In their first game after the trade deadline, the Flyers had a real chance to set a positive tone for this last run of games to close out the season and, well, they did not do that. They gave up the first goal of the game but were able to tie things up shortly after (thanks to Sean Couturier), but then promptly gave up three more goals in the last ten minutes of the third period. The Capitals had two more in them, making it a pretty brutal 6-1 loss for the Flyers. And we don’t really want to relive that one, but we’ve still got a few points to hit on before we can hopefully erase it from our collective memory.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
Let’s get the numbers out of the way
After a game like that one, we probably don’t want to be talking too much about the numbers, but we really should. Scroll on if you’d like. Anyway.
The underlying numbers for this one were, really as they have been for a a lot of the season, a bit of a mixed bag. The Flyers came out with an edge in one area of the overall shot quantity differential, putting up an adjusted 52.73 CF%, but still struggled to actually get their shots on net, and as such lost a step in the regular shot share, with a 49.31 SF% (which is close to breakeven, sure, and not terrible, but still not matching the output in shot attempts). The real kicker here, perhaps, is that this was one of what feels like the rarer games when the Flyers also got the better of the shot quality battle, and were able to put up an adjusted 51.9 xGF% at 5-on-5, but they just really weren’t able to do anything with that.
The big takeaway really is that the numbers don’t really feel like they match the score outcome of this game, but in fairness, it’s pretty hard to quantify “every bad move we make somehow goes completely nuclear,” which is very much still where the Flyers are at. So it goes.
Penalty kills struggles again
Last night was, to put it mildly, not a good night for the Flyers’ penalty kill. They took three minor penalties and were scored on on each of the subsequent power plays. The Capitals were really threatening, and the Flyers just didn’t really have an answer of them. The Capitals ended up with 3:57 played on the power play, and created eight shot attempts, four scoring chances, and four high danger chances, which is a decent amount in that time. The Flyers really struggled to get sticks in passing lanes, and the Capitals were left to cycle to just about their heart’s content, and the Flyers got burned for it.
And there certainly were pieces working against them—Elliott clearly wasn’t on (more on that later), and it’s well documented just how silly this Capitals power play can make even a penalty kill otherwise playing well look. But this has been an issue all season and it got exposed in a big way last night, there’s really no other way to put it.
A tough night for Brian Elliott
As we mentioned in our last section, it just really wasn’t Brian Elliott’s night last night. He let in those four goals in the first period alone, and while he did stabilize a bit as the game went on, it was clear pretty early the Elliott wasn’t completely on in this one. His positioning was a little off, his tracking not as sharp as usual, and while the defense was also breaking down in front of him, but he wasn’t at his steadiest behind them. All told, he came out of this one with 26 saves on 32 shots and a .813 save percentage.
All of that said, it’s hard to be too upset with Elliott about how this all played out. The defense wasn’t helping him out as much as we would have liked, and even if it’s true that his play wasn’t as sharp as it normally is, it’s also true that he’s 36 now, can’t move as quickly as he used to, and has played a lot of games recently. It’s not a great outcome but it does feel a little difficult to be too fussed about. This just sort of is what it is.
Let’s see the kids! (please?)
We touched on this after Sunday’s game, and Chuck Fletcher has made mention of this as well, but this end of the season should be a time to get some of the prospects into the mix to get them acclimated to this level and in better shape to be impactful next season. We’re already seeing Tanner Laczynski entering the mix, and he’s been really solid, last night included, when twice he nearly picked up his first NHL goal, but couldn’t get the bounce to go his way. Wade Allison is on the taxi squad, and it seems like only a matter of time before he gets a look, which is greatly deserved given his play with the Phantoms to start his season with them. When the Phantoms get their COVID situation sorted, we may (and probably should) see a few more new faces entering into the mix, and it feels about time. We’re expecting a few younger players to make the jump for next season, so getting them acclimated now feels like the right play, and if last night told us anything, it’s that they really can’t do much worse than, well, whatever last night’s group did.
And on a related note: we really should be seeing more of Phil Myers down the stretch. Maybe the Flyers have a rotation planned and we see him on Thursday and this point becomes null, but we have to make it. The Flyers wanting to get Samuel Morin reps as well makes sense, but we really do know what he is at this point, and with Myers remaining as the player with the higher upside, he should be getting a chance to get more reps, work through some of his issues, and try to learn some things to get himself in a better position to rebound next season as well. The season’s all but over, the stakes are relatively low, there's no good reason why he should be a more or less regular scratch.
Are we packing it in?
One of the key points to come out of Fletcher’s presser on Monday after the trade deadline passed was that, with 15 (now 14) games left in the season, there was still a lot of time left to play, and this remaining stretch was going to be very important, if only for internal evaluation purposes. Management has a lot to address when the offseason hits, and there are likely very few untouchables on this team at this point, so it doesn’t feel like much of a stretch to say that these players are playing to set a more positive tone and not get themselves traded.
And, in short, if the players want to prove that they’re worth betting on next season, a game like this? It isn’t it. The Flyers, although not perfect, did some good work in the first few games of this month, but they backslid into March level flatness and breakdown of defense and details last night, and that simply cannot be how things go from here on out. Maybe the Flyers regroup well for Thursday’s game, we’re very much hoping that they do, because the team should be better than this, and they should be proving that. And if they don’t, well, we’re in for a long last month of the season.