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What we learned from the Flyers’ 5-3 Game 5 loss to the Canadiens – Broad Street Hockey



Yesterday, we had a whole slate of elimination games on deck, including the Flyers, who had a chance to put this one away neatly and punch their ticket to the second round. But, of course, we know the Flyers, and we know that would have been much too easy, so they had to make things interesting. We saw the Flyers make some improvements in some areas, but what really killed them were some mental errors and lapses. It was a pretty deflating 5-3 loss for the Flyers, and now they’re looking to Game 6 on Friday to win one more and advance. We’ll try this again later.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

25—shot attempts on the power play

Probably the biggest story to come out of this one was that the power play finally did something! It looked a little dicey to begin with, as they gave up a shorthanded goal on their first attempt, but the Flyers were really able to bear down after that one, and they had more than an ample opportunity to do so. They had 9:54 on the man-advantage to work with, including a five minute continuous power play, and did they ever work with it. They picked up 25 shot attempts, 17 scoring chances, and seven high danger chances, as they looked really sharp in their ability to maintain possession and generate dangerous chances. The process was sound, and it really paid dividends, to the tune of two goals for Jake Voracek and one for Joel Farabee. In some ways, it felt like they were going zero to 60, after how positively brutal they’ve looked for just about the whole series, but this was an important step. Things are finally clicking for them, and even if we shouldn’t expect for them to put up three on the power play every night, at least we can feel better about their chances of producing something.

.875—save percentage for Carter Hart

One of the other big stories from this one is that it was something of an uncharacteristically shaky game for Hart. We’ve made note already that he’s been pretty stellar through the first four games of this series, and even when the skaters in front were struggling, he was playing well and giving them a chance to stay in the game. But last night we saw him looking more like he was fighting things—his rebound control wasn’t great, and he seemed to be a just a little off on his angles. He did have some defensive breakdowns in front of him making his job a little more difficult, and he did have a heavier workload relative to what he’s seen so far this series—he faced 32 shots, of which he stopped 28—but the fact remains that he just didn’t really seem to be himself in this one. Given his play before, this one, we can feel confident enough that he’ll be able to bounce back for his next start, but this certainly wasn’t his strongest showing.

2—scoring chances against on the penalty kill

The power play is understandably getting the most buzz after this game, but it’s worth noting that the Flyers, overall, also had a strong showing on the penalty kill. They had 9:35 of 4-on-5 time to kill off, and they did well with it. They limited the Canadiens to just seven shot attempts, two scoring chances, and one high danger chance, and also went and recorded four shot attempts, two scoring chances, and two high danger chances of their own, all while shorthanded. They played this one pretty aggressively, and overall, it paid off for them.

Of course, the Flyers did still give up a power play goal, and it was a pretty ugly defensive breakdown in front that left Brendan Gallagher open for that goal, but really outside of that, the Flyers’ penalty kill looked sharp. There was a lot to like about what they brought, even if it wasn’t perfect.

2—goals for Jake Voracek

There’s really no sense beating around the bush with this one—Voracek had a pretty stellar game last night. There was, of course, the fact of the two goals scored, as well as the feed he made to Farabee to set up his goal, and the jump he gave to what had been a struggling power play. But we didn’t just see his effects on the power play, he had a strong showing at 5-on-5, as well. His line continued to do well in their matchup, and Voracek on his own had an adjusted 53.29 CF% (second among skaters) and a 69.80 xGF% (first among skaters), as we saw the Flyers pretty comfortably getting the better of the shot attempt and high danger chance share when Voracek was on the ice. Overall, everything seemed to be clicking for him, and it was a really strong showing, and it’s one that the Flyers really needed.

