Sleepy offense takes the afternoon off
It was an afternoon of illusion at Wells Fargo Center, one that carried beyond the usual hockey player phenomenon of referring to all day games as having happened “tonight” in post-game interviews.
Maybe that’s because hockey is played indoors without any windows to the outside world. When playing the Tampa Bay Lightning in recent seasons, however, the Flyers have too often been left in the dark.
In this latest letdown, a 3-0 Lightning-fast loss in a matinee snoozer at Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers not only were subject to the usual daylight-savings illusion, they sounded almost deluded in going through their post-mortum exercises.
“We had some chances there, and unfortunately the puck didn’t bounce our way on some plays,” goalie Steve Mason said after losing for the ninth time in 14 appearances. “I think today we were the better team, but sometimes that doesn’t dictate the final score.”
“I don’t think we played that bad,” Jake Voracek added. “When you look at it we had a lot of chances. We just didn’t get them to end up in the net. Games like that happen.”
As do losses that in the light of day might take on a different perspective. The Flyers for the most part saw a hardy effort against a true Stanley Cup contender — albeit one missing superstar Steven Stamkos (knee). They could even point to the scoreboard for supportive evidence ... if you look past what those bigger numbers say, you could see that the Flyers had outshot the visitors by 32-18.
But maybe that just supports the theory that Tampa Bay backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is as good as most team’s starters.
“We hit a couple of posts and he made some big saves as well,” said Shayne Gostisbehere, who was back after a one-game benching. “It’s frustrating to have a game like that, with how many shots we had and still get nothing out of it.”
But that’s where this game gets a tad illusory. This certainly wasn’t a beat-down victory for Tampa Bay (12-61), which until a pair of losses to the Flyers last March had been semi-successful in achieving such easy victories in too many Philadelphia games.
Indeed, the Flyers seemingly controlled the play for the bulk of this day, until you realized that the vast majority of those 32 Flyers shots on goal (and 17 missed shots) came from out on the perimeter, many of them while the Flyers were going oh-for-5 on the power play. In addition, the Lightning blocked 21 shots, again, many of them on the power play.
The Flyers haven’t scored in 10 consecutive man-advantage situations, and Gostisbehere continues to struggle to get his usually effective point blasts through as teams continue to pressure him out there.
This might be just one part of the Flyers’ team troubles, but it has an impact when most of the Flyers’ scoring success is power play oriented.
“I’m pretty sure we’re (still) second in the league,” Ghost the unhappy power play quarterback said, “but we can’t really rely on our power play all the time; we have 5-on-5 to play.”
Not only from an offensive standpoint: The Lightning scored two of their goals off bang-bang pays in transition. A coverage mistake freeing Ondrej Palat to double the Lightning lead at 7:40 of the second period, then Palat throwing an elite-level stretch pass off the boards and perfectly onto the stick of streaking Jonathan Drouin, who slithered past Voracek and beat Mason for 3-0 4:26 into the third.
So who needs a ton of shots when you can take advantage of opportunities such as that?
“You don’t get points for winning at shot attempts or winning on the shot chart,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “This is a tight hockey game against a good team. There were a lot of positives in our game, but as I said, a critical error at the wrong time changes the outcome of the game.”
For this outcome, there were many more errors than the post-game scoresheet might indicate. To Hakstol, that isn’t much of an illusion.
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves in a 3-0 shutout over the Flyers on Saturday.