The Philadelphia Flyers finally did it. They won a game. After an awful 10 game losing streak, the chips fell in their favor, beating the Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 4-3. Now, on the second half of a back-to-back against the Arizona Coyotes, they have the chance to make it a streak. Hopefully, it will spark the turnaround that management, coaching, and the players have been looking forward to.
Since the last time the Flyers saw them in November (and beat them 3-0 thanks to a Carter Hart shutout), the Coyotes are still bad! Although they are coming into the game with more than zero wins like they did last time, it’s not much more. With a record of 5-19-2, they sit last in the Central Division and last in the NHL. Even though they may not be winning many games, they’re currently leading the Shane Wright sweepstakes, which for some is a win in itself.
In terms of leading scorers, at the top, it’s Clayton Keller and former Flyer Shayne Gostisbehere. They both have 17 points in 26 games, and following close behind is Phil Kessel with 15 points. A rather impressive stat (and very unsustainable) is Travis Boyd’s ridiculous 27.3 percent shooting percentage. He has six goals on 22 shots, so he’s picking his spots. However, regression is going to hit that hard.
There’s not much else to say about the numbers. They sit last in both goals for percentage (GF%) and expected goals for percentage (xGF%), which are the two main things I use to evaluate how well a team has been performing and should be performing. What more do we need? The Coyotes are a terrible team surrounded by a ridiculous amount of drama.
I can’t mention a bad team surrounded by a ridiculous amount of drama (albeit different) without talking about the visiting team in tonight’s tilt. The Flyers are the second-worst team by GF% and xGF% in the NHL, and although they did manage to beat the Knights, there is still a long way to go. The schedule leans in favor of the Flyers for the next few games. They need to find a way to take advantage with interim head coach Mike Yeo behind the bench.
The Flyers sit seventh in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 9-12-4. They rank above only the New York Islanders in the division standings. In the points race, it isn’t entirely close. Captain Claude Giroux leads the team with 22 points in 25 games, and he is tied for the team lead with Cam Atkinson in goals with nine. He has been the kind of player the Flyers need to lead the way. The same can be said for the goaltending with Hart and Martin Jones. Hart, in particular, is sporting a .913 save percentage and 4.85 goals saved above expected (GSAx) per Evolving-Hockey. He’s doing that while facing the eighth highest expected goals against (xGA) among all goaltenders in the NHL. He made 41 saves against the Knights, and he has clearly bounced back from an awful season in 2020-21.
Jones is also playing well, albeit not as well as Hart. He has faced considerably fewer high-quality chances, but he has a .908 save percentage. He has a minus-1 GSAx, which I’d like to see be higher. However, that’s not to say he hasn’t been performing as well as most fans expected him to or even better. He will most likely be in the net in Glendale, and a win could help his numbers and confidence.
Scott Laughton - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny
Morgan Frost - Claude Giroux - Cam Atkinson
Max Willman - Kevin Hayes - James van Riemsdyk
Oskar Lindblom - Patrick Brown - Zack MacEwen
Ivan Provorov - Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim - Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle - Kevin Connauton
One Thing to Watch
The Coyotes have a secret weapon in goaltender Karel Vejmelka. He has burst onto the scene, and despite having a bad team in front of him, has outplayed expectations. If the Flyers’ offense wants to turn this season around, scoring plenty of goals on him would be a great way to keep the train rolling. He’s excellent with lateral movement, and he can see pucks well. It will be a tough test, but the Flyers can get it done if they play up to their talent level. Giroux, Couturier, Travis Konecny, Atkinson, and plenty of others would love to be scoring more goals, and the Coyotes are the team to do it against. One goal can change the confidence of every player, and the Flyers could use as much confidence as possible right now. For now, they need to take it one game at a time. Backed by a solid goaltending performance and good defense, the Flyers can come out of the game with a win. However, if they fall back asleep at the wheel, things could quickly go south.
Enjoy the game, everyone! Go Flyers!