Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography
It feels quite strange to say this, but the Flyers’ 6th loss in a row on Thursday night was actually the most encouraging game they’ve played in weeks. Welcoming back Sean Couturier to the lineup, Philadelphia fought off a slow start and controlled the third period of a tied game before losing on a deflection goal in overtime. Michal Neuvirth was fantastic once again and made 28 saves in the loss.
Although the first period was a step up from Tuesday night’s opener in Edmonton, it still left a lot to be desired. Defensive mistakes complimented an offense that had difficulty getting started. The Flames eventually grabbed the lead after Brandon Manning mishandled Vincent Lecavalier’s pass as a penalty expired.
The Flyers were able to bounce back in the second, playing a fairly even game and eventually equalizing things late on Michael Raffl’s first goal of the season. Michal Neuvirth kept the Flyers in it at times, neutralizing several odd man opportunities and making up for a couple defensive breakdowns.
The third period was the best period we’ve seen from the Flyers in a long time. Philadelphia shut down the neutral zone and continuously generated offense. Sean Couturier saw a lot of ice time in the third and was consistently being noticed in positive ways. The Flyers failed to break the tie, but it was easily the most encouraging period we’ve seen from them in almost two weeks.
In the ensuing 3 on 3 overtime, a rebound bounced off of Mikael Backlund and into the Flyers goal, securing the second point for Calgary. While Dave Hakstol appeared to think that the puck was kicked in, the officials ruled it a good goal and the Flyers were left with their 6th loss in a row.
I’m sure the Flyers are not taking any moral victories out of Calgary, but I’m not too concerned with the final result of this game. 3 on 3 overtimes are a crapshoot and Calgary’s game winner was a relatively fluky one on which no Flyer really made a significant mistake. Tonight, I was more encouraged to see the Flyers getting back to the type of play that won them several games early in the season. Maybe a point was left on the table, but there are certainly some positives to take away from this one.
Some more observations:
-Sean Couturier was the story of the night for Philadelphia. After a 6 game absence, Couturier rejoined the Flyers tonight and immediately had a visible positive impact on their play. He was dynamic in all three zones, and the Flyers controlled the entire third period with Couturier double shifting in Vincent Lecavalier’s place. Great to see.
-The first goal was yet again a combination of bad missteps from Brandon Manning. After misplaying a pass at the blue line, Manning came back into the play only to fall down in the crease and remain there until the puck was tapped in. Manning was not terrible tonight, but continues to simply make too many mistakes to be an effective NHL defenseman.
-The third period was the best period we’ve seen from the Flyers during their losing streak. All four lines spent most of their time in the offensive zone, and the team as a whole was effective defensively in the neutral zone. We haven’t seen that from the Flyers in a while, so it was good to see them get back to it.
-The penalty kill looked much, much better tonight. Obviously Sean Couturier helped out a lot, but the unit as a whole was much more effective. Good to see.
-The decision to play Vincent Lecavalier over Sam Gagner tonight really was strange. You’ve gotta think that Hakstol would have at least felt comfortable playing Gagner a bit in the third period.
-The Flyers have two (2) good goaltenders now. Wrap your minds around that shit. Michal Neuvirth continues to prove that he is a huge, huge upgrade over Ray Emery and Rob Zepp.