Saturday’s matinee against the Boston Bruins marked the first game of the second half of the season. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, it was eerily similar to their season opening loss in Boston. The Bruins used stingy defense and another goal from Chris Kelly to down the Flyers for the fifth straight time, taking Saturday’s matchup, 3-1. Some narratives seem to never change – the Bruins win again.
Boston’s Sleeper Hold
Just as they did on Oct. 8th, the Bruins pressed the Flyers into a defensive matchup. Boston pressed Philly into submission, swarming puck carriers upon entry into their zone. And when the Flyers were able to push play toward the outside, Claude Julien’s crew pinched the orange and black, while dominating the battles along the boards.
The Bruins pretty much dominated the Flyers for most of two periods, hemming them in their own end with brief passages in which the Flyers threw a shot or two on Tuukka Rask but without follow-up attempts. — Tim Panaccio, CSN Philly
It was the execution of a game plan that was pulled off by a team with the pieces to do so. But even with the overall personnel mismatch, which includes Steve Mason’s first period exit, the Flyers gave themselves little chance to win. Philadelphia was once again sucked into Boston’s scheme, while falling once again to their own demons.
The Flyers entered the season’s second half nine points out of the final playoff spot. After their fifth consecutive loss to Boston, it’s now 11. Fasten your safety belts. The second half looks as if it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Return of the ‘Mac’
After spending Thursday night’s game against the Capitals in the press box as a healthy scratch, Andrew MacDonald returned to the Flyers lineup. With Nicklas Grossmann’s injury opening the door for MacDonald’s return, the 28-year-old defenseman turned in a one-shot performance with a holding penalty on 19:06 of time on ice.
MacDonald’s presence on the ice, of course, was hardly the reason the Flyers ultimately lost. But it didn’t do much to increase the odds of winning either.
Mason Down, Eventually Out
After making five saves in just over seven minutes of playing time, Steve Mason left Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury.
Mason went down to make a save on a long, bouncing shot by Craig Cunningham with 12:56 remaining but was unable to get up. After a few moments he skated off the ice and went right to the locker room.
Mason missed practice Wednesday and had an MRI after reporting general soreness. However he played Thursday against the Washington Capitals. — Adam Kimeiman, NHL.com
Mason was already 4th in NHL in even-strength save % w/ 1,000 minutes (.933). His last 23 games (.941) account for brutal winless start.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) January 10, 2015
Here’s what we know for sure:
- Steve Mason has most likely been playing through one or more injuries since returning on Dec. 29th against Arizona.
- Whether it be his back, or any other undisclosed location, Mason’s attempt to put the team on his shoulders is nothing short of impressive. Especially when his effectiveness is taken into consideration.
- Adding to Frank Seravalli’s tweet above, Mason has given up three or more goals in only two of his last 10 outings.
‘The Shift,’ Part II?
Saturday’s tilt started with shades of Claude Giroux’s performance in Game 6 of the 2012 quarterfinal round against Pittsburgh. Shortly after the opening faceoff, Nick Schultz – of all people – leveled Boston’s Milan Lucic, a la Giroux’s hit on Sidney Crosby. Schultz would not complete the original “shift,” since Adam McQuaid jumped the 32-year-old veteran like a schoolyard bully.
Schultz’s fisticuffs may have been a mismatch against McQuaid and his now 36 career NHL fights, but Schultz’s edginess has been visibly noticeable of late. The future free agent turned in another admirable defensive effort, while adding three hits and a blocked shot in only 14:31 of ice time.
Pastrnak’s First (Two)
David Pastrnak may have been at the right place at the right time, but his first period power play goal links him to other youngsters who potted their first career NHL goals against the Flyers in Aaron Ekblad, Jesper Fast, and Borna Rendulic.
The 18-year-old rookie would add the second goal of his young NHL career later in the third period, giving the Bruins an insurmountable two-goal lead (that would ultimately grow to three).
