes. But you can’t assume the game will go to overtime, so the Flyers played the best six defensemen they thought could win the game in regulation. They were 1:23 away from doing just that.

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