After a highly productive and rather unexpected start to the season, the Philadelphia Flyers’ F-A-B line has crashed down to Earth of late — as has the rest of the club’s offense.
A preseason injury to Kevin Hayes forced centers to move up a rung in the Flyers’ lineup, leaving Joel Farabee and Cam Atkinson to play with free agent bargain signing Derick Brassard — thus forming the FAB line.
The FAB line was off to a blistering pace right out of the gate with 16 points in their first four games to pace the Flyers’ fast scoring start. The early returns, though great, were totally unsustainable in hindsight — though still a good outcome given the lineup shuffling that the Flyers coaching staff was forced into before their first game.
And despite a rather killer moniker, production has more than dried up for the FAB line over their last six games, coinciding with a Flyers team offensive dip that has produced just nine goals in their last five games after netting 23 in their first five games.
The crater in production isn’t limited to just one of the trio, either — it’s been the entire bunch that’s gone sour.
Farabee is scoreless in his last six games after six points in his first four. Atkinson hasn’t scored in any of his last five games after scoring in each of the Flyers’ first five contests. Brassard scored a key goal against the Washington Capitals on Saturday, but the veteran has just that goal and a lone assist in his last five games as the well has run empty.
Not only has their scoring production dried up like a river in the desert, but the trio is also getting hammered by nearly every possession and shot rate metric known to man.
In their last six games the line has posted Corsi-For, Fenwick-For, and Scoring Chances-For percentages below 38% at 5-on-5 per NaturalStatTrick. They’ve also lost the High Danger chances battle badly to the tune of nearly 27% despite starting more than 60% of their collective shifts at 5-on-5 in the offensive zone per those same fine folks at NST.
With all of that going against them, it’s a wonder that they’ve actually outscored opponents by a slim 3-2 margin at 5-on-5 in those six games despite struggling so badly. Carter Hart and Martin Jones producing a 95%+ save percentage during that span has certainly helped their cause and allowed things to look a little less jarring in terms of a tangible standpoint, but overall: not ideal.
Hayes’ impending return couldn’t come any sooner as the Flyers miss his strong two-way play and will certainly benefit from moving the veteran Brassard — on a near league minimum salary, by the way — down the lineup. The Flyers’ No. 2 pivot isn’t expected back in any of their next three games, but could be back in the lineup for next Tuesday’s matchup with the Calgary Flames.
It’s not to say that Hayes’ return can be counted on to fix everything ailing the Flyers’ offense, but his arrival will add back the depth the club thought they had up front heading into the season. It should also allow the coaching staff some flexibility to move other guys around to find a balanced mix for all four forward lines moving forward as other lines — looking at you, fourth line — have struggled mightily as well.
The early returns fun, but reality has set in for that trio and Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault surely knows that midnight is near and the FAB line is inching closer and closer to turning into a pumpkin.
The only question for Vigneault and his staff now is whether or not to preempt midnight and make a change before Hayes returns by juggling the forward groups to coax out more offense from his club.