Well, folks, for the seventh game in a row, we’re here again. The Flyers, with an extra day of rest after their game against the Islanders was postponed, met the Rangers last night for what was supposed to be their best chance at easing into a difficult upcoming week, and saw themselves fall flat again, dropping this one 4-1. This game saw a couple of gut punches dealt, from falling behind under four minutes into the game, to needing to come out for the second period with more energy to get themselves back in it and then allowing a goal just 34 seconds in, to losing Joel Farabee with an apparent shoulder or collarbone injury in the first period (we’re hoping for a further update on him today after he’s evaluated, by the way). In short, the Flyers never really had it in this one, and it was another ugly game.
It wasn’t as brutal as some of their recent showings, but it still wasn’t a banner night. By the numbers, the Flyers actually got the better of the play from a shot volume standpoint, putting up 41 shot attempts to the Rangers’ 37 at 5-on-5 (though the differential falls to 48.88 percent when score and venue adjusted), but again the shot quality is where they were lacking, as they were out-shot 20-25 and out-chanced 19-20 in scoring chances and 10-12 in high danger chances (good for 47.64 SCF% and 45.62 HDCF% when adjusted). And we might be able to pull that out as something of a relative positive, given that it is an improvement over their last *check notes* six games, but the feeling of any progress made is marred by the mistakes that plagued them in this one, still.
We saw breakdowns in coverage in the defensive zone, poor decisions in pinches leading to odd-man rushes against, forwards cheating and blasting from the defensive zone too early, anticipating a breakout that never came, breaks not going their way and deflations giving way to spiraling, lack of urgency, and if all of this is sounding pretty familiar to you, you’re not the only one. It was all very reminiscent of last year’s Flyers. It was all still, quite frankly, a bit of a mess. And the Flyers still got mostly good, sometimes great, goaltending from Carter Hart (he stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced, including eight of the nine high danger shots) in this one, but it wasn’t enough to steal this game. The support for him just wasn’t there.
Now, the Flyers did get Kevin Hayes back in this one, and that should be a real boost to the team, but we didn’t really see that here. Granted, it’s going to take some time for him to get back up to speed, we know and accept that, and we didn’t expect for him getting back into the lineup to serve as some kind of magic switch flipping for the team to be scoring like six goals in a game again. But the day after the general manager met with the media and stressed patience and belief that this was the group, the people they have in-house, that can pull them out of the spiral, we expected to see a little bit more.
Chuck Fletcher made a point in Tuesday’s press conference that, with all of the injury losses they’re dealing with right now, he’d like to give it some more time, get some people back, and really see what they’re working with before making any rash moves. And this on its own isn’t a poor idea, but given the state of things this season, the echos we’re seeing of the state of things last season, we have to ask: how much more do you need to see?
And if Farabee is going to be missing even relatively significant time, does that mean we kick the can further down the road because that means they still don't have a full compliment of players and can't say what that fully healthy group really is? Injuries are certainly something here, but they’re not everything. The fact that the team’s process is flawed is not new. The fact that they’re continuing to be deflated after things don't break their way and allowing games to spiral is very much not new. We can appreciate a desire to avoid being rash, but we shouldn’t pretend as though there isn’t an abundance of evidence mounting as to what this team is.
Clearly no one is happy with the way things are going here. The frustration was palpable—even over Zoom—from Alain Vigneault in his presser last night, and he made note that “I’m not satisfied with anything here. We need to find a way to win games here. This is serious here.”
And that’s evident. What they’re doing isn't working and something needs to change. He mentioned specifically needing to shore up defensively and starting looking at winning games 1-0, 2-1, as the offense continues to struggle, but is that going to be the ticket? We can't really say.
The Flyers have three days off before they face the Lightning and Avalanche back to back starting on Sunday, and now is really the perfect time to start looking at making some real changes. Fletcher mentioned in his presser that this week is going to be a real test for the team, and that test is only getting more difficult. We’re not expecting to see a whole new team on the ice for Sunday’s game, but if even small improvements aren’t made, things may well get interesting around here. The time for patience is running out.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.