If the depleted Flyers were so overmatched by the Boston Bruins on Sunday night, then how did they manage to hold a 2-1 lead late in the first period?
Everything seemed to be going right for the Flyers, who were without five of their top offensive players.
And then everything seemed to go wrong, as the Bruins scored the next five goals – including three goals in 99 seconds in the second period – and stormed out of the Lake Tahoe game with a 7-3 win at Stateline, Nevada.
The Flyers are now 0-3-2 against the Bruins this season and 8-1-1 against the rest of the NHL’s East Division.
Playing without stars such as Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Travis Konecny due to COVID-19 protocol for a second straight game, the Flyers appeared to be OK for about 19 minutes.
But then it all fell apart and things quickly went south for goaltender Carter Hart. He lasted until the end of the four-goal second period debacle before giving way to Brian Elliott.
To their credit, the Flyers did not make excuses. They really couldn’t say this game was much different than the other losses to the Bruins this season, regardless if they were playing outdoors, indoors or on some lake in Minnesota.
The play of the Sean Couturier-James van Riemsdyk-Joel Farabee line was just about the only bright spot for the Flyers.
Farabee scored his eighth goal of the season in the first period rally. Couturier had a goal and an assist, while van Riemsdyk registered a goal and two assists – the first assist giving him his 500th NHL career point.
Couturier wasn’t looking for alibis for this embarrassment on national TV but he acknowledged the Flyers weren’t in an environment to keep up with the Bruins, who were led by David Pastrnak’s second hat trick against the Flyers this season.
“They were on top of us and we weren’t too responsible defensively,’’ Couturier said in a media Zoom call. “They’re a good team, they make you pay when they get chances.
“We knew we needed to bring our ‘A’ game all night, (but) we had a little letdown in the second and we gave up four goals. It’s tough to win a game when you give up four goals in a period.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault said the second period sort of slipped away.
“A couple of shifts got away from us,’’ he said. “I really liked the way we came out and played hard, competed and played smart in that first period.
“In the second period, they’re such a strong team, they capitalized on their opportunities.’’
The coach said the loss of the COVID six was not as significant as one might think.
“Those are important players but we had a good team tonight,’’ he said.
>Ice conditions not a factor
Given how the Saturday outdoor game between Colorado and Vegas had to be stopped in the afternoon and completed after midnight (Eastern time), it was clear the ice conditions for this game would not be ideal.
But as Couturier pointed out, both teams had to deal with the problem.
“It is a different environment, different surroundings,’’ Couturier said. “The ice is the same thing for both teams. Not ideal but it is what it is. You have to play a simpler hockey game and I thought they did a better job with that than us.’’
>Altitude, wind, sun glare
The game started about a half-hour late (around 5 p.m. Pacific time) but the sun was still out for most of the first period, giving players trouble when facing the glare.
On top of that, it was windy and the players were not accustomed to playing at more than 6,000 feet above sea level
Couturier said it was not ideal for hockey.
“It wasn’t easy,’’ he said. “The hardest part was probably in the first period with being blinded by the sun. It was kind of dangerous sometimes. But like I said, it was the same for both teams. You have to give them credit, they were better than us.’’
>Technical difficulties leave Hart wordless
The hockey world wanted to hear what Hart had to say about his performance but that will have to wait awhile.
The NHL’s media department experienced technical difficulties when it was Hart’s turn to jump on a Zoom call right alongside the rink moments after the game ended.
Hart could hear the questions but no one could hear what he was saying. Finally, Hart understandably walked away obviously frustrated by the whole boondoggle.
Vigneault considered pulling Hart after Boston’s third goal but then the Bruins quickly scored again and the coach didn’t feel it was fair to insert Elliott when the Flyers then took a silly penalty to go shorthanded.
“It’s a cold environment here,’’ the coach noted. “I thought it would have been real challenging to put him (Elliott) in that situation with us being shorthanded.’’
>Why so much trouble with the Bruins?
While the Flyers have been competitive in three of the five losses to Boston, they still appear to have a complex with the Beantowners this season.
Why is that?
“Give them full marks, they’re a very good team,’’ Vigneault said. “In that first period, I thought we could have come out with the lead but we didn’t. We’ve had some good moments, we just haven’t been able to sustain it for a full 60 minutes.’’