Thursday night’s game against the Rangers was another win for the orange and black, but it surely didn’t happen without some tense late-game moments.
Those late-game moments were largely composed of the last 10 minutes when the Flyers were outplayed in almost every facet of the game, once again. No, this isn’t the first time this has happened, but it needs to change, especially going into the playoffs.
Those late-game decisions were exacerbated by the misuse of Travis Konecny, once again, near the end of Thursday nights game.
Konecny was easily one of the best players on the ice for the Flyers in this game. His first goal came early in the game off of a play that was created by him and topped off by an absolutely beautiful shot that got the Flyers going early on. Konecny wasn’t done there, he would add another goal off of a precise deflection right in front of the net to put the Flyers up by two in the second period.
Konecny would end up finishing the game with 2 goals, 4 shots, 1 blocked shot, and just over 12 minutes in ice-time. Yes, you read that right, just over 12 minutes in ice-time. In fact, only two players finished the game with less TOI in the game than Konecny, that was Jordan Weal and Scott Laughton.
Let that sink in for a second. Arguably the Flyers best player in this game, the guy who has 16 goals in his last 30, and the guy who has been throwing his body in front of shots, saw less ice time than 9 other forwards. That is simply unacceptable.
If you happened to miss the third period of weren’t paying attention, Konecny saw about 2 minutes of ice-time in the first 10 minutes of the third and was nowhere to be found in the final 10 minutes of the third period. Matt Read appeared to take his spot on the first line after that.
As much as you may want to pin this on “defensive responsibility”, there’s no case there. The Flyers were in a must-win game and up by just a goal and quite frankly getting walked all over by a team who has no prayer to make the playoffs.
Instead of shortening the bench and rolling the two lines that created offense all game, giving the Flyers a chance to extend their lead, they decided to play conservatively and were pinned in their own zone for large portions of the third period. What does that signal? A coaching staff that is completely content with playing in their own defensive zone instead of taking a bit of risk to get that insurance. That might work if your a team who can get pucks deep, can force teams to the outside, and clear the porch, but the Flyers don’t do that. If it weren’t for the outstanding play of Alex Lyon, the Flyers would have once again blown a two-goal third-period lead.
That mentality might work against the Rangers, but it has cost this team several late-game leads this season and if it continues in the playoffs, teams like the Capitals and Penguins will absolutely slaughter the Flyers.
Aside from the Konecny benching, the Flyers also somehow managed to have Gudas, Manning, Filppula, and Lehtera on the ice with under two minutes to play in this game. Once again, that is just simply unacceptable in a tight game that is a must-win. Filppula and Lehtera can fill out their roles during the game and have actually played fairly well over the past few games, but there’s just no excuse to have them on the ice that late in the game.
The Flyers have blown several late-game leads this season and while that can be attributed to the guys that are on the ice, the coaching staff has to do a better job of managing these situations late in games. Those blown leads have cost them several points this season and have also given several points (via overtime) to division rivals. That is currently coming back to hurt the Flyers in the standings.
The Flyers need to start throwing their best lineup out there late in games and stop playing into the hands of opponents when they have the lead. If they want to make any sort of noise in the playoffs, they need to come out in the third period and bury teams so they can’t see the light of day. If it doesn’t change soon then the Flyers will be hitting the course early.