Flyers-Senators observations: Defense, close calls key in loss


OTTAWA, Ontario — The Flyers own their first losing streak of the season after they dropped back-to-back games with a 5-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

For a second straight game on the road, the Flyers dug themselves in another 3-0 hole. However, unlike the game in Nashville, they weren’t able to climb all the way out despite a furious finish that saw the Flyers just inches away from tying the game.

With under a minute left and the extra attacker on, the Flyers appeared to tie the game for a moment. The puck was pushed into goalie Craig Anderson’s glove, which sat just behind the goal line. The play was not ruled a goal on the ice and upheld after a review.

That was the second review of the night that didn’t go the Flyers’ way. The Flyers appeared to have closed within 4-3 in the third period, but Brandon Manning’s goal was taken off the board for goaltender’s interference. 

Jordan Weal backed into Anderson, but it appeared the goalie may have initiated the contact. As Weal skated to his left out of the crease, it seemed Anderson was clear and free to make the save. However, the review officials in Toronto felt Weal’s presence in the crease ultimately impacted Anderson’s ability to make the save. I thought the call could have gone either way. 

The Senators tacked on their final goal a minute later when Tom Pyatt wristed a shot low between Michal Neuvirth’s blocker and right pad to give Ottawa a three-goal lead with 9:30 remaining in the game.

• On the Senators’ fourth goal, Ryan Dzingel raced into the Flyers’ zone, stopped in the circle and then fed a cutting Mark Stone in the slot, who fired a backhanded shot past Neuvirth. Valtteri Filppula did a solid job of getting back on defense and covering Stone in the slot, but he couldn’t tie up his man. Stone — who has a great set of hands — made a nice spin move to elude Filppula and score. I didn’t like the way Shayne Gostisbehere played Dzingel.

• Jakub Voracek will take his first goal anyway he can get it. In the second period, Voracek tried to center a pass to Sean Couturier in front and the puck deflected off Sens defenseman Dion Phaneuf and past Anderson for the Flyers’ first score. Voracek said after the morning skate he wasn’t panicking over a lack of goals and that they would come eventually (see story). That’s a start. 

• Later in the period, the Flyers closed within a goal when Radko Gudas fired a two-line pass to a cherry-picking Travis Konecny, who popped home a breakaway goal that beat Anderson blocker side. Earlier, Konecny mishandled a puck in the neutral zone and then weakly backchecked to allow the Senators to put a good shot on net. 

• The Flyers’ second period was considerably better than the first period with more possession time and cleaner passes from zone to zone.

First-period observations
• I thought the Flyers had a good game plan of breaking the Senators’ methodical, clog-up-the-middle neutral zone play. But their execution was weak, especially in the opening 10 minutes of the game.

• Neuvirth gave up his first bad goal of the season when Phaneuf casually flipped a puck on net from just inside the blue line. The angle of the shot appeared to catch Neuvirth by surprise as he failed to adjust and the puck sailed over his glove as it just caught the top right corner of the net. The puck wasn’t tipped and Neuvirth wasn’t screened. Just a bad goal for Neuvirth. 

• Neuvirth wasn’t nearly as locked in as he was in his previous three starts. Even on some of the shots he stopped, he gave up some big rebounds. He failed to secure a couple of loose pucks, lost his stick briefly during a sequence and just didn’t have the sharpness we had seen previously. 

• The Flyers knew coming into this game they had to execute from zone to zone. It was a point of emphasis for head coach Dave Hakstol. With the Senators leading, 2-0, Erik Karlsson perfectly read Konecny’s cross-ice pass, picked it off in the neutral zone and set up Jean-Gabriel Pageau for a quick snap shot over Neuvirth’s glove for a 3-0 Senators’ lead. When asked about Konecny pregame, Hakstol thought long and hard before answering. His play has really dipped over the past three games.

• As strange as it may seem, without Andrew MacDonald the Flyers’ back end continues to struggle mightily. Gudas had a lazy backhand pass in the Flyers’ end that led to a quality scoring chance. Rookie Travis Sanheim, starting the game alongside Robert Hagg for the first time in the regular season, coughed up the puck twice in the opening period. Sanheim started the season off a little shaky, rebounded, and now seems to have hit a real rough patch where I’m wondering about his confidence. 

• However, I don’t pin the blame on Sanheim on Ottawa’s second goal of the game. The Flyers overloaded on the right side of the ice and once the Senators gained possession along the boards, it was an easy opening on a series of breakdowns. Typically, it’s Voracek’s responsibility to cover the left-side defenseman, Matt Borowiecki in this case, but the Flyers were caught so far out of position that they couldn’t recover in time.

• The Flyers had a chance to cut into the Senators’ deficit with their power play. The second unit had a golden opportunity when Couturier had wide-open net for a split second that Anderson was able to cover at the last second. Anderson caught Couturier’s shot with his right pad, just reconfirming what I’ve previously said about Couturier’s shot: he doesn’t elevate the puck enough. With quick hands and elevation, that should have been a goal.

Lines, pairings & scratches

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read-Jori Lehtera-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott
Scratches: Dale Weise (healthy) and Nolan Patrick (upper body).