Quick observations following the Flyers 5-2 loss to Canucks
It's only a penalty if you get caught. Ivan Provorov got the game's first goal and Valtteri Filppula the assist, but Travis Konecny's sneaky little piece of interference off the faceoff – leaning ever-so-lightly into Brock Boeser to knock him off stride as he attempted to get to Provorov – allowed the clean lane to the net, where Michael Raffl was fortuitously parked.
Raffl did enough to affect Vancouver goaltender Jacob Markstrom's tracking of the puck. Two players who will not get a point, but the satisfaction that they contributed just the same.
Neuvy's short leash. I am a Brian Elliott fan. He earned every minute he played during the five previous games he has played for the Flyers, only one of which ended well. But yanking Michael Neuvirth after that fourth goal Tuesday night seemed both unfair and unproductive.
Of the four goals Neuvirth allowed on 22 shots, two were shootout variety. Yes, the fourth goal could have been prevented, but there was a mess in the crease, and his team was in full panic mode.
This is what a struggling team looks like, Part 1. Breakdowns, breakdowns… The NBCSP camera barely had time to hone in on Shayne Gostisbehere anguishing over allowing Daniel Sedin to slip behind him for his first-period breakaway goal, then the Canucks were doing a déjà vu.
An ill-timed turnover by Jordan Weal as the Flyers attempted a full defense change left Ivan Provorov and Robert Hagg on the bench side of the ice. The puck, of course, was on the other side, on the stick of Boeser all alone. Just like that, 1-0 Flyers became 2-1 Canucks.
Wanna know how it became 3-1? I'll tell you anyway. Caught in Vancouver's zone after an aborted shorthanded attempt with Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier skated to the bench, pointing Wayne Simmonds to where his responsibility was – on the other side of the other end of the ice. Simmonds had no chance to bridge that space, as Boeser collected his second goal of the night, a 17-foot snap shot.
This is what a struggling team looks like, Part 2. Handed a power play late in the first period when former Flyer Sam Gagner was called for holding Provorov along the boards, the Flyers first unit dazzled and disappointed. First, Jake Voracek seemed to hesitate ever-so-slightly after receiving a perfect cross-ice pass, allowing Markstrom to reset for the save. Then Wayne Simmonds had the puck at his feet with a wide open net after Gostisbehere unleashed a bomb, but didn't know it. Five seconds later, Voracek again fired high and wide from close in.
Earlier this week, I asked Simmonds about his own propensity to miss high during his scoring slump, which is now at 13 games. "Probably trying to be a little too cute there. Trying to pick corners. I think if you asked a lot of the good goal scorers they'd tell you they hammer it on the net as hard as they can."
The question, it should be noted, was in the context that Simmonds was skating better since being hobbled with the dreaded lower-body injury, getting it on net (his shots-per-game had been down), and thus getting more chances. And he is. But when they don't go in…
This is what a struggling team looks like, part 3. The Flyers second power play was so inept that fans at the Wells Fargo Center booed it for more than a minute as the Canucks controlled the puck longer than the Flyers did and registered two shots to their none.
Even a juicy screwup by Markstrom behind his own net as the power play ended couldn't jumpstart them. The puck sprung out to the front of the empty net, but by the time a Flyer got to the puck – Simmonds again – Markstrom had scrambled back to make the save.
Holding the puck too long, hurrying shots unnecessarily, bad line changes – the signs of a struggling team. When Ron Hextall tabbed Dave Hakstol as his head coach three Junes ago, he lauded the "culture" he had instilled at North Dakota. Amid the Flyers roster upheaval and youth infusion, that has proved much more difficult for him to establish at the pro level so far.