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Flyers 6, Islanders 4 (EN): First two periods sink Isles (again)

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Hard to win a lot of games when you’re always playing from behind.

New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers
See that face? He’s been watching the Islanders over the last two weeks.
Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Sometimes, I really do have faith that this organization will win a Stanley Cup - or anything close to it - at some point during my life. And then other nights, like tonight, I cannot help but feel that such faith is an endeavor in futility. Such a game, in light of their recent skid, makes me wonder why a certain someone would ever even consider returning next season.

I want to say it’s just a bad stretch, but this chart seems to confirm the team in the midst of a downward spiral.

Remains to be seen whether they can rescue themselves from complete collapse - up to and including their standing at the end of the day on April 7 and the captain’s contract status on July 1.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Corsica | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period

It was the kind of start to a game that you wouldn’t expect a team so desperate for a win to have, and yet one that we have become all too familiar with over the last few weeks.

The Islanders commenced the evening by conceding seventeen of the game’s first twenty shot attempts, including a stretch in which they were trapped in their on the ice on a 6-on-5 delayed penalty situation for over a minute. That haplessness continued on the penalty kill, where the first unit out for the Isles was trapped on for a full minute before Casey Cizikas sent a clearing attempt right to Shayne Gostisbehere, whose point shot was tipped by Sean Couturier.

They rebounded a bit in the latter stages of the period, drawing even over the next twenty shot attempts and getting a goal of their own. John Tavares and the fourth line wingers found themselves on a 3-on-1, and after his shot off the rush hit the post and set up some offensive zone time, Cal Clutterbuck got some body part on Nick Leddy’s shot to tie it up.

Also, at one point during Philly’s dominating stretch, Travis Konecny delivered an entirely late but uncalled hit to Shane Prince, and the two rumbled and tumbled for seven seconds.

Second Period

And once again, everything unraveled spectacularly. Philadelphia added two goals in a :40 span only three minutes into the period, deflection goals for both Michael Raffl and Wayne Simmonds.

And then, Tanner Fritz was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking (which, I mean, Tavares was bloodied by a high-stick not too long ago and New York only received a two-minute man advantage, but it’s not like I’m upset or anything). Ivan Provorov took a shot that hovered barely two inches over the ice all the way from the blue line to the back of the net; Greiss must not have seen it, because his reaction was comically delayed.

Clutterbuck scored another one on a 2-on-1 opportunity, but shortly thereafter, Konecny was gifted a wide-open breakaway opportunity and converted to restore the three-goal Flyer lead.

Third Period

In an, dare I say it, encouraging development, they actually played well this third period in which they were down three goals to start - which is, yes, the result of score effects, but you like to see that they scored a couple goals. I am also not big on fighting, but at least they showed something in the way of caring.

Tavares scored on a power play goal that snuck in the short side of Brian Elliott, and Ryan Pulock scored from the same side of the ice as he barreled down the wing. Josh Bailey also engaged in the Isles’ second fight of the night, taking Couturier off the ice for the final five minutes. Which is huge - he’s one of the best defensive forwards in the league.

It almost worked, too, but after being unable to notch the game tying goal with their net empty, an Andrew Ladd tripping penalty sealed the deal and began a brouhaha. Provorov tacked on an empty-netter just for good measure.

Thoughts Only (This Team Robbed Me of My Feelings)

This was Game 41, so tomorrow night will officially be the second half of the season. They have, suffice it to say, limped into the midpoint of the year after a hot first month and a half - the chart above says it all. Nothing has really gone right of late, and the first two periods tonight were an extremely disappointing response to their three-game losing streak. Sure, they displayed some skill and energy in the final frame, but they need to be able to play better throughout the game.

Quite frankly, it comes down to the talent of the team: it’s not really there beyond the top players. Which is so frustrating, because finding the elite players (which they have) is the hard part; adding solid depth should be pretty easy. Any team could use another elite player or two, but a team that has Tavares, Eberle, Barzal, Bailey, Lee, Leddy, and Pulock looking this bad screams depth issues. They need to figure it out soon, or they’re gonna fall out of the playoff race.

By the way, the Hurricanes won again, gaining two points on them with a game in hand and remaining in the final wild card.

What’s Next

The Penguins pay a visit to snowy Brooklyn (well, I think it’s snowy there; it’s snowy on Long Island). They were the team that Carolina beat, losing 4-0 on home ice, so they may be raring to go tomorrow night. In such an important game, what could go wrong?