The Flyers lost Thursday night to the Washington Capitals, hurting their already slim chance to make the playoffs.
Here are some observations:
For much of his tenure, and particularly the piece with Carter Hart, interim coach Scott Gordon has pushed all the right buttons. Giving Oskar Lindblom more minutes. Moving Travis Sanheim up the lineup, switching to a 1-3-1 forecheck and pushing a more aggressive penalty-kill philosophy have contributed to the Flyers’ remarkable rise from the ashes.
Handling Hart has been on that list, too — at least until this week. Hindsight is 20/20, but it seemed at the start of the week the play to make was to give Hart his first start since returning from an ankle injury and weeks of inactivity Monday night against cellar-dwelling Ottawa.
Not against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, who are, to put it lightly, finding their fifth gear these days.
``After the first maybe 20-25 minutes, I started to feel a little better in the net,’’ said Hart, who allowed half his four goals in that span. ``Started to feel like myself. Seeing the puck a little bit better off the release … controlling my rebounds better. But I still got to make maybe one or two more saves to give our team a better chance.’’
In truth, it was the five minutes after that 25th minute — when the Capitals increased their lead from 2-1 to 4-1 — that doomed Hart and his teammates. Still, you have to wonder if Hart might have escaped those first 30 minutes in better shape had he played against Ottawa on Monday night. Then when you split Elliott and Hart on Thursday and Friday against two of the league’s elite teams, you have two goaltenders who have played recently.
I’ll bet Gordon would like a mulligan. Given how on-target his other moves have been, he gets one here.
It’s been a tough year for Shayne Gostisbehere on both ends of the ice. Even with his second-period assist Thursday (his 26th), Ghost finished the night with a minus-1, adding to his team worst plus-minus, which now sits at minus-16.
Oh, but what an assist it was. Rushing back to thwart a shorthanded 2-on-1 attempt, Ghost broke up Tom Wilson’s pass to a streaking Chandler Stephenson while on his back, jumped to his feet, and started an odd-man rush the other way. Dropping a pass to James van Riemsdyk as he entered the zone, Ghost then tied up the stick of defenseman Michal Kempny while pushing him out of a blocking position (OK, it was interference), giving JVR a clear shot at the net.
The Flyers sure could have used Jake Voracek on Thursday night, or in their 5-3 loss to the Caps last week. He had been playing his best hockey in recent memory, but Voracek’s increased physicality has had something to do with his absence from the lineup: first with the lower-body injury that required an MRI, and later because of a two-game suspension for lowering his shoulder into Johnny Boychuk’s head.
Voracek has been very unpleasant company up in the press box. He will return for Friday’s game in Toronto.
Washington received three goals from its third line Thursday night. Brett Connolly got two of them, including the goal that pushed the Caps lead back to two after the Flyers had sliced it early in the second period.
Connolly has 19 goals and 20 assists this season.
It’s a mark of a contender vs. a pretender, the strength of a third line. Totaled up, the Caps third line — recently acquired Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, and Brett Connolly — has 33 goals and 48 assists.