It only took Pastrnak seven games to net his first tally in the big boy league, but how fitting it is that it comes against not only the Flyers, but their south of abysmal penalty kill – that’s now given up a league-worst 36 power play goals.
Giroux Finally Solves Bergeron, Rask
Considering the fact that Claude Giroux was held to just one shot on net back in the season opener in October, it’s understandable that the captain failed to sneak one past Tuukka Rask. On Saturday, Patrice Bergeron was given the task of blanketing Giroux once again, holding the top line center to just one shot yet again.
Giroux would make that one shot count this time, however, taking away Rask’s bid for his second shutout of the season. Giroux’s 14th goal on the season came on Philadelphia’s sixth power play of the afternoon. Yes, the power play was previously o-for-5 leading up to Rask’s only blemish on the day.
No forward in the NHL has more power-play points than Claude Giroux this season. G has 21 points with the man advantage. #Flyers
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 10, 2015
For Giroux, it was career goal number 133, tying him with Mike Richards for 23rd in franchise history. It was also the captain’s 46th point on the season, which is good for third in the NHL.
Second Period Dominance
Whether anyone was paying attention or not, the Flyers have now held their opponents to four second period shots in back-to-back games. That’s an impressive feat, considering Washington and Boston are seventh and 1oth respectively in the league in second period goals for.
Bruins only 8 shots on goal during the final 40 minutes of the game…it was alllllll Tuukka Rask.
— Tom Cuddy (@TomCuddySports) January 10, 2015
The Flyers would double up Boston’s second period shots on goal with eight of their own, on top of holding the Bruins to just four shots once more in the third period. Half of those shots, however, were ones that counted most.
Chris Kelly? Really?
As it turns out, rookie skaters aren’t the only ones who fist pump at the sight of the Flyers on the schedule. Chris Kelly chipped in his second goal against the Flyers this season with Saturday’s shorthanded wrister. It was the 34-year-old’s 12th career goal against the Flyers, tying the orange and black with the Buffalo Sabres as teams that Kelly has scored the most career goals against.
GIF: Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly on the 2-on-1 shorthanded, Kelly snipes http://t.co/im76BK8vGz
— Weekend at Bergy's (@weekendatbergys) January 10, 2015
Kelly’s shorty snapped a seven-game goalless streak, giving the Toronto native just his fifth mark of the season. Kelly has now scored goals in three straight games against the Flyers, dating back to Apr. 5th of last season.
Jake Voracek Watch
Despite another disappointing loss, Jake Voracek’s pursuit of the league’s scoring title continued on Saturday. Voracek’s assist on Claude Giroux’s third period power play goal was his 34th assist of the season, making him the first to reach the 50 point benchmark on the season. It’s the third time in Voracek’s seven-year career that he’s reached 50 points.
At the time of publication, the dynamic Czech holds a two-point lead over Dallas’ Tyler Seguin, who recorded an assist against Colorado on Saturday.
Looking to Find Lightning in a Bottle
The Flyers will face another immovable roadblock on Monday when they host the 27-12-4 Tampa Bay Lightning. And if you thought Philly’s five-game winless streak against Boston was bad, the Bolts will be looking to one-up the Bruins by extending their overall winning streak against the Flyers to seven games.
The good news, however, is that Philadelphia’s last win against the Lightning was recorded at home, the sight of Monday’s tilt. The bad news, though, is that it was celebrated on Feb. 5th, 2013. Tampa Bay has not only taken the last six matchups against the Flyers, they’ve also won in nine of their last 10 meetings.
Flyers have lost 6 straight vs Lightning, 1-9 last 10 games. #Flyers
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) December 17, 2014
Making matters worse, the Bolts’ 58 points leads the entire Eastern Conference. Jon Cooper’s squad has gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, and their 140 goals for lead the entire NHL. Who feels like camping out in front of the Wells Fargo Center for this one?
Andy is a contributor for The Hockey Writers, covering the Philadelphia Flyers. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Walsh University. He enjoys spending time with his family, golfing, and reading. He is married with a daughter. You can follow Andy on Twitter @ADudones.