That’s eight losses in a row, folks. Things are bad and we want to talk about them just about as much as you want to read about them, surely, but here we are all the same. The Flyers dropped last night’s game to the Lighting 7-1 to close out the season series, and it was another pretty brutal showing. They’re right back at it tonight against the Avalanche, so let’s put this one to bed swiftly and move right along.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
This is not what we had in mind
We’ll not mince words here—this one was rough. And the Flyers had a nice little break leading up to this one, with three days off and two good days of practice to make some tweaks, gather themselves, and get ready to make a better impression than they have been, and still this is what we’ve gotten. There were some small improvements made in this one (more on that later), but the mistakes and miscues were still glaring, and that’s really overwhelming the feelings we’re coming away with. This was not a terribly complete game from the Flyers, and some of the defensive breakdowns were pretty remarkable. The Flyers really weren’t on top of their details in that regard, and that burned theme pretty badly. This was a chance for them to come back out and at least gesture towards righting the ship, and instead they get blown out. And the spiral deepens, still.
By the numbers
The numbers for this one, in short, are both a bit of a mixed bag and also not too much of a surprise. The more positive side is that the Flyers did get the better of the share of shot attempts and shots on goal, putting up an adjusted 53.96 CF% and 55.46 SF%, so there was at least a portion of their offense that was going. We’ll call that a very small win, considering how everything is going.
But the bigger issue here is not a new one—the Flyers were again pretty badly outdone in the shot quality differentials, and put up just a 49.61 SCF% and a 41.02 xGF%. So what it really boils down to is did they get some looks in this one? Technically yes. Were they very good? Overall no. So it goes.
Neutral zone improvements
And as far as more specific improvements go, we did see the Flyers moving much more cleanly through the neutral zone, which was a pretty stunning change. They were carrying through the middle of the ice more frequently, picking up more speed, and it helped them have possession of the puck more frequently. They almost had some really good looks in this one, and that came as a direct result of improving how they were able to move through the neutral zone with control, but the issue of them over-passing and looking for a more difficult play than the one in front of them often killed those chances. We appreciate the small improvements, we hope that we’ll see more of it going forward, but fixing the one issue obviously wasn’t the magic cure-all.
Goaltending didn’t sink this one, but it played a part
We’ve alluded to the defensive breakdowns already, and those were certainly a big issue for the Flyers in this one. The goaltending in this one also left a bit to be desired, and it was something of a perfect storm in how this all broke down. Let’s take a look at some of the goals against.
Mac Truck coming through! pic.twitter.com/Kscdoexcqw— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 5, 2021
The Lightning scored their third of the night from Ryan McDonagh on kind of a weird breakdown rebound play. Carter Hart left a rebound on the initial shot and that kept the Lightning’s chances alive, and then Rasmus Ristolainen loses his man (McDonagh) behind the net. That’s certainly an issue, but Hart also slightly overplayed the initial shot, and then also lost track of McDonagh behind the net, leaving space for him to bank that shot it.
And if we were feeling like Hart was just a little off his game in this one, the shorthanded goal against really sealed that theory. Hart made, objectively, a pretty poor decision in leaving his net to play the puck even though the Lightning were coming in with a bit of speed. His attempted pass to Keith Yandle wasn’t very sharp, and ended up going right to Mathieu Joseph, whose shot on goal beat the out of position Hart. His game up until this point wasn’t very sharp, he seemed off in his angles and puck tracking in this one, but he really deserved to get pulled for that one.
Martin Jones came in after that and was able to stabilize things a bit, but the game was out of hand at that point, and the defense in front was still struggling. Jones gave up a further two goals, and looked fine enough overall, but it was a tough situation he was coming into.
Something’s got to happen here gang. As we made of above, the spiral is only getting deeper here, and even though we did see some small improvements in the overall process, there wasn’t anything from last night’s showing that suggests to us that this group is going to be able to pull out of this spiral all on their own.
The feeling is that a coaching change must be imminent. It has to be. This is feeling like the end of the Hakstol era, the team is spinning out and it feels pretty clear that whatever the message is that the coaching staff is trying to drive home just isn’t getting though. They’ve lost the room, and the Flyers are going to have to make a change eventually.
But even though last night’s game was exactly the type of ugly showing that gets someone fired, presently right now the Flyers are in a weird spot where something needs to happen, probably is going to happen, but can’t happen because they still have another game coming right on the heels of this one tonight. The need doesn’t change, but we’re going to have to wait a little longer, and knowing that at least one more lame duck coach type of game is on deck is not exactly a thrilling proposition.