6—high danger chances for the Flyers

One of the Flyers’ big weaknesses from Game 4 was that they hadn’t really found a way to get to the front of the net and really test Carey Price with any terribly difficult chances. They came out of that one with just one high danger chance at 5-on-5, but we did see them take a step forward in that department in this one. The Flyers totaled six high danger chances at 5-on-5, with none coming in the first period, one in the second, and five in the third, as we saw them making a push late in the game to tie things back up. Six isn’t a stellar total, and we’d still like to see them do even more with this, because as we saw in this one, it’s going to take even more to get to Price at 5-on-5, but this is at least a step in the right direction.

6.34—xGF% for the fourth line

We talked after Tuesday’s game about how bad the fourth line had been, but guess what, folks, it’s gotten even worse. Their underlying numbers in this one, to be blunt, are pretty brutal. On the night, they put up adjusted 24.75 CF%, 14.53 SF%, and 6.34 xGF% at 5-on-5, as we saw them pretty consistently getting caved in just about every time they were on the ice. It just wasn’t working.

And just as much as we don’t like the showing they put up, we have some questions about the decision making behind why we saw them so much and in what situations. The Flyers had just put up some good work to tie the game and pick up some momentum from the Farabee goal, and what do they do? Throw the fourth line and third pair out there, and they immediately get pinned in their own end, break down, and give up the game winner. It’s a situation that, frankly, shouldn’t have happened.

But maybe there is some optimism to be had here—this line clearly isn’t working, and after making the turnover to allow for that goal, we really didn’t see much from Nate Thompson after that. Could this suggest that Vigneault has seen the light, seen that he’s been a detriment to their offensive game all series and is considering a new look, pulling him out of the lineup on Friday? We can’t know for sure, but here’s hoping.

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Novak Djokovic cruises to first-round win at French Open – ESPN



PARIS — Novak Djokovic‘s backhand clipped the net and landed wide, so he shook his head. That was it.

Later, a too-soft drop shot found the white tape and bounced back on his own side, finally ceding a game in a dominant debut performance at the 2020 French Open. Djokovic simply bowed and walked to the sideline.

And when he flubbed yet another drop shot — he kept using them on the slow red clay during a 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 win over 80th-ranked Mikael Ymer — and got broken Wednesday, Djokovic pulled an extra tennis ball out of his pocket and merely gave it a gentle tap with his racket strings.

The ball landed right behind him, safely in the middle of the court.

Playing his first Grand Slam match since his US Open disqualification for smacking a ball after dropping a game and accidentally striking a line judge in throat, Djokovic never really gave himself reason for histrionics or shouts of dismay or displays of anger. Sure, there was some eye-rolling and one sarcastic kiss directed at one of the few fans on hand under the roof at Court Philippe Chatrier.

But otherwise, what was there for Djokovic to be disturbed about?

“I just felt very suffocated out there,” Ymer said of Djokovic’s dominance. ” It’s just corner, corner; very, very rarely miss. His position is unreal in the court.

“You know how the snake kills its prey?” Ymer said, pantomiming a boa constrictor’s attack by bringing his arms around and putting his hands together. “That’s a little bit how I felt being out there.”

Ymer said he didn’t pay any attention to Djokovic’s mood or energy.

And Djokovic, for his part, said that what happened in Flushing Meadows was of no concern to him, either, as he began his pursuit of a second title at Roland Garros and 18th Grand Slam trophy overall.

“I have not had any traces of New York in my mind. I’m over it. Honestly forgot about it. I’m not thinking about it,” the No. 1 seed said after improving to 32-1 in 2020, the only blemish being that fourth-round default this month.

“Winning a 6-love first set is the best possible way to start a Grand Slam,” Djokovic said. “This is exactly what my intentions will be — trying to get off the blocks very strong, with a good intensity, obviously, because players in the early rounds have nothing to lose.”

The two men who were finalists at the Hamburg tuneup event that ended Monday — No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 13 Andrey Rublev — both dropped the first two sets Wednesday before coming back to win.

Tsitsipas trailed Jaume Munar before advancing 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, while Rublev knelt on court and covered his face with his hands after turning things around to beat Sam Querrey 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3.

