The Philadelphia Flyers did not get the playoffs started how they envisioned on Thursday night.
The New York Rangers 4-1 victory in Game 1 was a showcase in how to totally neutralize the Flyers. After allowing the first goal of the game, the Rangers came back to score four unanswered and pretty much stymie the Flyers offense.
The big men stepped up for New York in Game 1. Brad Richards scored a goal and dished out two assists. Martin St. Louis added two assists. The Rangers regular season leader in points, Mats Zuccarello, got New York on the board in the first period. Derek Stepan netted the insurance goal for the Rangers. Even Carl Hagelin scored for New York.
They got what they needed. The Flyers did not.
From the Philadelphia perspective, the loss can be boiled down to three things.
For the most penalized team in the NHL, the Flyers were playing really well through a period and a half being whistled for just one penalty – an Adam Hall interference call in the first period in which the Flyers successfully killed.
With a delayed penalty call against the Rangers coming, the Flyers went to go to work with the extra attacker until the whistle blew to stop play. Unfortunately as the Rangers went to touch the puck, Brayden Schenn got his stick up high and was whistled for high-sticking, thus nullifying the Flyers first power play of the game.
That set a bad precedent but it all unraveled in the third period. At the 7:35 mark of the third, Jason Akeson came in to hit Hagelin but lost his footing and his stick came up to drill the Rangers forward in the mouth. It drew blood. The Rangers went on a four minute power play and scored twice to make it 3-1.
The discipline issues did not stop there. Trying to climb back into the game, the Flyers would be whistled for three more minor penalties after Akeson’s high stick. Giving five power plays in the third period alone to an opponent usually spells doom.
2. Where were Giroux and Voracek?
It’s been said all year long. The Flyers will only go as Claude Giroux will take them. The Flyers slow start to the season coincided with Giroux’s slow start. That’s where you have a Chicken v. Egg argument: Did the Flyers start slow because Giroux started slow? Or did the Flyers’ slow start cause Giroux to start slow? That’s a debate for another time.
The point is Giroux’s importance to the success of the Flyers. He was a nonfactor in Game 1 as he was held off the scoresheet, took just one shot that missed the net and was whistled for a frustration penalty late in the third period. That’s not the type of play that will win the Flyers games in the playoffs.
Giroux’s linemate was not too much better. Jakub Voracek was held off the scoresheet as well and had two shots miss the net. Giroux and Voracek combined for no shots on goal, no assists and two penalty minutes.
From the Rangers standpoint, it doesn’t get much better than having the Flyers’ top two leading scorers combine for no shots on net and no assists.
The play of Scott Hartnell was the only reason people could not totally condemn the Flyers’ top line for their play in Game 1. Hartnell registered two shots on net and laid the jarring hit on Ryan McDonagh that led to him getting the only assist on the Flyers only goal of the night.
Giroux and Voracek cannot be invisible if the Flyers stand any chance at winning the series.
1. Where was the offense?
The Flyers organization has a marketing campaign calling the last few weeks “Clutch Time.” When “Clutch Time” came in Game 1, the Flyers offense was nowhere to be found. The Flyers were getting outshot 23-14 entering the third period but the game was tied 1-1 and up for grabs. How did they respond? They didn’t.
The Flyers were only able to muster one shot on goal in the entire period getting outshot 13-1 by the Rangers and, ultimately, outscored 3-0 in the final frame. With the game on the line, only mustering one shot on goal is totally unacceptable.
The Flyers’ 15 total shots on goal are the fewest since the only registered 14 shots on goal on April 28th, 2008 in a 3-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Akeson and Michael Raffl led the Flyers with three shots on goal apiece.
The good news for the Flyers is they can throw away the mistakes of Game 1 and start fresh in Game 2 on Sunday. One game will not make or break this series but there will be some uneasy stomachs if the Flyers don’t come out on Sunday with some jump and get a victory at Madison Square Garden.
It should be an entertaining game to watch come noon on Sunday.