It’s a new era, folks! With Alain Vigneault and Michel Therrien fired yesterday morning, the Flyers were looking to do a hard reset of a struggling team and get this thing back on track. They were also in an interesting position where the team came to the rink in the morning and two of their coaches were gone, but they still had a whole game to play in the evening, and the second of a back-to-back, no less. It was perhaps not an enviable position, and we tried to keep our expectations manageable heading into it.
And the game we got was certainly an interesting one. It was another loss, their ninth in a row, as Colorado took this one 7-5. But there were still some positives to be taken from this one. For starters, the offense that has been looking positively anemic of late finally got going again, and the Flyers put together their first game where they scored four or more goal since October 27 against the Oilers. They got a bit of production from their power play, with one of Claude Giroux’s two goals on the night coming on the man-advantage. Mike Yeo wanted to get Oskar Lindblom going again so he pulled him off the fourth line and put him back up with Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny (who, you may remember, he was playing with at the start of 2019-20, before his diagnosis, who he looked close to unstoppable), and it took him all of less than one (1) period to finally get his first goal of the season.
And some of this growth feels a bit organic. We made note after Sunday’s game that the Flyers were doing better at getting through the neutral zone with speed and control, and that was opening up space for some nearly very good looks for them, but their overpassing and overthinking is what was killing those. And a lot of that was a confidence thing, or lack thereof. Everything has been just a little more difficult recently, and the plays just weren't coming together for them, even when they were doing some good work. But the Flyers had a real confidence boost last night, and combining that with the improvements in the neutral zone and the fact that their forecheck was clicking a bit more, and the results were coming for them again.
It was not a perfect game, though. The team took a couple of dumb penalties and out themselves at a real disadvantage against a dangerous Avalanche power play, and they got burned twice for that. We saw some blown defensive assignments, and goaltending wasn’t really stellar in this one. The Flyers still got caved in by chances, putting up adjusted 40.55 SCF% and 40 xGF%. So there were still issues, and none of them really felt new.
And it was still a loss! We don't want that to get lost in the new coach excitement, the Flyers are still staring down 10 consecutive losses if they can’t pull things together for tomorrow’s game against the Devils (who are now three points ahead of the Flyers in the standings). There’s still quite a bit of work to do here, and the team is anything but out of the woods. But unlike even a few days ago, there is some reason for optimism now. It’s small at this point, but there are reasons to believe that the team is trending in the right direction, so long as they keep at it, keep working. And that’s something that Yeo commented on after the game:
I think the big thing for me is obviously I really wanted to win the game but I didn’t think we were just going to come here snap our fingers and everything was going to be great for us. After the game my message to the players is this is a period where we have to go to work and go to school. There were a lot of examples of the things we want to do and the way we want to play. We can show how that leads to success. The teaching part is what’s going to be important right now in order to get the consistency of our game. Being a team that’s hard to play against, not just one shift here, one shift there, but shift after shift.
This wasn't going to be an immediate complete fix for the team, there are more issues at work here than would let that be possible. But at the very least, it feels like they’re really truly working on making changes and looking for fixes, rather than just doing some empty shuffling and hoping something clicks. It’s a work in progress for everyone, but the initial signs at least have a bit of promise. We’ll see if we still feel the same way on Wednesday night, but for now, we’ll take it.