Querrey led the third set 5-2 and served for the victory at 5-3 but let things get away from him.

“I went 0-4 in serving out sets,” Querrey said. ” I would like to think that will never happen to me again. It’s probably never happened. Someone with my serve, I can’t let that happen.”

Another American who played a five-setter, Marcos Giron, did pick up a win, edging Quentin Halys 7-5, 3-6, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 8-6 to become the eighth U.S. man to reach the second round.

US Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini defeated Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. The seventh-seeded Italian next faces Lloyd Harris.

No. 20 Cristian Garin of Chile won against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 and plays lucky loser Marc Polmans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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5 big picture takeaways from the most unusual Stanley Cup Playoffs –



As Steven Stamkos finally took the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman and lifted it above his head, the shower of sparks in the background became pyrotechnic explosions, and for a moment, none of it looked real. I was reminded of the type of scene you’d see at the end of a 2000s-era video game, where you’d beaten the final boss and had a moment to revel in the visual reward of flashing lights and “you did it”-themed text that signified your journey’s end.

It was a scene, a very obviously staged scene, but what else could it have ever been?

The end somehow arrived at what’s usually the beginning, with the fall weather creeping closer to winter than summer, where hockey season would normally be but days away. It was, and is, all so surreal.

If there were ever a time for a look back, it’s today. What just happened? Not to get too existential, but what does it all mean, man? Let’s pan out to some big picture “what we learned” thoughts from all this.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

• The cruellest thing about hockey is that on any given night you can have a lot of talent, bring your best effort, do just about everything well, and lose to a lesser group. Some nights it feels unfair, but when you step back and look at overall trends, things tend to sort themselves out. The NHL plays a lot of regular season games and has best-of-7s in playoffs to give the top teams the best chance of having justice served.

It may not happen in a given year, but if you take yet another step back further, teams that are at or near the league’s top-five for numerous consecutive seasons tend to get rewarded. The exceptions stick out like sore thumbs — there’s the 2011 Vancouver Canucks and the teams around those years, the past decade of the San Jose Sharks…as the great philosopher Rhianna once opined, nothing is promised.

With that, I appreciate Tampa Bay is the latest example of sustained excellence eventually paying off. A couple years back Washington had the same experience. All you can do is get that great core, build around it, and hope you get the necessary luck (with opponents, health and bounces) along the way.

This is why the goal for teams is rarely to stack their deck as much as possible in a single season. The cruelty of hockey itself requires blocks of years where you’re great just to maybe get your one Cup. Good to see the Lightning rewarded for what’s been a great team seemingly for an impressively sustained stretch.

• There was a while there in the NHL where two trends were becoming clear: the understanding of the aging curve was being better wielded by NHL general managers (who used to believe “peak” was older than it is), and teams aiming to find value players were seeking contributors on entry-level deals. You can see how those trends holding hands could shift the league demographic.

We told each other the league was becoming a “young man’s league,” and marvelled at teams with great farm systems who were plugging in guys from the AHL on the cheap. That shift badly hurt the pockets of veteran players on the UFA market, as did the coinciding financial squeeze on hockey’s middle class in general.

It’s possible the league overcooked their belief in these newer ideas, though.

The idea has been that if you can get X contribution from an old vet for league minimum, or X contribution from a prospect on league minimum, you may as well pay the young guy and hope he eventually gives you X-plus. The problem is, the Stanley Cup Final is a reminder that we’re often squinting to equate a rookie’s contributions with what a vet can give (“they’re pretty much the same, statistically”), particularly as the hockey gets harder and the games get bigger.

A lot gets excused away for those new on the job, but maybe good teams would benefit from less internships and more senior members?

Corey Perry wasn’t league minimum, but he’s a wily vet the Stars got on the cheap, and they needed every ounce of his contributions. Andrew Cogliano and Blake Comeau played meaningful roles for them, too. How about Pat Maroon or Zach Bogosian? You can stretch this and note Kevin Shattenkirk loosely fits the mold at $1.75 million as wel.

