Don’t look now, but with last night’s loss to the Hurricanes, the Flyers have now lost their last five in a row, and things are starting to look a bit bleak. This game started with some promise, as the Flyers jumped out to a very early lead thanks to a goal by Ivan Provorov, and were able to keep rolling through the early part of the game. They had three separate one goal leads, but the Hurricanes were able to come back from each of them to tie the game. And then when the second period rolled around, they were able to grab momentum and cruise with it just about until the very end. This one got away from the Flyers, to be sure.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
By the numbers
Dipping first into the 5-on-5 numbers from this one, we’ll see that, well, they weren't very good. The Flyers still struggled pretty mightily to create chances in bulk in this one—which we certainly know has been an ongoing issue—and while they were able to make the most of those chances early, the struggling offense really caught up to them as the game went on, and Carolina got rewarded for outworking them. All told, the Flyers put up an adjusted 36.09 CF%, 36.12 SCF%, and 40.24 xGF%, being pretty thoroughly out chanced in both the raw shot quantity as well as shot quality departments.
None of this is a new development. The Flyers had to spend quite a bit of time defending in this one, and when they had some offensive zone time, they looked out of sync and struggled to put together much in the way of sustained pressure, and that’s continued to hurt them. They did still have some looks, to be sure, but you can't be expected to win games when you're only creating 18 shots on goal in a night.
Good work from the penalty kill...
If we’re looking for a bit of good news, though, it would be that despite their struggles at 5-on-5, the Flyers’ penalty kill still delivered quite a solid showing. They had four minor penalties to kill off, and were able to do so successfully. In their eight minutes of penalty kill time, they limited the Hurricanes to just three shots on goal, one scoring chances, and one high danger chance. Indeed, they even outshot the Hurricanes 4-3 and brought a nice bit of shorthanded push, which also saw them put up a strong candidate for nicest goal of the season with this shorthanded goal from Joel Farabee.
They brought a bit of flash while shorthanded in this one, but overall it was just really solid work. They were aggressive in getting after the puck when they had the space to do so, and were effective in getting into passing lanes to break up chances. We could quibble a bit about the penalties taken, if they were necessary, but the work in killing them off remains solid.
... but not from the power play
Alain Vigneault said it pretty perfectly after the game yesterday: the power play isn’t working right now. And really, what more is there to say? They had three attempts on the power play on the afternoon, and in that time only managed to create two scoring chances and one shot on goal in those complete six minutes of time on the man-advantage. Indeed, there were good stretches where the Hurricanes looked comfortably more dangerous shorthanded than the Flyers did on the power play, and that’s pretty deeply troubling. They’re missing some players who would normally factor in on the power play, to be sure, but that’s not a challenge that should be insurmountable. There’s ample talent left on this team that they should be able to cobble together a functional power play, but there’s not really any indication that they’re trending in that direction right now.
Not a banner night for Carter Hart
It was a rare tough showing for Hart in this one, if we can bear any more bad news. It’s hard to pin this loss on him entirely, the fact is that he just wasn’t really getting much support from his skaters either. He wasn’t able to steal this one though. All told, he stopped 30 of the 36 shots he faced for an .833 save percentage. He just seemed a little off in this one, he wasn’t tracking pucks through traffic as well as he normally does, and his angles were just a little off. It wasn’t catastrophically bad, but it was just enough to prevent him from stealing this one.
Now, this isn’t something that we’re really deeply worried by, though. Hart has been pretty outstanding to start the season, there’s really no denying that, but poorer games are going to happen too, that’s just how it goes. Given his track record, we feel comfortable saying that he’ll rebound just fine.
As we already noted, that’s five losses in a row now for the Flyers, and they’ve now slipped to second to last in the Metro (tied with the Devils who they play tomorrow), ahead of just the Islanders. This stretch of games here had the potential to get really ugly if they didn't start to pull themselves out of the spiral, and it’s looking like we’re seeing that come to fruition.
And to get a little more imprecise, it’s worth noting that the vibes in the post-game press conferences were, shall we say, not good. We’ve seen losses earlier in the season where the coaches and players come out and still visibly hold a bit of optimism, can say something like “this game didn’t really go our way, but that’s hockey, we’ll get them next time.” The losses (quite understandably, we should add) are looking like they’re starting to weigh on the players, they’re looking down, and that’s a little concerning. Because we’ve seen this before—the players get down and lose confidence, and with that they lose just about any ability to pull themselves out of the spiral they’re in. This year was supposed to be different, and they’re supposed to be out of that cycle, but that’s going to be put to the test here in a big way. While they got Morgan Frost up and that’s been a bit of a boost, their big reinforcements are a ways away, and it’s going to be on this group to pull it together.