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Devils 4, Flyers 3: Hope is waning

Even the most optimistic Flyers fans are starting to get fed up.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight stunk. I’m not even going to do a period-by-period recap because honestly, it isn’t warranted. The Flyers didn’t do enough in this game to make it worth that. Let’s jump in.

What happened?

Philadelphia was awful tonight. The Flyers took all of my material from the preview and made me say “I told you so” the entire game, which is a genuinely awful feeling to have considering that I’m not an NHL coach or player. Let’s review what I was focused on before this game started: carrying over quality play rather than forgetting it, limiting controlled entries by New Jersey, aggressive gaps in the neutral zone. Philly promptly ignored all of the above, conceding multiple goals by backing off on zone entries, allowing additional scoring by giving up an entry that led to a cycle, and overall failing to continue the positive trends of last night’s game.

At some point, it’s going to be too late for this group to pull it together. It’s time to stop making excuses like “we know that they can play well” when the team is posting performances like this more and more often. Something needs to change, whether that be a firing or a major trade. The Flyers cannot continue to get spanked in their own barn like this and expect people to consider them as anything more than the staple position of the Hakstol/Hextall era: a bubble team.

The lone bright spots in a haze of Erik Gustafsson mistakes, Phil Myers turnovers and botched plays in the neutral zone were Joel Farabee and the penalty kill. Farabee has eaten lightning and crapped thunder all year at just 21 years old, and he’s frequently been the best player for Philly since Sean Couturier sustained another injury recently. The PK was also quality, flashing the now-rare shorthanded prowess of Kevin Hayes and company that’s seemingly evaporated from last year.

The problems remained consistent. Defensive coverage was infuriatingly terrible, the forwards failed to generate any momentum at even strength thanks to consistently missing passes, and the goaltending wasn’t good enough to cover up all of the aforementioned warts. The Flyers had a lot of “so, so close, everything but the finish” moments, but at this point in the year against the goddamn New Jersey Devils, “everything but the finish” is no longer acceptable. When you’re allowing wide-open goals to Travis freaking Zajac in 2021, it’s time to start asking hard questions.

I know that the Flyers came back in this game and made it close at the very end. I know that the latter half of the third period looked good. All of this is stuff that would ordinarily be silver linings, but we’ve seen the same story play out entirely too many times before. The Flyers have lost three in a row, are floundering and will remain that way unless something shifts gears.

Three Big Things

  1. Do the Flyers even deserve to add a big piece to the roster with the way they’ve performed? It’s a reasonable question to ask, and one where the answer depends on the player in the conversation (at least in my opinion). The gap between Philadelphia and the fourth spot in the East continues to widen, so if a move is coming, it’s gotta be soon.
  2. What’s causing the team to forget how to play hockey every other night recently? After marked improvement in the underlying process of the game recently, the Flyers have been maddeningly high-low, marring whatever legitimate positives they’re displaying with messy performances like tonight. How does Alain Vigneault whip these guys into shape, and can it even be done? Was last season a fluke? All of these are thoughts swirling in my mind after every loss.
  3. Carter Hart looked better than he had in a long time tonight, despite having very little help. Good for the kid; let’s see him keep that up.

No music tonight. I’m too annoyed to listen to anything, and I’m sure you folks are too. Good night, and as always, go Flyers.