The Flyers need to clean up their 2nd periods if they want to see continued success
I don’t mean to come off as negative regarding this Flyers team, especially considering the successful start to the season they’ve had. Coming home with 4 of the possible 6 points after defeating the unbeaten (at the time) Oilers and Canucks in back-to-backs, is a win in my book. Then, even though they were outplayed after the 1st period, putting up a decent fight against Calgary, with what looked like some pretty tired “back-end of the road trip” legs.
Carter Hart was the only reason the game wasn’t a complete blowout, standing on his head multiple times throughout the night. The 23 year old, after a pretty rough season last year, is really starting to find his groove. It’s odd saying that after a 4-0 loss, but if you watched that game or even some highlights, you know just how good Hart was.
I’m not saying let’s hit the panic button and freak out. The poorly played 2nd periods have just started to become a trend through these first 7 games, and it’s not really something we’re used to. We’re used to Flyers starting out 1st periods giving up a quick 2 goals in the first couple minutes, looking like they all just shotgunned 2 beers each in the locker room beforehand.
This year the starts have been the complete opposite with the Flyers jumping out to the lead in all of their games except 2 (FLA & CGY).
If you don’t know just how bad the Flyers have been outplayed this year in the 2nd period, let me lay it out for you.
G1: Outshot 13-10 by Vancouver (Outscored 3-1)
G2: Outshot 8-5 by Seattle (PHI outscored SEA 2-1)
G3: Outshot 18-10 by Boston (Outscored 2-1)
G4: Outshot 13-11 by Florida (PHI outscored FLA 2-1)
G5: Outshot 12-6 by Edmonton (Outscored 1-0)
G6: Outshot 16-5 by Vancouver (0 goals scored but completely outplayed)
G7: Outshot 16-5 by Calgary (Outscored 1-0)
Luckily, it hasn’t resulted in the Flyers getting outscored THAT badly (9 to 6), but the majority of the territorial play has belonged to the other team in 2nd periods. Outshot 96 to 52, the Flyers need to clean up their 2nd periods if they want to see continued success.
The same kind of words were used last year during the start of the season. “Hey, winning is really nice but Carter Hart and Brian Elliot can’t stop 37 of 40 every night.” Yes, this team feels different, and we’re getting timely goals from new additions (Hello, Cam Atkinson), but we can’t keep getting outshot 96-52 in 2nd periods if we want to keep winning hockey games.
2020 through 7 games
G1: Penguins outshoot Flyers 34-27. Hart stops 31 of 34, Flyers win 6-3.
G2: Penguins outshoot Flyers 33-20. Hart stops 31 of 33. Flyers win 5-2.
G3: Buffalo outshoots Flyers 37-22. Hart pulled, Elliot lets in 2, Flyers lose 6-1.
G4: Buffalo outshoots Flyers 40-30. Elliot posts a shutout. Flyers win 3-0.
G5: Boston outshoots Flyers 43-26. Hart stops 39 of 43. Flyers lose in shootout 5-4.
G6: Boston outshoots Flyers 26-17. Hart stops 20 of 26. Flyers lose 6-1.
G7: Flyers outshot Devils 31-26. Elliot stops 23 of 26. Flyers win 5-3.
Shots: 239-173 opponents
Goals: Tied 25-25
2021 through 7 games
G1: Vancouver outshoots Flyers 39-35. Hart stops 35 of 39. Flyers lose shootout 5-4.
G2: Flyers outshoots Seattle 27-24. Hart stops 23 of 24. Flyers win 6-1.
G3: Boston outshoots Flyers 40-25. Jones stops 37 of 40. Flyers win 6-3.
G4: Florida outshoots Flyers 31-29. Hart stops 27 of 31. Flyers lose 4-2.
G5: Edmonton outshoots Flyers 37-34. Hart saves 34 of 37. Flyers win 5-3
G6: Shots tied 28-28. Jones stops 27 of 28. Flyers win 2-1.
