The St. Louis Blues faced an old rival from their expansion days to start the second half of the 2023-24 season. It wasn't necessarily a revival of the Broadstreet Bully days, but both teams were putting in some hard effort.
The early portion of the first period was somewhat of a goaltender's duel. Both Carter Hart and Joel Hofer were doing a lot to keep the other team out.
The Blues best look in the first eight minutes was a slight odd-man rush with Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. Kyrou was stoned by a great save.
The Flyers came right down on the transition play after that. Hofer was forced to make a good save just moments after taking a puck to the mask prior.
The Flyers started pulling away a bit in the shot totals. Hofer made a solid pad save on the power play and then had to make a couple shoulder saves later on as the Flyers kept trying to go up high.
The Blues had two power plays in the first period, but reverted to the poor PP we saw early in the season. It should be noted that the Flyers have the best penalty kill in the league, but the Blues just looked too antsy and unable to withstand the pressure.
Unfortunately, the Flyers managed to score on their second shot of the period. The Blues didn't get the puck deep after working it to the point. On the rush the other way, the Flyers took a shot from the left that went hard off Hofer's pad and Philly cashed in on the rebound into an open net for a 1-0 lead.
The Blues had a good push in their next couple shifts. Sadly, their best shots were blocked by diving defenders.
Things got exciting at the end of the period. It appeared as though the Blues would be in business with a tie game into the third.
In the final two minutes, the Blues got a power play goal from Oskar Sundqvist. He screened the goalie, forcing a rebound and Sunny spun around and tapped it just past the left pad to make it 1-1.
However, the Flyers answered in the final minute. Hofer made a tough save that was shot up near his ear, but Philly batted the puck out of midair and off the body of Jordan Kyrou to make it 2-1 heading into the third.
Thankfully, the Blues took less than 90 seconds to tie things in the third. The Blues came down and Brandon Saad snapped one into the back of the net from the slot.
St. Louis seemed like they were building momentum in the third, but they couldn't capitalize on much. Meanwhile, the Flyers took advantage of a turnover and scooped a shot over Hofer's shoulder to make it 3-2 with about six minutes to go.
The Blues did the customary pulling of the goaltender, but they never even threatened. Brayden Schenn wasn't aware any Flyer had snuck in behind him, so he tried a backhand pass from the bench into the zone. It was picked off and Philadelphia put it into the empty net to make it 4-2 for the final.
Although none of the goals against really came off a faceoff or extended zone play, it was still a horrible night for the Blues on the dot. It's hard to establish your own offense when you can't win the puck.
By the end of the game, the final percentages were about 62% for the Flyers to 38% for the Blues. At one point, the Flyers were winning 72% of their faceoffs.
That's ridiculous. Even if you're not giving up a ton of chances off those draws, you're putting yourself behind the eight ball.
If you don't win the faceoff, you're allowing the other team to clear the zone if you were in the offensive end. If you're in the defensive zone, you allow the opponent to get set up and work their offense.
The Blues have been decent in faceoffs this year, but everyone was way off in this game.
Pro: Battling back
Similar to the Boston game, the Blues never really gave up in this one. While they did not get the point they got against the Bruins, there was still a similar mentality.
St. Louis didn't have their best game in this contest. That goes without saying.
Nevertheless, even though they didn't have a ton of shots, they took advantage of the chances they did have.
St. Louis scored a power play goal for the third game in a row. They also snapped one in from the slot.
In an ideal world, they would have scored first and not needed to continually come back. Still, other than the final score, they never let the Flyers get an extra goal to go up by two and put it out of reach.
Con: Bad luck
Fans will complain about the defense, which was not stellar, but the reality is there was a lot of bad luck that played into some of the goals. We all see things through the lense of slow-motion replays or thinking there was so much reaction time.
That was simply not the case. On the Flyers' second goal, it's a ridiculous play.
First off, the guy smacks the puck out of midair. NHL players have insane hand-eye coordination, but that easily could have missed or hit the goalie or the post. Instead, it goes across the crease and off the body of Kyrou. That's just luck.
Then, the game winning goal was also odd. The puck was supposed to be just rimmed around for the Flyers.
Instead, it hit the linesman, which completely changed the flow of the play. Saad misses on a reach for the puck and then everyone blames Justin Faulk.
Re-watch the play when you get a chance. Faulk is already standing still trying to react to the change of direction off the linesman.
Then, he has to try to react to a player already at full speed from the neutral zone. He's trying to back up and get into position and gets criss-crossed on a burst into the zone.
I saw some say he should have been more physical and some claim he's not ready to be back on the ice after the injury. If you have other examples, that's fine, but on this play, none of that applied. He did the best he could against a player that was already at full speed, got deked and simply didn't have enough time to react.
If the puck doesn't go off the linesman, it's a typical dump in and who knows who ends up with that puck.
This was a disappointing game in that the Blues played well enough that they could have won, but didn't play well enough that they should have won. That's not a huge margin, but it was enough.
St. Louis allowed far too many shots against. The Blues let the Flyers have 20 shots in the second period alone.
I wasn't particularly pleased with Hofer's play - he seemed a bit rattled at times - but he also had a large workload and made plenty of good saves. You can't continually get outshot period after period and expect to win when you're relying so much on your goaltender.
Certain things are starting to click. The Blues seem to benefiting a lot from the emphasis on net-front presence on the power play.
Conversely, their five-on-five play has left some things to be desired in the last few games. They've hung in games more on grit and determination rather than consistent, high-level play.
The Flyers are no longer a joke in the Eastern Conference, so this was always going to be a tough game. They are higher than the Blues in the standings, after all.
Still, you would just like more consistency from the Blues. When they're good, they're very good, but even within a 60-minute game, they have too many phases in the game where they're mediocre or worse.
We shouldn't read too much into this game. The sky isn't falling and it isn't time to push another reset buton.
However, it's just another example that this team isn't as good as we think when they look really good. They are what they are, which is a team that will struggle to make the playoffs no matter how hard they push.
They're not as far away as some would have you believe, but they aren't on the cusp of contending either.