RECAP: Flyers Lose 5-2 To Blue Jackets; Johnny Hockey Shows the Utility of Stars
The Flyers lost tonight in what can only be described as a natural and inevitable regression to the mean. Their luck was, quite frankly, destined to run out. And it was only fitting that this reminder came when they walked into the new house of Johnny Gaudreau.
After the offseason debacle of preaching stability and solid structures and incremental growth over chasing the shiny object, the shiny object just put up a goal and two assists. By himself, Johnny Gaudreau created 3 goals. The Flyers–as a team–found 2 goals along the way.
The 5-2 Final was a misnomer that comes as the product of two empty net goals. The real final–for all intents and purposes–was 3-2. And the real conclusion is: Johnny Gaudreau, through the sheer force of his personal brilliance, just won a hockey game.
Make A Mistake? Get Punished.
The turnovers are going to be the subject of much discussion in the coming hours and days, but I feel like stressing about giveaways is spectacularly missing the point. Turnovers are going to happen. Bad giveaways are going to happen. Not making mistakes is not an option.
It’s just a matter of whether or not you get punished for your mistakes. And Johnny Hockey did everything in his considerable powers to make sure the Flyers were punished for every single mistake while he was on the ice.
The first goal was a textbook example of this. A pass in the offensive zone by Owen Tippett found Gaudreau’s stick instead of a teammate’s. And he was off to the races.
A two-on-one rush ensues, and Gaudreau fires off a wrister with a perfect release to find the top corner of the net. Glove side. Carter Hart didn’t have much of a chance.
It isn’t that he couldn’t make that save. He made a similar save later in the game to keep the Flyers’ comeback ambitions alive. But nobody can make that save every time.
The second verse sounded exactly like the first. Or, rather, the second goal was exactly akin to the first.
Another Owen Tippett pass finds Johnny Gaudreau’s stick rather than a teammate’s.
And once again, the Jackets are off to the races. It’s a three-on-two odd-man rush, and the leader of the rush is one of the most dynamic transition players in the game. The ensuing sequence writes himself.
Johnny Gaudreau finds a perfect pass to Zach Werenski. And Werenski beats Hart five-hole, just before Carter had time to get set and close off that area.
There was a MINOR difference in the third Columbus goal, at least!
This time, Travis Konecny was the one whose pass found Johnny Gaudreau’s stick instead of a teammate!
You all know where it went from here. One of the most dynamic and brilliant rush players in the game led another rush. And then he picked up another point after a passing play led to Boone Jenner having the easiest goal of his life.
On this one, Hart truly had no chance. That goal is going in every single time. Hart had to sprawl to get over, and well, sprawling with that speed led to him falling forward and opening the top of the net.
The Flyers were down 3-0 in the blink of an eye. And how did it happen?
Mistakes got punished.
That’s what star players do. They make seemingly every mistake end up in the back of your net.
Battling Through Adversity:
If there’s one thing you have to give the 2022-23 Flyers, it’s that their mental resiliency is genuinely impressive. After lightning struck them three times, it was really easy to see this turning into an 8-0 embarrassment of a game.
But that didn’t happen. The Flyers kept fighting, and they were rewarded for their tenacity.
Their first goal came off of a scrum that ended with Tony DeAngelo getting a tap-in goal after a well-timed pinch.
It felt like momentum was genuinely beginning to turn at that point. It was surely assisted by both Zach Werenski and Erik Gudbransson leaving the game due to injury, but the Flyers should still get credit for continuously clawing and fighting. They created a ton of offensive chances after falling into their 3-0 hole.
And they took another step to digging out of that hole in the third period when Ivan Provorov tapped in a beautiful pass from Travis Konecny to make it a 3-2 game.
Nobody was due for a goal more than Ivan Provorov. Here is a little underrated piece of information on him: he’s an exceptional goal-scoring defenseman, and despite shooting more this year, he hadn’t found the net yet. Even in this game, he was robbed of some extremely high-quality chances. One coming off a one-timer.
This goal was practically owed to him. And it was delivered to him by–like I said–Travis Konecny. That guy, despite his turnover earlier in the game, is playing excellent hockey. I wrote about it earlier in the day! Turns out he might be due for a letter at some point.
I said he was back on the star’s path, and this game took another step in proving that. He did what the stars do and made the other team pay as soon as he was given an inch.
Extremely Active Defenseman:
Notice a pattern in the two goals the Flyers scored? They both came from defensemen, yes. More particularly, they both came from defensemen in their top pair. Even more specifically than that, they both came from their top-pair defenseman right on the doorstep!
Ivan Provorov and Tony DeAngelo have both been diving into plays with incredible frequency and using their own skills to both extend offensive zone time and contribute to rushes.
This is exactly the kind of thing the Flyers are gonna need to do to score. It has to come from dynamic plays by the blue line, and the top pair is living up to their end.
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Now, I only wish their ability to do that extended past the top pair.
It will, of course.
As soon as the Flyers get serious about Cam York and put him where he belongs in the NHL, he’ll fill this role quite nicely. Ronnie Attard isn’t as obviously NHL-ready as York, but he flashes true offensive dynamism despite his size.
Egor Zamula’s offensive ceiling is a bit of a mystery. But with his vision, I can see a solid offensive blueliner in there.
Travis Sanheim is using his legs again and creating some plays on offense. But further improvement is necessary.
The pieces are here on the blue line. Ivan Provorov and Tony DeAngelo are showing everyone the blueprint.
Carter Hart: Better Than The Numbers Would Say
Carter Hart’s start to the season has been nothing short of miraculous. It’s a level of brilliance that could not be sustained. No matter what, regression was coming in some form or another. Yes, Hart was drafted with “superstar goalie” as his ceiling.
But his level of play to date was far beyond mere superstardom.
Tonight was a good dose of regression in some of his numbers, but I think it came in the best possible way.
Hart made some key saves as the game went on and some difficult saves to keep the score where it was. The way he’s tracking the puck in net is undiminished, and his movements in his crease are as efficient as ever.
This is the way I would hope Carter’s numbers came back to reality. When his performance stays strong, but the bounces simply don’t go his way as they have before.
A game like this tells me that we have not seen the last breathtaking performance from Carter Hart this season. Not by a long shot.