Despite the fact that it feels like this season has been going on for approximately a thousand years already, the Flyers have only just hit the quarter mark on this season. And for as much as we like to talk about being wary of trying to glean too much from a small sample size, this officially means that this warning can be tossed aside for the season—the Flyers have played enough games that we can really start digging into the state of the team. Perhaps at this point it really is more of a can do than want to do, with how things are going, but we simply cannot resist a bit of a deep dive. Let’s get into it.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com
Where we are
Flyers Through 20 Games
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After a hot start to the season, the Flyers have been hit hard by both injuries and good old regression, and all of that momentum the they looked to be building has come to a screeching halt. They had been able to hold on to a position around fourth in the division for a while, but this recent six game skid has sent then careening towards the basement of the division—they’re sitting at seventh in the Metro, eight points ahead of the last place Islanders who have played three fewer games and are dealing with a COVID outbreak, so we’re not really sure how much this says. The Flyers have lost eight of their last 10 games, and they’re averaging just 1.7 goals per game over that span. They had a nice opportunity on Sunday to get themselves back on track against a relatively more manageable opponent in the Devils, but instead of being able to take care of business there, they let that one slip away from them.
The team is looking messy in their details, no longer playing as five man units, and seem to be severely lacking in confidence. All of the bad bits are compounding on each other right now, and it’s making the spiral a tough one to pull out of.
By the numbers
5v5 On-Ice Stats
The bit of good news that we can find here is that the Flyers are actually getting quite sound goaltending from both Carter Hart and Martin Jones, as they’ve put up .920 and .921 save percentages respectively, ranking them 20th and 18th in the league in save percentage, among goalies who have played at least five games. So one of their larger issues from last season has been shored up, and we can feel good about that.
But, that’s kind of where the good news runs out. Because it isn’t as though the Flyers are playing a generally fine to good game and just getting goalied night in and night out, but rather that their underlying process is quite poor, and the results are finally reflecting that. We’ve seen past iterations of the team wherein they get a good number of chances but they’re being overwhelmingly kept to the outside, but this season they’re both struggling to create chances in bulk as well as more dangerous chances. They’re at the bottom of the league in every shot and chance differential, as well as the scoring differential at 5-on-5.
And this pretty well matches what the eye tells us—the Flyers are spending a lot of time defending in these most recent games, and when they are getting time in the offensive zone, it’s tended to be a bit one and done as far as their chances have gone. They’re overpassing, or just plain struggling to set up the passes needed to create scoring chances in the first place. Everything is just a little disjointed right now, and it’s hindering them at both ends of the ice, in their attempts to create breakouts and get moving in transition, as well as when they try to establish a cycle in the offensive zone. It’s all just pretty plainly not working very well right now.
Things can change quickly, that’s certainly worth noting, but in brief the outlook here is not good. The Flyers are currently on an 82 points pace, which is well below what would be needed to make the playoffs, and more likely would land them towards the bottom—if not not squarely at it—of the division. HockeyViz currently has the Flyers at a 6 percent chance of making the playoffs, but Money Puck is much more optimistic, having them at a 7.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. Quite frankly, the Flyers are staring down another lost season if they don't turn things around here quickly.
And perhaps the even more concerning bit is that the answers to how they would do that don’t seem readily apparent. They’re greatly diminished by injury, and that’s certainly hurting them. Key pieces in the lineup in Kevin Hayes and Ryan Ellis are still likely weeks away from returning. But is getting them back the magic key to fixing this mess? That’s a hard sell. The issues here are running much deeper than that.
Friedman: "You feel it, you feel something's going to have to give there, it can't continue going on this way".— NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) November 29, 2021
Alain Vigneault’s seat may well be heating up too, as Elliotte Friedman had alluded to, but it’s unclear whether a coaching change will be the thing to salvage this season either. Might it help? Maybe! But it still doesn’t feel like the fix is that easy either.
Like Friedman said, something has to give, but more accurately it feels like it’s going to have to be a couple of somethings. We don't have the answers here, we wish that we did, but something needs to be coming, and soon. The Flyers’ next week and a half will see them facing off against tough opponents in the Rangers, Lightning, and Avalanche, then the same Devils that beat up on them on Sunday, before they head out West to face the Golden Knights and Coyotes. This schedule isn’t getting any easier, but it is easy to see this skid extending to around 10 games if something doesn't break for the Flyers. We hate to leave this on a note of doom and gloom, but the reality that the team is facing is a grim one. The team is playing poorly and not getting better, and this season might wind up being another long one.