Heading into their Friday afternoon Game 2 tilt with the Montreal Canadiens, the Philadelphia Flyers were riding high. They hadn’t lost a game yet since entering the Toronto bubble and earned a 1-0 series lead over a scrappy Montreal team.
To sum things up, Game 2 was a wake-up call for the Flyers. They were brought back down to Earth with a 5-0 blowout loss. From the get-go, the Flyers were on their heels and the hill to climb only got steeper as time went on.
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Regardless of the atrocity of Game 2, this isn’t the time to panic for the Flyers. The series is level at 1-1, and all they can do is treat this like a fresh best-of-five series moving forward.
On Sunday, Game 3 will serve as a test for the Flyers in more ways than one. To start, they’ll simply need to prove they can overcome one bad game and get things back on track. If they’re able to tweak the aspects of their game that failed them on Friday, they should have no problem doing that.
The series is far from over, but the Flyers are going to need a strong response after a miserable and forgettable effort on Friday.
A Nightmare First Period
Practically from the second the puck dropped, the Flyers were playing from behind. The Canadiens had the jump speed-wise, were moving the puck well and were sticking to their strategy of firing just about anything and everything at the net.
Things went from bad to worse as that first 20 minutes went on. The Flyers weren’t able to establish any kind of structure in the neutral or offensive zones, being held shotless through 17 minutes of the opening frame.
While part of that came from the strength of the Canadiens’ neutral zone pressure, the Flyers were just as responsible for putting themselves at a disadvantage. They were overthinking plays, missing on ill-advised pass attempts, and turning the puck over one way or another far too much.
Tomas Tatar’s tally just over a minute into the game did them no favors either. It turned into a period reminiscent of the awful second period from Game 1, and the Flyers just weren’t able to figure things out from then on.
Top Stars Still Invisible
One of the best parts of this Flyers team up to this point has been their depth at every position. They’ve been able to take some pressure off their top stars and still get the production they’re looking for.
We’re at a point, however, where you can’t help but question when the Flyers’ usual top performers are going to show up.
Through five total postseason games now, none of Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, or James van Riemsdyk have found the back of the net. While that typically isn’t a problem with some of their second and third liners providing offense, it doesn’t bode well in a situation like the one they were in during Game 2.
When a game is slipping away, you look to your top-scoring leaders to provide a spark. For the Flyers, that obviously wasn’t the case. You’re left wondering when these guys are going to get on the board, and if the Flyers are capable of taking down any team in
If they want to make it out of this first-round matchup, the Flyers are going to need to get some offensive support from the guys that led the way during the regular season.
Tweaking the Lineup
After the brutal first period, Alain Vigneault obviously started to make some changes to his line combinations to try and get the Flyers going.
Most notably, he moved Joel Farabee off the first line to play with Nate Thompson and Tyler Pitlick, replacing him with Jake Voracek. With the game getting more and more out of hand, Vigneault continued to throw out new combinations, none of which provided the jolt the Flyers needed.
On the back end, things didn’t change very much. There was no reason to split up the Flyers top defensive combo of Provorov and Niskanen, but the bottom four did see some switches. The pairing of Shayne Gostisbehere and Justin Braun looked terrible, which led to Ghost getting some time alongside Phil Myers and Braun with Travis Sanheim.
For the forwards, Vigneault will likely send out similar line combinations for Game 3. After blocking a shot in the foot late in the game that sent him directly to the locker room, Travis Konecny could be a question mark come Sunday. Hopefully, it was just a stinger and he’ll be ready to go.
For the defense, on the other hand, it may be time for a full shake-up. Provorov, Niskanen, Myers, and Sanheim aren’t going anywhere. It might be time, though, to give Robert Hagg his first action of the series in place of Braun or Gostisbehere. Unfortunately, we probably won’t know of any such changes until game-time on Sunday.
Special Teams Problems
It seems like after every Flyers game we’re stuck talking about the special teams. Up to this point, the penalty kill has been one of the team’s best assets, and that unit still really isn’t the problem.
Time and time again, however, the power play can not figure out how to put the puck in the net. They found a way to connect in Game 1, which felt like it could be the start of a move in the right direction for the man-up group.
Well, not so fast. Game 2 showed that the kinks in the Flyers power play, especially in their loaded first group, are still there.
It’s been stressed before that a reliable power play can make all the difference during the playoffs. It feels like it’s time for some personnel changes on the first unit after a 0-for-5 showing in Game 2.
Until that happens or until this group can somehow consistently find ways to score on the man advantage, power plays are going to continue to fall flat for the Flyers.
Time to Bounce Back
Again, this is not the time to panic for the Flyers or their fans. There was no chance the Flyers were going to waltz through the postseason unbeaten. Regardless of whether or not you’re the better team on paper, some games just won’t go your way.
If one thing is for sure, it’s that Alain Vigneault and his team aren’t going to dwell on the loss. With a practice day in between games 2 and 3, the Flyers have more than enough time to get their game back on track.
For Carter Hart, who had arguably his worst showing of the postseason, there should be no doubt that he’s capable of shifting his focus to the next game and erasing the mistakes of Game 2.
As the first seed in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers still have a lot to prove and that starts with a strong bounce-back effort in Game 3.
The Flyers have been given a tough test in the Canadiens. After their dominance of the round-robin, it may have seemed like they would steamroll through the eight-seed. Of all the takeaways from Game 2, the main one should be that this Montreal team has a lot to play for and should not
Sunday’s Game 3 matchup is going to tell us a lot about the character and resilience of this Flyers team, and whether or not they’re truly ready to make a deep playoff run.