Sunday night hockey was not kind to the Flyers, that’s for sure. There were a couple of high points—Scott Laughton scored shorthanded, Zack MacEwen got into a Big Fight, and Joel Farabee picked up a goal in his third game in a row to tie things up—but in the end this one got away from them. Three goals in the back half of the third period sealed the victory for the Devils, and the Flyers’ spiral intensifies.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
The elephant in the room
That’s six losses in a row, and this skid is only looking uglier. The Flyers will get a slightly longer break between games, a bit more practice time, as their Tuesday game agains the Islanders has been postponed, but they’re back at it again on Wednesday against the Rangers (currently sitting at third in the division), before they hit their back to back against the Lightning and Avalanche on Sunday and Monday. This stretch isn’t going to be easy, but it could very easily hit the ten consecutive losses mark.
The good news is that the Flyers do only play three games in the next eight days, so they should have some time to practice and to decompress here. But something’s got to give and it’s got to happen fast.
Messy, messy, messy
We've seen some messy games from the Flyers throughout the season, and this was just another one to add to the pile. The Flyers once again struggled to get much going offensively, at least as far as quality chances go, and while they were able to put up 46 shot attempts at 5-on-5. they came out of this one with just 20 scoring chances and four high danger chances.
But equally concerning was their overall puck management in this one. They struggled to complete even relatively short distance passes, and their breakouts struggled, which contributed to their offensive struggles, as they weren’t able to move the puck up-ice cleanly. They also dealt with some pretty ugly turnovers, both at the blue line as failed clears as well as deeper in the offensive zone, and paired with some lapses in coverage and puck watching, that lead to some really dangerous chances against, and four of five goals against. In short, the Flyers’ puck management left quite a bit to be desired in this one, and for all of their struggles, it was a lot of them just shooting themselves in the foot.
The penalty kill outproduced the power play again
It kind of feels like we’re beating a dead horse here, but the situation on the power play for the Flyers is getting particularly bleak around here. The Flyers spent 3:40 on the man-advantage and did just about nothing with that time. Indeed, they spent nearly as much time defending agains the Devils’ shorthanded pushes as working to create their own offensive pressure. All told, they registered three shots on goal in that time, but no scoring chances or high danger chances.
By contrast, though, they did put up two scoring chances and two high danger chances while on the penalty kill, and also were able to register a very nice shorthanded goal for the second game in a row.
So there’s a bit of good news to be found here, at the very least. The Flyers did well to disrupt the Devils’ power play, limiting them to five scoring chances and two high danger chances in 5:36 of power play time, and were able to bring a bit of aggressive play and keep them chased out of the offensive zone, and forced them to do a bit of defending themselves. It’s a bit troubling when the penalty is outproducing the power play, to be sure, but this can equally be an indictment of the power play’s performance as it is a nod to the penalty kill’s good work.
A solid enough showing for Martin Jones
This was a bit of a weird one in that, as much as the Flyers were struggling to get much going offensively, the Devils had stretches where they were struggling in much the same way. But when the Flyers were breaking down, that opened up for some surges from the Devils, and the end result is them still coming out of the night with a fair share of chances, and it ended up being a busy enough night for Martin Jones. All told, he faced 34 shots on goal and stopped 30 of them, and also faced 15 high danger shots, and stopped 12 of those. Those numbers don't exactly scream “stellar performance,” but what really plagued the Flyers were pretty catastrophic breakdowns in front that lead up to those goals against, so it’s hard to pin them all on Jones. He looked sharper than he did in his last start, at the very least, but once again he wasn’t really getting the necessary support from the skaters in front to steal a win in this one. He kept the Flyers in it for most of this game, and to put it frankly, he deserved better for his efforts in this one.
Time for changes?
So now you're seeing o-zone possessions that end because one guy assumed a puck battle would be lost and pulled back, so an attempted pass went to no one. Or d-men have to back off because back pressure isn't there through n-zone. Everything is just disjointed.— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) November 29, 2021
Charlie has really perfectly summed up a big issue with the Flyers’ play right now, and we want to put a little pressure on their game plan. The lack of confidence and the subsequent discontinuity is painfully clear, and the Flyers are hurting for it. But, despite how the similar showings and struggles are stacking up, the Flyers have been quite consistent in how they’re approaching games and trying to play. The idea seems to be that they’re sticking with their game plan and waiting for the players to get some confidence back, to get back to playing as a five man unit. But at what point do they stop trying to run it back every game, and instead look to make some tweaks to the system to better help out the player group that they have to work with?
Now, the recent schedule has been pretty packed and they haven't had a ton of practice time to work on putting any big changes into place, that should be acknowledged, but the time to make some changes might be imminent. Because the job of the coaching staff is to get the most out of their players, and that isn’t happening right now. The Flyers’ lineup may be depleted, but we’ve seen coaches get more out of weak rosters than what the Flyers are getting out of theirs right now. It shouldn’t be all on the players’ backs to work their way out of this slump. They need to be better, to be sure, but they’re not the only ones.