There’s going to be some veteran guys available for league minimum this summer, and it feels like for the first time in a long time, there can be value to be had in veteran UFAs.

• While we’re looking at overall trends, how about Tampa Bay being all-in on speed and skill, getting upset by Columbus, then moving towards a more gritty style…and winning the Cup? There’s no point dressing up that reality to suit any other narrative — that’s a change they made that directly resulted in success.

When you look at the teams who win the Cup, it’s clear there needs to be a talented offensive core. You just have to have guys who can score. St. Louis doesn’t generally seem to fit that mold, but let’s not let recency bias blind us too much — offensive stars have always been key to winning. Tampa has it, and that’s what makes them great first. But the additions of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow (and Maroon before that, and Bogosion, and Luke Schenn) undeniably helped this team over the hump to their Cup victory.

That all seems a worthwhile note for teams looking at their roster fringes and trying to build towards a Cup.

One related point before moving on here: Tampa’s roster alteration benefitted greatly from them drawing teams who also played a grinding style. They drew heavy defence-first teams (all four opponents were top-10 in goals against per game, with Columbus, Dallas and Boston being the three best in the NHL there), and so they were perfectly equipped to work their way through the slog. I don’t know how it would’ve gone against a team like a healthy Colorado Avalanche. Maybe they course-corrected too much for a group like that. Maybe it would’ve been different against the Vegas Golden Knights. But they could only play the teams in front of them, and you’d have to be blind to miss how getting more physical helped this team this year.

• Of the Lightning’s Cup run, Andrei Vasilevskiy played — hold on let me double check the stats — all the minutes. If there was a goalie in Tampa’s net, it was him. And that’s over a condensed playoff calendar, which should’ve been physically grinding.

One thing that’s made me crazy in recent years is the obsession with goalie tandems, which I think are great in the regular season, but come playoffs, give me a great No. 1 and average No. 2 over two “good” 1A/1B guys any day.

The point about goalie tandems should be that you have someone good enough so your starter isn’t unduly taxed over the course of a long season. If you’re a couple days before a playoff series, and the staff hasn’t yet decided who’s going to start for your team in Game 1, it’s possible your “starting” goalie isn’t good enough.

• Did the circumstances make this particular Stanley Cup any less valid, or did it maybe make it the hardest one to win ever? You’re going to hear opinions on both sides of that in the days and years to come, but it’s wrong to claim either. Honestly, it was just different. Certainly the most unique ever, but on exactly the same historical-value footing as every Cup won before and likely after it.

Each year brings its own unique set of challenges to overcome, and this year’s were what they were. There wasn’t any travel, but there was a condensed schedule. There wasn’t the distraction of normal family life or pestering calls for tickets, but there was isolation. There wasn’t the pressure that comes with 19,000 screaming fans, but there wasn’t the energy and adrenaline offered by them either. You didn’t have to control your emotions so much as you had to find them.

The Tampa Bay Lightning managed the unforeseen obstacles brilliantly, in part by making changes to tackle the ones they could foresee in transactions before.

When it was all over it looked like the Lightning had acted out climbing a mountain in front of a green screen, that maybe to someone farther down the road in post-production would see the Cup Final and trophy presentation as they were meant to be seen. But while it may have looked arranged and acted to the viewer, the mountain was there beneath their feet, real as ever to those who climbed it.

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What Maple Leafs, Oilers can learn from Cup champion Lightning –



The Tampa Bay Lightning are the 2020 Stanley Cup champions, and as soon as the clock ticked down to zero in Game 6, social media was aflame with hot takes about what this would mean for hockey’s future.

For those who value analytics, the Lightning winning is yet another check in the column of teams who follow the data being rewarded.

For those who don’t, the Lightning are a big team that has made some of the most impressive scouting choices in the NHL in recent years.

