Well, that sure is a response. The Flyers were back at it again last night, after a glorious two days off, for a game against the Islanders. They were looking to respond to a pretty brutal 6-1 drubbing at the hand of the Sabres on Wednesday, and while it didn’t go completely smoothly, the Flyers did bring some distinct positives (but still some negatives) to what would end up being a 3-2 shootout loss for the Flyers. So let’s break all of that down, shall we?
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
Tale as old as time...
Taking a dive into the underlying numbers for the Flyers in this one, and a familiar trend is emerging. The Flyers came out of this one with a pretty comfortable edge in the shot attempt differential, as they put up an adjusted 61.52 CF%. And that, on the surface, seems like something we should be pleased with. But we start to feel less good about that when we add into the mix that the Flyers were also pretty thoroughly outdone in the shot quality department, and only manage a 48.11 xGF% and 39% HDCF%, and that lack of dangerous chances really hurt them when they were trying to pull themselves out of the hole in this game.
And, as we noted, this is becoming a bit of a trend with the Flyers, where they are shooting the puck, but those shots aren't always getting on net, and they’re coming overwhelmingly from the perimeter. The idea is part of the way there—a shoot first mentality isn’t a bad thing—but they’re looking for better results and the lack of dangerous chances isn't really helping them there. There’s still some work to be done in the shot selection department.
Carter Hart’s back(?)
Well, Hart certainly was back in this game in the sense that he sure did play after his week off and chance to work and do a bit of resetting to get himself back on track. He sure was present for this game. But he also, dare we say, played pretty well?
All told, Hart faced a fair bit of activity, with 24 shots against and 13 high danger chances against across all situations, and he just allowed the two goals against (which were equally on the skaters for not breaking up the play leading up to them in the first place, if we’re honest). It wasn’t a tremendously difficult workload by the numbers, but we did see him exposed by the defense. a handful of times, and while he still let a couple by him, there were even more that he managed to save (and looked quite confident in saving), bailing out his team to a greater degree than we've seen since the team’s COVID pause.
We’re hedging this a little bit, because it was only one game and we’ve seen how quickly things can turn, especially with this team this season. But Hart, even in his post-game media availability, looked to be more like himself, and that was a very welcome sight.
Claude Giroux does it again
It’s been a minute since we’ve had an “oh my god fine, I'll do it myself” kind of game from Giroux, but last night was one if. we’ve ever seen it. With the Flyers trailing 2-0 in the third period and not looking their sharpest, the chances of them getting back into it and tying this game looked to be rapidly slipping away. But it wasn’t over, and with a nice pass from Travis Konecny along the boards to Giroux, he was able to cut the Islanders’ lead in half early in the period, and then when the Flyers were still struggling to get much going as the period went on, he went on to get the equalizer too.
Giroux ties the game with his second of the night! pic.twitter.com/uD66m3ZIN3— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) April 4, 2021
The scoring touch was nice to see, but it really was a well rounded game for Giroux, all in all. He put up an adjusted 63.05 CF% and 63.82 xGF% as his line with Konecny and Jake Voracek showed some real flash in this one. Should we be surprised? Not really. But it was still a performance worth appreciating, all the same.
Welcome, Tanner Laczynski!
And one of the other exciting developments from last night’s game was the fact that it was Laczynski’s NHL debut. He’s been veritably tearing it up with the Phantoms since returning from an early season injury, and his was a call-up that seemed really well deserved. And how’d he do?
Well, it was a little bit of a mixed bag. The numbers look pretty poor, as his line with Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel got pretty well caved in at 5-on-5, so Laczynski came out of this one with an adjusted 31.62 CF% and 29.39 xGF%. And those numbers are worth keeping an eye on going forward, but in his first NHL game, it’s not worth getting too fussed about.
He did also bring a bit of flash—his energy was good, he had one really nice defensive play where he got back quickly and broke up a rush chance for the Islanders, and then almost picked up what would have been a pretty lucky first NHL goal, nearly banking a shot in off of an Islander defender parked in front of his own net. He didn’t look lost in the pace of play, and he looked to be making the most of his limited minutes. In short, it looked like he belonged, and we’re hoping that we can see a bit more of him down the stretch here.
In his media availability before last night’s game, Chuck Fletcher talked about the importance of this week in getting the team back on track and back into the playoff mix. And a point in the standings is a good thing, and we did see some improvement from the team in this one, but it still wasn’t a great game, and if this is what we get from the team down the stretch, it isn’t going to be enough.
The Flyers have a tough road ahead of them if they want to claw their way back into a playoff spot, and that happening hinges on their ability to tighten up on their details and keep building on a performance like this one, rather than backsliding and erasing all of their good work like we’ve seen them do time and time again this season. This week is going to be critical for the Flyers, like Fletcher said. The playoffs aren’t wholly out of reach, but they have a lot of ground to cover, and a lot to prove to themselves that they even deserve to be back in that mix in the first place.