Words from the opposition, Broad Street Hockey’s Bill Matz:
Following a fast-paced and competitive season series in 2015-16 that saw the Flyers take five of standings points from the Lightning, dropping only the NHL's first 3-on-3 overtime game, and then sweeping a home-and-home in March in the midst of their incredible late season push to the playoffs, Philadelphia struggled against Tampa in the fall of 2016.
Outscored 7-2 over a two-game span on the Saturday and Wednesday leading up to Thanksgiving, Philly was unable to solve Andrei Vasilevskiy who blanked the orange and black in their first meeting and stopped 61 of 63 shots over the two games in five days.
The Lightning were my preseason pick to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final and they looked exactly like the team I imagined them to be in those first two games, despite losing Steven Stamkos a few days prior, with 11 different players combining for Tampa's seven tallies in the two game stretch. The Flyers were completely outmatched against the team that had taken the Pittsburgh Penguins to seven games in the previous year's Eastern Conference Final. Despite outshooting Tampa 63-47 in those two games, neither were ever in doubt for the Lightning.
Tampa caught Steve Mason at his worst stretch of the season, as he began the year with sub-.900 save-percentage over his first 17 appearances. He turned it around only days later and lead the Flyers on an historic (Philadelphia became the first team to ever win ten in a row and miss the playoffs) ten-game winning streak, earning victories in all eight of his starts and posting a .926 save-percentage.
However it was Michal Neuvirth who took the Flyers lone victory over the Lightning in January, stopping 24 of 26. That was one of Philly's best games of the season, a rare bright spot for a squad that finished ahead of only the Hurricanes and Devils in the Metropolitan Division. Ten different Flyers recorded points, including former Bolt Radko Gudas, who notched his second goal of the year to put the game away.
Philadelphia's series against Tampa encapsulated the season pretty well. A pair of disappointing offensive outputs, matched by poor goaltending, doomed the Flyers against a team missing its captain and, arguably, best player. A January victory over the team it was, somehow, fighting for wild card contention with could have been the beginning of a second-half run reminiscent of the previous year's, but ultimately only decided the difference between a sixth and seventh place finish in the division.
As an outside observer, I'd love to see the Lightning get healthy and figure out their blueline depth, if for no other reason than they may be the only team in the conference outside of Washington with the firepower to compete with the Pittsburgh Penguins. And nobody wants to see them win a third straight Cup. I have no idea how the Flyers, who are admittedly much less talented, finished directly behind the Lighting, both outside the wild card, but I'd hate to see such an entertaining roster wasted as it was last season.
Did the Philadelphia Flyers hurt or help the Tampa Bay Lightning this season?
When the hero of the Philadelphia series is Alex Killorn, with three points against this team (2G/1A), you know that Tampa Bay did well.
On the other hand, when we lost to Philly in January, it was a clear indication that Vasilevskiy was exhausted and the hopes of the team were going south. It was Vasy’s 9th game out of 10 straight that he played while Ben Bishop was injured, and his record was 4-4-2 during this period.
In the words of Geo’s recap,
“Vasilevskiy looks tired. This is the most he has played, perhaps going back to when he was playing in Russia. The fact Cooper hasn’t pulled him at any point during the past three games with first, Kristers Gudlevskis, and now, Adam Wilcox backing him up says something. With a back-to-back here, and then three days off, I’m hoping that Cooper will decide to give him a rest. He needs it. He needs time to recover. Please Cooper, save Vasilevskiy.”
November 19, 2016: Tampa Bay Lightning 3, Philadelphia Flyers 0
Preview by @bethelhub — Tampa Bay Lightning at Philadelphia Flyers Preview
“The Lightning went from playing the team with the league’s worst “points for” total (Buffalo) to playing the team with the league’s worst points against (Flyers). Are different game plans required? Maybe. But expect a plan similar to the style we often see the Bolts execute in the playoffs. Defend first. Act on scoring chances second. Since the Flyers are currently riding high with their offense, Tampa Bay will look to eliminate possession and defend strong against team points leader Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Jakub Voracek.”
Recap by @geofitz4 — Vasilevskiy lifts Bolts to 3-0 shutout in Philly
“Today in Philadelphia, Andrei Vasilevskiy had his second shutout in as many games, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by a Lightning goaltender since Dwayne Roloson in 2011. At times, given the six penalties that the Bolts had to kill during course of this game, Vasilevskiy held players in by sheer force of his pads and his will. The game ended with shots at a ridiculous 32-18, with Steve Mason saving 15 of the shots for a final score of 3-0.”
