3 Stars: Flyers go toe-to-toe with Western Conference-best Blues but fall again in shootout

3 Stars: Flyers go toe-to-toe with Western Conference-best Blues but fall again in shootout
April 2, 2014, 11:13 am

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers’ 1-0 shootout loss to the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis through the perspective of three players who had an impact on the game.

 

Much like this past Sunday’s contest with the visiting Boston Bruins, that was one heck of a hockey game despite the outcome. And much like this past Sunday, the Flyers deserved a better fate. But they have nothing to be ashamed of. A point is a point, especially at this time of year. The Flyers will take it.

 

3. Claude Giroux

On a night when defense and goaltending ruled the roost and no player really stood out on the offensive end beside Blues forward Jaden Schwartz, who had a game-high six shots and was buzzing around the puck all game long, it should come as no surprise that Giroux didn’t have his best game of the season.

Part of that is due to the smothering defense the Blues play. But Giroux had his chances to try and make something and was a bit too passive.

In the first period, two Blues defenders tripped over each other and allowed Giroux to carry the puck into the zone untouched with Michael Raffl alongside on the wing for a mini 2-on-0. Instead of going full speed, Giroux slowed down and telegraphed a pass to Raffl that Blues goalie Ryan Miller read and then Miller was able to slide across to stop Raffl. Giroux probably would make a move and shoot if he could have that one back.

In the second period, Giroux skated with the puck down the wing and led the Flyers on an odd-man rush. Instead of shooting, he tried a low-percentage centering pass that the Blues easily knocked away.

The opportunities weren’t plentiful but when they were there, the execution wasn’t.

He was also mauled in the faceoff circle as he won just five of 18 draws, good for 28% on the night. And that high-sticking penalty he took late in the third period could have been costly but his penalty killers picked him up.

It was just one of those nights for the captain. He’ll bounce back.

 

2. Ray Emery

Emery starting in net was a bit of a surprise from Flyers head coach Craig Berube but the Flyers’ backup goalie was superb and had every answer until the dreaded shootout.

He stopped all 28 shots he faced in regulation and overtime and only allowed shootout goals to Mr. America T.J Oshie and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

Emery faced quality chances all night from the Blues but stood tall each time to get a piece of puck at the very least. He did leave a few rebounds around the crease but his teammates were there to get those out of harm’s way.

It was another solid game from Emery, whose last three starts have now come against the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings and these Blues. Those are three of the best teams in the stacked Western Conference and he’s performed admirably. In fact, he’s given up just five goals in those three games. You can’t ask for much more from your backup.

Tuesday’s game will actually go down in the record books as Emery’s second shutout of the season since he didn’t allow a goal in regulation or overtime.

The shootout is so cruel.

 

1. Ryan Miller

If you thought the goaltending performance by Boston’s Tuukka Rask this past Sunday was something, go back and look at what St. Louis’ newly-acquired netminder did on Tuesday night because he was even better.

Miller stopped all 31 shots he faced in regulation and overtime and then two more in the shootout to earn the victory.

He kept the Blues in the game with impressive save after impressive save as the Flyers poured on the pressure in the first five minutes of the contest including that save on Raffl on the 2-on-0.

His most remarkable save of the night came in the second period as the teams played 4-on-4. Flyers defenseman Mark Streit hit Raffl with a nice pass while on an odd-man rush and Miller stretched across to somehow get his pad on Raffl’s one-timer from the circle. It was right after that crazy save that you started to get a feeling he was going to be unbeatable on Tuesday night.

Miller then went on to save the game in overtime when he robbed Jake Voracek twice on the doorstep with the pad as Voracek found a seam in front of the net and had two great chances.

That could well have been the best game Miller has played since the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. He was sensational. There’s really no other way to put it.

 

Through the last 130 minutes of hockey they’ve played, the Flyers have taken every punch the two best teams in the NHL have thrown. Not only have they taken those punches, they’ve gotten right back up and thrown haymakers of their own and hung with the Bruins and Blues every step of the way. Despite the outcome, the Flyers once again proved they are to be taken seriously.

The Columbus Blue Jackets come to Wells Fargo Center for a big Metropolitan Division matchup on Thursday night. After Tuesday’s results, the Jackets are just four points behind the Flyers for third in the Metro. With the New York Rangers winning in Vancouver, they are now three points ahead of the Flyers for home ice in the opening round of the playoffs but the Flyers still have two really important games in hand.

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