At this point in the season, the only thing the Circulars had done well, even in a pair of losses, had remained competitive in games. Saturday’s game was their first that would be classified as a clunker.
After a rather lackluster first period for both teams, a late push into the opening period continued for the Flames, who dominated the game from there to a 4-0 victory over the Flyers.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s game.
1. Show deer
The Flyers came out of the first period with a scoreless game and the second period with a goal. The reason was Carter Hart.
This start won’t help Hart with the numbers. The late goal of Johnny Gaudreau turned his night into three more goals against and the 32 saves on 35 shots translates into another night with a .914 save percentage. But make no mistake, Hart stood on his head for most of the night and kept the game close.
Granted, in seven games, held for Hart’s tough start against Vancouver at home, Flyers goaltenders have answered the bell. In several cases, they have been the main reason for the success of the team. It was fortunate enough to be another one of those games, thanks to Hart, it just wasn’t meant to be.
“He gave us a chance”, head coach Alain Vigneault noted. “Without him, there is obviously no match. He was the best player on the ice for us in that game, he gave us a chance and we couldn’t follow through.
2. “We didn’t help him at all”
Most of the first period was played in the neutral zone, so the Flyers’ lack of shots early in the game wasn’t as much of a concern as Calgary wasn’t really dominant either. A late push in the first period increased Calgary’s tally to eight shots in the first 20 minutes, several of them in the final two minutes. The Flyers had four shots in the opening 20 minutes.
Then for most of the second period, the Flyers stayed on four shots in the game. Calgary’s total shot up quickly, doubling its first period tally first, then approaching 20 shots for the game, then dropping to 24 by the end of the period. The Flyers managed to get five shots on goal down the home stretch, but essentially nothing major in an unforgettable hockey season.
While the Flyers had 11 shots in the last period, the Flames again outscored them with 12, keeping their foot on the gas with a 1-0 lead that ultimately climbed to 4-0 at the end of the match.
If Hart was the reason the game was even close at first, it was the rest of the team’s slow play that was the reason for the lack of chances and pucks at the net.
“The team makes an effort like that in front of Hartsy when in reality he is the only reason it finished the score that it was,” Travis Konecny noted. “He made incredible saves. Obviously, we try to help him as much as we can, but tonight we didn’t help him at all. He kept us in the game and it’s just too bad we couldn’t capitalize for him.
3. The penalties are costly
Even though the Flames dominated this game, it was still scoreless 29 minutes into the game. It took a power play for Calgary to finally break through.
Sean Monahan scored his first goal of the season on a warning to make it 1-0 at 9:07 of the period. It was Calgary’s third power play that point in the game. They took two more in the game, and on the fifth, the Flames struck again.
This penalty was a catchy call on Zack MacEwen, taken in the offensive zone. It was the 14th power play against the Flyers on the road trip, at least four in each game.
“We’ll have to get this under control,” said Vigneault. “There are penalties that we get that I shake my head for, which I’m not entirely sure are penalties. But there are some that we obviously deserve and tonight the last two we took 200 feet from our net in the attacking zone were deserved. “
4. Impossible to extinguish the flames
Last season wasn’t just tough for the Flyers. The Flames also had a rough patch, finishing 26-27-3, firing their coach mid-season and ending things rather lifeless as well. Everything seems to have changed this season.
For one, it is Darryl SutterThis is the first training camp with the group, so it’s really a chance to install systems and create a philosophy. It clearly works.
The season has not started in a particular way for the Flames. They lost to Edmonton, 5-2, to open the season, then lost a 3-2 decision to the Anaheim Ducks in overtime in their second game. But since then, a five-game road trip has proven to be a bonding experience and has boosted their confidence. They beat Detroit, Washington, New York Rangers, New Jersey and Pittsburgh to get a perfect 5-0-0 on the road trip. They never hung out once in a game.
That race continued on Saturday as they claimed a fifth consecutive victory against a team from the Metropolitan Division and a sixth consecutive victory overall. For the third time in the streak, Jacob Markstrom recorded a shutout.
“You have to give credit where credit is due,” said Vigneault. “They are playing an extremely tight hockey game where there is not a lot of room on the ice. When a team plays this way, you have to make plays offensively. Your execution should be at its best. Obviously, they took it away from us this evening. They made it very difficult. When a team plays this well it makes it very difficult for the opposition and they were the best team tonight.
5. Always a successful trip
After wins in Edmonton and Vancouver to open the road trip, was it a sour note to end things in Western Canada? Of course, absolutely. A 5-1-1 start and winning all six points of the road trip would certainly have made a statement.
But let’s remember a few things before we hit the panic button. The Flyers worked their way to a 4-2-1 record in seven games to end October. They were competitive every game going into the third period on the scoreboard, and really Saturday’s game was the first that didn’t look so competitive on the ice.
The Flyers also played a difficult schedule. Vancouver is an improved team since the offseason. The Flyers have collected three points in their two games against them. The Flyers faced Edmonton and Florida when they were both unbeaten. They lost to Florida in a close game and beat Edmonton. They beat Boston and Seattle on track to get off to a good start. And as mentioned above, it’s not like Calgary is a team’s play.
It’s a schedule of 82 games. Some nights you just don’t have it and your competition takes you to school. It’s how you react that makes the difference.
Of course, playing for two periods and generating nine shots on goal is terrible. It seemed like everyone had this. But this is the first clunker in seven games. And they played their way to that 4-2-1 record without Kevin hayes in the lineup at all and the last four games without Ryan Ellis, one of the best defenders. It’s pretty good when you consider all of that.
They’ve won in different styles already this season and should come out of it when they face the Arizona Coyotes in a game on Tuesday night. As a result of the effort and lack of chances generated in this game, we hope that a motivated team will come out to put to bed some of the overreaction to a bad loss.
Kevin Durso is a Flyers Insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers Editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on twitter @Kevin_Durso.