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Preview: Can the Flyers stop the skid in Vegas?

It’s real bad.

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I think we all walk around assuming that the low point of our lives have already happened. Even for those of us who’ve barely had any lows, we’re not constantly thinking that things are going to get worse someday. For the Flyers, that all-time low just may be tonight: the Philadelphia Flyers, as a franchise, have never lost 11 consecutive games (at least not since the NHL removed ties from the equation, more on that further down) and are currently sitting at 10 before tonight’s trip to Las Vegas to face the Golden Knights, who are starting to turn things around after a slow start to the season.

Sometimes a low point is expected or understood: some of the Flyers’ other low points were visible from further away. In 1969-70, just their third season after their expansion, they finished second to last in the NHL with a 17-35-24 record. Even though they’d made the playoffs in a division of other brand new teams the previous two years, it’s no surprise an expansion team struggled to get started. In 2006-07, the Flyers went into tank mode and ultimately finished with the worst record in the NHL and their franchise worst points percentage of .341. Again, the on-ice futility was expected—almost encouraged.

When I think of my life’s low point up until now, it was not something I saw coming. ABC7 Eyewitness News the morning of the fire, which I watched from my parents’ house 18 minutes south wearing the sweatpants and Batman t-shirt I had panic-woken up in, showed fire trucks pouring water through the hole in the roof of our West-facing apartment on the top floor of the run-down LaPierre building.

Later that week, snow would fall through the hole, by then more just a lack of roof, and blanket the remains in a serene powder, freezing remaining drawers shut, creating an apocalyptic sheen over it all. In the weeks and months that followed, the near-death of it all sent me into a depression where I lived on the second floor of my fiance’s grandmother’s house; contemplated and eventually quit my job; and jumped awake at the slightest crack or bump in the night.

This 10-game losing streak has completely smacked the Flyers in the face. After a down year in 2020, moves were made and expectations were set and those expectations did not include contending for the NHL’s bottom five. A loss tonight doesn’t necessarily mean that this season will go up on the wall of shame with ‘69-’70 and ‘06-’07, but it would be the worst ever 11 game stretch in franchise history. And it would not (let’s be honest, it already doesn’t) bode well for the rest of the season.

For me, during my low point, I looked towards other things to distract me, primarily music and the Philadelphia Flyers. We followed through with a trip to Toronto to see them play the Leafs and visit the Hockey Hall of Fame and an exhibit on one of that year’s long-overdue inductees, Eric Lindros. The Flyers didn’t even make the playoffs that season, but I was completely immersed in it, distracting myself from thinking about fires and all the things I used to own and what I should do with my life. Now it kind of feels like things are flipped around—I need something to distract me from thinking about how bad the Flyers are and how bleak their future looks, even during the times when I’m actively writing about and watching Flyers games. Luckily, I’ve got other stuff—the kids at school, Hallmark Christmas movie marathons, nieces and nephews, the new Houndmouth album. For your sake, Flyers fans, I hope you do, too.

Flyers projected lines:

Oskar Lindblom—Sean Couturier—Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton—Kevin Hayes—Cam Atkinson
Morgan Frost—Claude Giroux—James van Riemsdyk
Derick Brassard—Patrick Brown—Zack MacEwen

Ivan Provorov—Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim—Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle—Kevin Connauton

Carter Hart
(Martin Jones)

Golden Knights projected lines:

Max Pacioretty—Chandler Stephenson—Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault—William Karlsson—Reilly Smith
Mattias Janmark—Nicolas Roy—Evgenii Dadonov
William Carrier—Keegan Kolesar—Michael Amadio

Nicolas Hague—Alex Pietrangelo
Shea Theodore—Zach Whitecloud
Brayden McNabb—Dylan Coghlan

Robin Lehner
(Laurent Brossoit)

Keep an eye on:

  • Claude Giroux, who is the only Flyer recording points right now. He’s got 21 in the team’s 24 games, a 72-point pace over an 82-game season that would outpace his last two. The captain has 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) during the 10-game losing streak and is now playing center under Mike Yeo’s lines.
  • Max Pacioretty, who missed a large chunk of the season before returning to the lineup at the end of November. Pacioretty has 9 points (5 goals and 4 assists) in the 6 games since he’s returned, including goals in five consecutive games. In Wednesday night’s game against the Dallas Stars, the Knights had 28 shot attempts during Pacioretty’s even strength ice time, compared to the Stars’ 8.
  • Oskar Lindblom, who has also benefited from Yeo’s lineup tinkers, finding himself on Sean Couturier’s wing in the last two games. The results have not been drastically different — I mean, the entire team is drowning right now so moving from the fourth line to the first isn’t going to change much — but he did finally score his first goal of the season in the Colorado game.
  • Mark Stone, who also missed some time this season and is back in a big way. He’s got 15 points in 12 games and just scored twice in the Knights’ most recent win over Dallas. He added an assist in fueling a big two-goal third-period comeback for Vegas. He’s on the opposite wing from Patches on the Knights’ top line, one that will surely be scary if Jack Eichel recovers from his surgery in time to play this season.
  • The clock, which will surely strike midnight on the East Coast before the third period ends tonight, meaning there’s a non-zero chance I won’t know who wins this game until I wake up tomorrow (or wake up on the couch in front of the TV hours later and check the score while trudging up the stairs).

Stray stats:

  • Because the NHL technically doesn’t count overtime losses the same as losses, the longest losing streak in Flyers history is nine games during the 2006-07 season. They’re current regulation losing streak stands at six. The longest winless streak the franchise ever endured was 12 games during the 1998-99 season, a stretch that also saw four ties. Of the three winless streaks longer than this current one—also 11 in ‘68-’69, and 11 in ‘70-’71—all of them included ties. When including overtime and shootouts, the Flyers have never lost 11 games in a row.
  • The Flyers are 3-3-0 against the Golden Knights since they entered the league in 2017, with 21 goals to the Knights’ 14. This will be just the fourth game they’ve played in T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada, where they are 2-1-0. The Flyers have played one additional game in the state of Nevada for the NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe series, which was apparently earlier this calendar year but feels like a million years ago. Remember when we thought the Flyers were good after an 8-3-2 start and then they got Covid and the Bruins whipped them in an outdoor game and then nothing good has happened since?
  • In Carter Hart’s five wins this season, he has a .963 save percentage and has allowed only five even strength goals total. There has not been a single game this year where he’s played poorly and the offense has bailed him out, so it basically takes a backbreaking performance in net from Hart to get any standings points from a game.
  • The Knights hovered around .500 through Thanksgiving, but with some injuries clearing up are now hot: they’ve outshot their opponents in eight consecutive games and have won three in a row.
  • The Flyers are allowing the most high danger chances this season (13.52 per 60 minutes), but Vegas, a historically sound defensive team, is allowing the third most (12.50 per 60 minutes); this could become a fireworks display, which has not worked in Philly’s favor this year. They’ve only scored more than three goals in five games this season, but even then they’ve lost two of them, including Monday’s 7-5 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
  • Vegas has not lost an overtime game yet this year—they’ve only played two—recording wins over the Stars and the Ducks back in October. The Flyers are 1-4 in OT, with two shootout losses.
  • The last time Mike Yeo took over as a head coach mid-season was after the St. Louis Blues fired Ken Hitchcock in 2017. The Blues then went 7-1 in their next 8 games, 22-8-2 over the rest of the season, and finished 3rd in the Central before losing in the second round of the playoffs to the Nashville Predators.

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