November 23, 2016: Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Philadelphia Flyers 2
Preview by @Achariya — Philadelphia Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning preview: Leave the gold in Vegas
“After an epic shutout in Philadelphia, the Bolts went to Nashville and were almost shut out themselves. Both games happened during the Bolts’ dad’s trip, so the dads got to see the highs and lows of their sons’ jobs. Caley Chelios tactfully does not discuss Nashville at all in this dad’s trip recap, but you do get to see how amazingly short Mr. Bishop and Mr. Vasilevskiy are, compared to their sons.”
Recap by @clarkjbrooks — Lightning rally in 3rd, double up Flyers 4-2
“At 13:28, Alex Killorn got the equalizer, smacking home a shot by Slater Koekkoek that missed the net and bounced off the back wall. Vladislav Namestnikov picked up the secondary assist. Just 12 seconds later, Ryan Callahan scored on assists from Point and Johnson to regain the lead. Insurance arrived at 18:45 when Nikita Kucherov scored, getting assistance from Valtteri Filppula and Palat.”
January 7, 2017: Tampa Bay Lightning 2, Philadelphia Flyers 4 — THE WORST.
Preview by @Bethelhub — Lightning at Flyers Preview: Buckling down
“The Bolts sit four points out of the playoffs and at times have been totally lackluster. Some players seem disenfranchised and others have underproduced. Injuries have been a major issue. Could missing the playoffs be beneficial so players could get some rest time? The goal is always to win the Cup, but at what point do you cut your losses and attempt to use the off-season as much needed recovery time?”
Recap by @GeoFitz4 — Tampa Bay Lightning drop third game in a row as Philadelphia Flyers win 4-2
“This season is going nowhere, and going there fast. In his post game comments, Cooper blamed a lack of passion for going to the front of the net for scoring chances and too many bad turnovers. Same story, different game. Nothing has changed and it doesn’t look like anything is changing. The Lightning are digging themselves a hole with their play that they are not going to be able to crawl out of without a Columbus style winning streak. And it might take two of those to get back into the playoff picture if it doesn’t happen soon. And by soon I mean starting tomorrow against the Pittsburgh Penguins.”
Bobby “The Chief” Taylor said this during the game, about Wayne Simmonds’ head shot on JT Brown:
Watch this. You can see that he knew exactly where it was going. He knew that the puck was being dropped there, he knew what he was doing. There’s no question about that. Was it an accident? No. Come on. Been playing this game way too long. There’s not many accidents there. He comes right across. Get’s Brown with the shoulder in the head. He wasn’t even looking at it. He just turned around and turned right into it. You saw, he saw him coming all the way. Didn’t slow. Didn’t stop. Didn’t try to avoid him at all. And all he did was try to get rid of a player, which he did.
At the 2017 trade deadline, March 1, Steve Yzerman made good on his promise to dismantle the team if it wasn’t working. Valtteri Filppula was having a great season (34 points in 59 games), so Yzerman managed to trade him and his contract to Philadelphia for defenseman Mark Streit.
Raw Charge very seriously wrote up his stats, thinking that Streit was an interesting move for a depth defenseman:
In the short term, the Lightning pick up a right-handed defenseman that can bolster the top 4 for the rest of the year. He has 21 points in 49 games, and has been averaging 19:23 TOI for Philly. He is a veteran of 765 career NHL games with 428 points. While he is old and has slowed down, he’s still got a little bit left in the tank to at least finish out this year for the Lightning.
And then, of course, Streit was immediately traded to Pittsburgh. People boggled at the cajones of Yzerman to turn a Flyer into a Penguin, but everyone knows what happened next: he went on to win the Stanley Cup, so YOU ARE WELCOME, MARK STREIT.
(We also got endless mileage from this hour-long Bolt.)
Goals: Tyler Johnson (1), Ondrej Palat (1), Jonathan Drouin (1), Victor Hedman (PPG 1), Alex Killorn (2), Ryan Callahan (1), Nikita Kucherov (2)
Assists: Alex Killorn (1), Valtteri Filppula (2), Vladislav Namestnikov (3), Ondrej Palat (3), Brayden Point (2), Slater Koekkoek (1), Tyler Johnson (1), Nikita Nesterov (2), Jonathan Drouin (1)
November 19, Vasilevskiy, 1.000 SV%
November 23, Vasilevskiy, .935 SV%
January 7, Vasilevskiy, .909 SV%