The 2020 playoffs have proven to be a strange affair for the number one seed Philadelphia Flyers. After winning two undeserving games in this series, the Flyers lost a deserving win on Wednesday night against the Canadiens. Unlike their previous two victories, when they relied on Carter Hart to bail them out and struggled to play their game, the Flyers’ had a strong effort. Yet, it resulted in a loss and somewhat crushing loss at that.
What Went Well
1) The Big Guns Are Rolling
Both Giroux and Couturier had great games offensively. Though he had little impact on the scoresheet, Kevin Hayes also had an exceptional game and was heavily involved in all areas of the ice. Voracek had two goals on the powerplay and was dangerous at various points throughout the game. Overall, the big guns were rolling which is a positive sign for game six on Friday.
2) Passing Through the Neutral Zone
The Flyers are at their best when they are utilizing quick passes through the neutral zone and destroying defensive structures set up to prevent them from making zone entries. The Flyers were successful at this for the majority of the game and were able to enter the offensive zone with relative success until the last few minutes of the third period.
3) Passion Even in Losing
After Lehkonen scored the empty-net goal, the Flyers showed some passion in initiating a line scrum well after the goal was scored. This may seem like a strange highlight, but it showed.
4) Joel Farabee
Joel Farabee scored a big goal in the third and had an amazing, overall game once again. Even though he has been in and out of the line-up, Farabee’s three goals have him in the upper echelon of Flyers’ offensive producers in this series.
What Needs Improvement
1) Defensive Zone Coverage
The Flyers have been relatively tight in their own zone the last two games but struggled in game six. The defense and centers frequently lost their coverage in front of Hart and offered little in the way of support.
2) The Third Defensive Pairing
Yes, we are unfortunately here again. The Braun-Hagg pairing struggled mightily, allowing the fourth goal through some terrible defensive coverage on Hagg’s part.
3) The Fourth-Line
The combination of Thompson and Pitlick may seem like a good defensive combination on paper, but their overall play the last two games has struggled. At times, this is a result of coaching and line match-ups. Regardless, both Thompson and Pitlick need to work on their defensive awareness through the neutral zone, especially if they are utilized immediately after the Flyers score a goal.
4) Derek Grant
I have been a defender of Grant for the most part in this playoff series. I think he adds a lot to the third or fourth lines with his goal-scoring ability, forechecking game, and faceoff ability. Unfortunately, he has struggled mightily the past few games and last night was no exception. Grant
5) Vigneault’s Post Goal Match-Ups
Vigneault, like many veteran coaches, loves to throw his fourth line and third defensive pairing out after the Flyers’ score a goal. However, this strategy is beginning to backfire. Some of this strategy is likely from a theory that suggests your third and fourth line players are your best defensive ones. For the Flyers, that just isn’t the case and it cost them last night. Having the Couturier or Hayes line out is a much better option for the Flyers to control possession or least defend more successfully. Putting your worst overall defensive pairing out in that situation as well isn’t ideal either. This match-up attempt cost the Flyers’ last night and is need of reexamination.
1) Nick Suzuki
Suzuki’s speed and hockey sense were on display in this one. Suzuki scored a big goal late to put the Canadiens up in this game. He has had an excellent series and looks like a potential star in the making.
2) Joel Armia
Armia is known for being a strong third line-type player. He is decent at puck retrieval as well and occasionally goes off offensively. This happened tonight, with Armia scoring two goals and being very visible throughout the night in all situations.
3) Jakub Voracek
Jakub Voracek scored two powerplay goals, helping the Flyers’ powerplay get back on track. Voracek has had a decent overall series so far.
Other Important Notes
- Though he wasn’t penalized on the play, the NHL suspended Matt Niskanen for one game for crosschecking Brendan Gallagher in the face. Gallagher is out for the series with a broken jaw. Gostisbhere should return to the line-up in his place.
- Nik Aube-Kubel was out with an undisclosed injury for the second game in a row. The Flyers miss his tenacious forechecking and defensive play. He is likely to be a game-time decision.
- The Flyers finally scored with some regularity on the power play. Hopefully, this trend continues heading into game six on Friday night.