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Stars 4, Flyers 1: The skid continues

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Some observations for your morning…

NHL: Dallas Stars at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Big yikes, gang. After dropping each of their three games on the Western Canadian road trip, the Flyers came back to Philly looking for a win and hoo boy, they did not get it. They picked up the first goal of the game and seemed to be getting the better of the play against the Stars, and then they just couldn’t really do much of anything else. It was a pretty brutal feeling loss, and there’s a lot to parse through, so let’s just get right into it.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and theAHL.com

How’d they look out there?

5-on-5: 29 SF, 50 CF, 54.55 CF%, 53.34 xGF%

Something about those numbers don’t really jive with how we feel about that game, coming out of it. The Flyers did do some very good work in generating a lot of chances while not giving up very many. indeed, they only allowed four (yes, four!) shots in the final 40 minutes of play. They won the shot quantity battle.

But the trouble is that they didn’t have very much going for them in the shot quality department. Of the Flyers’ 50 shot attempts and 29 shots at 5-on-5, only five of them were high danger chances. They were forced to play overwhelmingly on the perimeter, making easy work for Ben Bishop. We’ve seen this before, and we know that playing only on the perimeter just doesn’t work. And the Flyers found themselves burned for it last night.

Power play: 6 SF, 8 CF, 2 HDCF

It was sort of the same story for the Flyers on the man-advantage as it was for them at 5-on-5, in that they were getting some looks, but they just weren’t able to cash in on them. There was some sloppiness on the power play where they had some trouble advancing up-ice, but on the whole, Vigneault at least was pleased with their efforts. It’s just an issue, again, of making those chances count.

The piece I want to emphasize more here is a concern of usage—the Flyers carried over the look they tried late in the Edmonton game, with Ivan Provorov being bumped up to the top power play unit. And this makes a bit of sense, because he’s looked better on the power play to start this season than he has over the past two seasons. But that said, we also have a two season sample of him not looking very good on the power play and that also makes us a bit worried. It’s worth trying, but it’s hard to advocate for taking Shayne Gostisbehere off that top unit, when he’s proven to be very good there. But we’ll see what happens.

Penalty kill: 1 SA, 2 CA, 1 HDCA, 1 SF

The Flyers didn’t see too much time on the penalty kill, and the reasoning for that was something of a mixed bag. In one instance, Dallas’s power play after Matt Niskanen’s high stick was cut short when Alexander Radulov committed a trip. So that was a lucky break.

Less good was the fact that they didn’t get the full first power play because they scored just over a minute into the attempt. Overall, they did well in limiting the chances the Stars were able to generate, and even had a nice shorthanded chance of their own, it just worked out that one of the (literally) two chances that gave up deflected and found its way in the back of the net. So it goes.

Three standouts

1. Sean Couturier

So we did mention that the Flyers got the first goal in this one, and that was a nice thing. Couturier had a really great chance on a quick feed on the rush from Travis Konecny, and just about had a wide open net to work with. Let’s have a look.

In a game where things sort of fell apart pretty quickly, Couturier was still doing some good work. He finished the game with an adjusted 69.70 CF% at 5-on-5, and 64.96 xGF%. He and his line continued to do well territorially, and it’s hard to be too upset about their process. We’d like to see them converting more, but the signs point to the breaks coming.

2. Kevin Hayes

In a similar vein, I found Hayes to be noticeable in a positive way in this one. His underlying numbers weren’t nearly as strong as Couturier’s (a 48.81 CF% and 41.94 xGF%), but he was a player who jumped out a couple of times and made me think “he’s still out here trying things, even while the rest of the team is looking a little bit listless.” In a game where the Flyers were stuck playing a bit on the perimeter, he was noticeable in crashing the net and looking for chances there, which is exactly what they needed more of. It would have been nice to see him cash in on one of those chances, to be sure, but it’s also worth extending a hat tip to him for the things he was trying.

3. Carter Hart

This is one of our sadder standout sections, because this was not a very good game for our pal Carter Hart, and we have to single that out here. He didn’t’ see much activity, just 15 shots in total, and let in three goals on those. They weren’t all on him—the Esa Lindell goal was a tough deflection—but he was beaten pretty cleanly by Roope Hintz and Corey Perry. It was a tough showing, his reads weren’t quite as sharp as they usually are, and it looks like he’s sinking back into one of those slumps where he just looks like he’s making himself small in his net.

We’re also going to do a bit of rationalizing here. We know that games where goalies don’t see a lot of shots can be tough on them. We’ve also seen Hart slip into mini-slumps like this one, and then pull himself out with relative ease. We’re not worried about him just yet, but that said, the Flyers do have some tough games coming up in the next couple of weeks, and they’re going to need more from him, if the team’s going to break out of their own slump.

Two loose observations

1. A note on grit

Last night something happened. In the first period, as it was starting to look like the game was getting away from the Flyers, Chris Stewart elected to fight Jamie Oleksiak to try and inject some kind of spark into the team, because that’s just what he does here, evidently. And guess what? It didn’t work.

Dallas continued to build momentum after this, and the Flyers didn’t start to play markedly better. Whatever spark that was supposed to bring them just didn’t happen.

And it might sound like I’m whining. Maybe I am. Joel Farabee has four points (3G, 1A) in his first four games. German Rubtsov has five points (1G, 4A) in his first five games. Offense is what the team needs, and it’s happening elsewhere. It could be here, it’s sorely needed, but instead it’s just hanging out down the farm. So maybe it’s time to reconsider the roster construction—if grit and jam aren’t working, let’s find something else that will.

2. Déjà vu, anyone?

Well here we are again, folks. The Flyers got off to a hot start with their first couple of wins but now here we are, in the midst of a four game skid, staring down a tough opponent in Vegas coming up on Monday, and wondering just how it is that we ended up in this feedback loop again.

We’re not in the position where we want to throw the whole season in the garbage, because we’ve been here before and we’ve seen the team turn it around and start actually playing good hockey after a brutal start, but it just sucks, man. It take a while to learn a new system, and change culture, and break bad habits, and do all the things you need to do to have things actually be different—as we were promised things would be—but it sure feels terrible to be doing what feels like the same thing over again and waiting for things to break.

The only damn thing I know

This was an extremely cursed match-up from a jersey color standpoint. That’s even putting aside my personal feelings and not loving the Dallas green, but mixing those road jerseys with the Flyers’ black and orange alternates was just a mess. I don’t really have a detailed breakdown on this, but it just wasn’t pleasant to look at. Thank you for tuning in.