Flyers-Penguins: Postgame Review
The Flyers 10-game points streak and Carter Hart's eight-game winning streak are over and they come at the hands of a goalie making his first start in some time who nearly stopped everything that came his way.
It hasn't happened often in the 18 games that Hart has started at the NHL level, but the 20-year-old rookie and the Flyers were out-dueled by the better goaltender.
Matt Murray made 50 saves to keep the Flyers at bay in a 4-1 loss to the Penguins that stings, history aside. It marks a serious blow to any playoff hopes the Flyers had left.
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- Not for Lack of Effort - The Flyers outshot the Penguins, 51-28, in this game. Shot total can mean very little when the scoreboard reads something different, and in this case, it certainly does.But the Flyers delivered an effort that was different for this kind of game. They were not overpowered by the Penguins. They flat out dominated parts of the game and just couldn't get a break or a bounce. Those nights happen.
It just so happens that this particular night was very bad timing. With the chance to move to within four points of a playoff spot, the Flyers were unable to come up with the victory. The effort was there, the end result was not. It happens.
Unfortunately, the better teams don't just outplay opponents in these situations, they finish them. So while it was encouraging that the Flyers were the better team for the majority of the night, the experienced team won out, kind of like in the playoffs a year ago. So take a little solace in the fact the Flyers can absolutely hang with the Penguins, but the result is damaging to a run that was starting to approach a realistic mark and now looks mountainous again.
- Not His Night - Carter Hart's night very much mirrors the Flyers night. He had his moments, making some early saves on Jake Guentzel, stopping Sidney Crosby twice, and he handled any chances from Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.It was just a night when some weird bounces and difficult shots got the better of him.
Crosby's goal was the unfortunate circumstance of losing sight of the puck. It's rare for Hart, but to have every teammate do the same, the goal was inevitable. Crosby should never be left that wide open on the opposite side of the net, but he was.
Nick Bjugstad's goal may have hit off of Ivan Provorov's stick, causing the puck to knuckle in on Hart. It's a difficult shot through a screen, but one that Hart may need to stop to keep the team in the game, especially when the push is so great at the other end.
Guentzel's late goal that proved to ice the game was another one where Hart was left just a little out of sorts. He wasn't out of position, but never took away the five-hole, making it easy for Guentzel to just backhand one through the wickets.
In the end, Hart's numbers don't take a major hit. His goals against average will still hover around 2.50 and his save percentage should only dip by a couple of points. But it was the first time in a while that Hart has let in a couple of softer goals. He had stolen so many games for the Flyers on this 10-game points streak. He couldn't steal this one, especially with the goalie at the other end doing so much to steal this one away for the visitors.
- The Quick Whistle - This was where the game probably turned for good. The Flyers were pressing throughout the second period, gave up an untimely goal and trailed 2-0 to the Penguins. A goal in the second could certainly turn things around.The Flyers thought they had it when a shot by Travis Konecny leaked through Murray and sat in the blue paint for a tap in for Nolan Patrick. Only the official blew play dead early, waved off the goal, and the Flyers ended the second period with 28 shots and no goals, down 2-0.
The quick whistle was all too familiar in Murray's case. He got the same break in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final in Game 6 in Nashville. Filip Forsberg's shot got through, the official didn't see it when everyone in the building and on a national TV audience did, and blew play dead. Colton Sissons pushed the puck into the net only to have the goal waved off. Murray shut out the Predators that night on the way to a 2-0 win to clinch the Stanley Cup for the second straight year.
Similarly, this changed the dynamic of the game. If the Flyers get one back there and get just a sniff, maybe they find a way to tie the game earlier. Instead, the second period went by the wayside for the Flyers, and they never really recovered.
- A Flurry of Shots - That second period was something to admire though. The Flyers had just nine shots in the first period, and it was evident early that there was an emphasis to put the puck on net more.The Flyers had some decent scoring chances early in the game, but missed the net on several of them. Getting pucks on net was the key in the second. They fired 28 shots on goal, many of them leaving rebounds or bouncing around near the crease, but the Flyers could never get much of a clean look.
The 28 shots in the period is a franchise record though, so there was a little history on this night.
- Moving On - Luckily, the Flyers don't have much time to wallow in a wasted opportunity. They get on the road and go right back to work against the Minnesota Wild.The Flyers really hit a crossroads now. A win in regulation moved them to within four points of Pittsburgh for a playoff spot. It also cut the margins in front of them on Buffalo down to two and Carolina to three. Everything was in reach. Those two teams were idle and with Pittsburgh now eight in front and Carolina still five points ahead and Buffalo four points ahead, there is so much work for the Flyers to do that time just may not allow.
It will be an admirable effort, especially if the Flyers can continue their successes and surpass one or two of the teams in front of them, but passing three teams may be too tall of a task. With 26 games to go, there is still time, but not much left to make the comeback complete.
By the Numbers
One of those games where you may be the better team, but the scoreboard just isn't your friend. The Flyers had the better of the possession and shots in each period, a 61-47 advantage at 5-on-5 alone, but managed just one late power-play goal.
Stat of the Game
This was a solid night for Shayne Gostisbehere, who looked more like his usual self. He finished the game with an assist on the lone goal, six shots and four blocked shots in 22:55 of ice time.