Quick hits: Flyers err, Elliott human in loss to Rangers

Flyers Rangers Hockey
New York Rangers right wing Rick Nash (61) scores a goal against Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott (37) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, in New York.

This is what it looks like on nights when Brian Elliott doesn’t play like one of the NHL’s three stars of the week.

Given that three of the Rangers first four goals were breakaways, we shouldn’t place too much blame on the Flyers goaltender for Tuesday’s 5-1 loss in New York. But his struggles and ultimate removal to start the third period underlines that at least part of the Flyers surge after their 10-game winless streak was directly traceable to his elite play between the pipes during that stretch.

We had grown accustomed to Elliott covering for the mistakes and turnovers that pockmarked last night’s loss. This time, as was the case when he was yanked against Pittsburgh, Elliott wasn’t any better than what was taking place in front of him.

It happens.

Box score, three stars

*****

Shorthanded stick: Scott Laughton was thisclose to making the type of play that determines games and makes highlight films. All he may have needed to do was to keep his stick on the ice. After grabbing a misplayed puck along the boards in his own zone during a first-period power play by the Rangers, Laughton feathered a perfect pass to Claude Giroux streaking down the middle of the ice. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist got a pad on Giroux’s shot and the rebound appeared to skid under Laughton’s stick as he streaked to the far post.

Would he have been able to backhand it into the exposed net? Maybe, maybe not. But if the stick was on the ice, we’d know.

*****

The Rangers had a power play goal and a shorthanded goal in the first period, underlining two of the Flyers more gnawing flaws of their uneven season. Paul Carey’s breakaway goal at 19:50 was the Rangers first shorthanded goal of the season, but it was the seventh the Flyers have allowed already this season. Only the Sabres, Islanders and Avalanche have allowed more.

It was a fitting end to what had to be one of the worst power play attempts by the Flyers this season. It included two ugly turnovers by Claude Giroux, a slapshot from close in by Ivan provorov that missed everything and served as a self-induced icing,   and the blown tire along the boards by Jordan Weal that led to the shorthanded jail-break the other way, and Carey’s goal. Ugly all around.

*****

We get it. The Flyers are currently two points out of a playoff spot. The Flyers could jump this team with a win. This is a four-point game.

We get it. Almost every game inside of the Eastern Conference and particularly the Metro Conference this is the case. It hardly needs mentioning.

And yet it is. Which is fine. What’s irksome is the gravity often given to it by those covering the games. There are 38 games left. The Flyers play the Rangers three more times, the Devils three more times, the Capitals three more times…

Points are important, yes. Positioning, at this point of the season, is not.

NHL Standings

*****

A Nolan Patrick observation: He was described as a powerful skater with good acceleration in several draft previews last year. He is a season away from us seeing that. Saturday night’s tough night in Jersey aside, Patrick’s play has improved and his involvement heightened. His zone entry and nice drop pass Tuesday, triggered the series of plays that resulted in Jordan Weal’s lone goal for the Flyers. But Patrick still looks like he’s carrying something on his back as he accelerates from a defensive position, and he hits the ice a Hartnell-esque number of times each game – clearly not part of his pre-injury performances.

It seems clear that he is going to need the same amount of recovery time from his extensive core muscle surgery last summer as Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux did last season. You only hope it’s as happy an ending as those two are experiencing this season.

Nolan Patrick Stats