G7: Calgary outshoots Flyers 36-20. Hart stops 32 of 36. Flyers lose 4-0.
Shots: 235-198 opponents
Goals: 25-21 Philadelphia outscoring opponents
My boss, Drew Smith asked a pretty good question for our new episode of The Liberty Yell (that we haven’t recorded YET) the other day that kind of stuck with me and made me do this little bit of digging.
Drew is right, we did get off to a similar start last year, 4-2-1 to be exact through 7 games in 2020-2021 and now the 2021-2022 season.
So, Whats different through 7 games?
Cam Atkinson has 6 goals in his first 7 games as a Philadelphia Flyer, with a couple of them being extremely clutch goals. His first goal as a Flyer came after Vancouver went up 3-1 in the, wait……you guessed it, 2nd period. Atkinson got things rolling for the Flyers to eventually come back and tie that game up.
Against Boston, Atkinson straight out of the locker room for the 3rd period, made it 4-3 Flyers, after Brad Marchand ended the 2nd period by tying he game up with a couple seconds left. Another example of timely goals we just didn’t get last year.
The best example of Atkinson helping this team in terms of timely goals was his 5th of the year against EDM. Seconds after McDavid tied the game up on the PP, Atkinson comes down and DAGGERS one with barely a few second left. I feel like we just don’t get this kind of goal last year.
I mentioned earlier how we’re usually used to the Flyers starting out slow. Well, Cam Atkinson has been a help in that area as well, setting the tone and scoring the first goal of the game against the Bruins. He’s not only bringing clutch game-tying goals along with him but game-setting goals as well.
Even without Ryan Ellis, the defensive unit as a whole has been much more solid than last year. Players are playing the roles that better suit them (exception of Braun in Top 2), and the added veteran depth with Brassard, Atkinson, Thompson, Yandle, Ellis (when healthy) and Jones have stepped up and given the Flyers much needed sparks.
Every defensive unit is going to mess up from time to time and give up a big time scoring chance here and there, it happens. Last year, it just happened every other shift. This season, the defensive gaps and breakouts have been so much more crisp. Derick Brassard has really impressed me not only with his offensive capabilities, but his defensive work in helping out his defenseman. His ability to come down and play below his goal line, then hit his man for the breakout is extremely fun to watch.
Brassard brings that presence to the 2nd PP unit as well. The 2nd unit seems more dangerous than the 1st unit at times with players like Farabee, Brassard, Atkinson and Provorov on it. For what seemed like centuries, the Flyers never had a 2nd unit that could scare opposing PK units. It’s always been Giroux’s unit for 1:40 seconds, and if they don’t score then, you had Sam Gagner and Jordan Weal out there. Now we have 2 units that can dagger you at any time.
The PP has slipped from the top 5 a little, now in 12th place converting at a 23.8% rate. Provorov even without Ryan Ellis next to him for the last 4 games, looks more like the 2019-2020 Provy than last seasons version. Today, according to Charlie O’Connor on twitter, Provorov was moved back up the 1st PP unit on the point.
In a Good Place
Like I said in the beginning of the article, I don’t want to come off as negative. The Flyers have received timely goals, great goaltending and have been in every game they’ve played in so far. Even the Calgary game, despite losing 4-0, was 1-0 until 11:35 to go in the 3rd period.
I didn’t compare the stats through the first 7 games in both seasons to say the same thing is going to happen this year. I simply wanted to acknowledge the fact this team has been getting brutally outplayed in 2nd periods. They do seem to slip back into the same mindset as last season, telling themselves “goaltending can bail us out” and kind of just leave whoever is in goal out to dry.
Hart and Jones have been stellar to start the year. Jones, although he only has two starts so far, is 2-0-0 with a 2.01GAA and a .941%. He’s beaten Boston and Vancouver stopping 64 of 68 shots. The Flyers go up against the 0-8-1 Arizona Coyotes, looking to improve to 5-2-1 still without Ryan Ellis.
Mandatory Credit: Larry MacDougal / AP - NHL.com