The Flyers biggest downfall – the power play unit – had a match up made in heaven coming into Thursday night’s contest against the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks lead the league in penalty minutes, minor penalties, and sported a penalty kill percentage under 80 percent. Add to that the fact that they were 0-4-0 on the road on the season, and the Flyers seemed poised for success.
Even with four days off to practice the power play – spending time mixing lines and trying new strategies – this squad failed to get the quality shots and chances needed to put pucks in the net. In five opportunities, they failed to produce any points.
It didn’t help that the Flyers were playing catch up starting a mere 35 seconds into the game after Lubomir Visnovsky stepped up on a loose puck in the slot and buried a banging slap shot past Sergei Bobrovsky – making just the fourth start of his career.
Hartnell slid home a rebound during action in front following a point shot by Andrej Meszaros to tie the game later in the first. A Jason Blake tally a few minutes later put the Ducks back up 2-1.
It wasn’t until the second period when Matt Carle sprung Claude Giroux for a chance alone on net and he followed up his initial shot with a backhand tip-in to tie the game at 2 apiece.
Unfortunately, within the final two minutes of play, the Ducks picked up a dirty goal of their own as Ryan Getzlaf got his stick on a puck in front of Bobrovsky, catching just enough for it to slide inches over the goal line.
Despite Philadelphia’s best effort, they couldn’t get the chances they needed to mount a late game come back.
It’s not as if the Flyers didn’t get a quantity of shots. Putting 42 pucks on net against the Ducks’ backup goalie, Curtis McElhinney, is nothing to slouch at. Unfortunately, the shots weren’t the quality chances they needed as the Flyers gave McElhinney enough easy shots to get into a rhythm and stop them when the tough ones finally came along.
All week long the Flyers practiced ways to get traffic in front for screens and rebounds and dirty goals. Aside from a short stretch in the second period, they did very little of this on Thursday.
Hopefully this game will represent the lesson the Flyers need to translate the things they’ve worked on during practice into actual game successes. If they don’t learn soon, it will mean falling further down the standings as their three game losing streak puts them near the bottom of the conference.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Curtis McElhinney: The 27 year old backup to Jonas Hiller, McElhinney made his first start of the season against the Flyers (his first action coming in relief of Hiller), and it was a good one. He was eased into the game as the Flyers flung shots at him relentlessly, but with few dangerous enough to be a real scoring threat. He got into a groove and kept his team in the game during the few Flyers’ flurries in turning away 40 of 42 shots for a .952 save percentage.
Briere-Leino-Hartnell: For the first time this season, this line started to look like the one that dominated the playoffs last year. They had strong forechecking opportunities, impressive scoring chances, and managed to generate one of the two Flyers’ goals through sheer hard work. If they pick up this pace and carry it through the regular season, they will be a major threat to opposing defenses.