Any time a team wins the Stanley Cup the NHL as a whole tends to copy what they can from the last successful formula. However, I’m not sure how helpful trying to copy a team with two top-two draft picks that turned into superstars, or trying to copy snagging Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point in the second and third rounds, respectively, would be.

The fact is, the Lightning have an embarrassment of riches that has taken them over a decade to put together. Tampa has been a Cup contender since at least the 2013-14 season, when they were unceremoniously swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, similar to what happened against the Columbus Blue Jackets last season.

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It’s taken the team seven kicks at the can to get to this point, and while the way the Lightning play is enviable and entertaining, I don’t think playing style is the lesson to take from their victory in 2020.

The first thing I think of when I look back over the history of moves by the Lightning is that they had many opportunities to mess this up, and they continually avoided doing so, instead building on what they already had.

Not every move the Lightning made has been great, but they kept the core together when many other teams would have panicked. Looking back to the sweep the Lightning suffered at the hands of the Blue Jackets last season, when I was tasked with finding out how that happened, I found that many of the assumptions about how that series went were incorrect.

So, what lesson can other teams take from this season’s Stanley Cup champions?

If you have a young team that’s full of talent, played well in the regular season, and by the numbers played well in the playoffs: Do. Not. Panic.

It’s very easy to look at ages and contracts and find reasons why you can’t keep a group together, but the smartest people in the room find a way to keep the group together and add.

Based on these playoffs, which teams have that young talent to build around and, by the numbers, should have had better fates?

Surprisingly, two Canadian teams stand out above the crowd among teams that deserved better during these playoffs, though they do things very differently: Toronto and Edmonton.

Both teams are built around a bevy of players taken in the lottery section of the draft, but while the Leafs are high volume, the Oilers play everything tight to the chest.

Disappointment was palpable for both teams when they failed to get out of the qualification around against teams they absolutely should have beaten, which was an extra bitter pill since they were the chosen host cities for the Western and Eastern bubbles for this post-season, but the path forward for each is unlikely to be as far off as many believe.

Context matters, and because the Blackhawks were an absolutely terrible even strength team this season, I think the Oilers have a much further track to run to get into competitor territory than the Leafs do, but the West is also significantly weaker than the East overall these days, which should help them out.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

The Oilers have lots of work to do to fill out the depth of their roster, and their salary cap situation is tough, but acquiring undervalued and cheap wingers is exactly where a strong analytics department should be able to help you out. Learning from the Lightning in finding players like Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, or even Jonathan Marchessault (who they lost) is something the Oilers should be able to figure out.

The areas where they desperately need improvement are in controlling passing, which is tough to do when you don’t have depth.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have been branded chokers once again, but we need to look at the last four seasons of first round (or qualifying round) exits through the lens of expectations for a moment. Toronto wasn’t the favourite against the Washington Capitals in 2016-17, they weren’t the favourites against the Boston Bruins in 2017-18, or 2018-19. Just because they got close to winning, doesn’t mean those results are underwhelming. They may be disappointing for fans, but this series against Columbus was the first time this team truly failed to meet expectations in the post-season.

That isn’t making excuses for them, it’s just a fact, and it’s all the more difficult to label the Leafs as deeply flawed when you examine how the games flowed at even strength. Almost across the board, the Leafs carried the play, with the one issue against Columbus being that the Leafs got brutalized by the Blue Jackets’ forecheck.

Like the Oilers, the Maple Leafs are up against the cap, making maneuvering a little bit difficult, but their roster is much closer to being in a competitive mode than the Oilers are. They absolutely need to get better at defending opposing forechecks — it was an issue all season long — but how much less of an issue would that have been if Jake Muzzin weren’t injured in Game 2?

The way the Leafs are talked about, it almost sounds like people think their window of competitiveness is about to close, but they have the time to make additions and try slightly different configurations. Overreacting to a disappointing result when it looks like a pattern, despite the fact that it’s the first time the team has actually disappointed, would be the mark of foolish management.

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