Like it or not, the Flyers are back, folks! After they saw their game on Tuesday somewhat curiously postponed (but we don’t need to rehash that here), the Flyers had a nice little break with a good bit of practice time, and were set to get back into action against the Bruins last night. If we had a feeling that this game was a little cursed, being as they were facing Tuukka Rask in his season debut, well... yeah that would be correct.
The Flyers got off to just an absolutely disastrous start, wherein they gave up a goal to David Pastrnak inside the first two minutes of the game, then saw Nick Seeler take an egregious holding penalty two minutes later. They were scored on on that power play (Pastrnak again) and then immediately after that, Ivan Provorov high sticked Charlie Coyle and the Flyers were going back to the penalty kill again. They did kill off that penalty, but it was clear that this game was pretty quickly spiraling out of control. The Flyers lacked a lot of energy, weren't playing cohesively, and the Bruins were doing a number on them because of it. The second period started with Zack MacEwen fighting Tyler Lewington to try to spark the team, and then they somehow ended up looking worse.
Until they didn’t! They were able to pick up a bit of steam as the game went on, and by the time the midpoint of the second period rolled around, the Flyers were creating some nice chances for themselves. Cam Atkinson was able to get them on the board deflecting a shot by Provorov, and then Farabee tied the game up with a stellar goal, cutting through traffic to start off a chance which he then finished off by himself.
Cam Atkinson deflects Ivan Provorov's shot on the power play and the Flyers are on the board. pic.twitter.com/2GXkQR9ZnV— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) January 14, 2022
Joel Farabee walks Charlie McAvoy and finishes the give-and-go! pic.twitter.com/P8tvIGC8Pt— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) January 14, 2022
The good news was short lived though, because, stop us if you’ve heard this one before, the Flyers then took back to back penalties, and that was all the Bruins needed to pull themselves back into the lead, and for Pastrnak to complete the hat trick.
The Flyers made a nice push in the third period to tie the game and force overtime, but Rask was locked in by then, and it proved to be too little too late. They just avoided giving up an empty net in the waning seconds of the game, and they kept this one close to the very end, but they couldn't pull out a win, and have dropped their sixth game in a row.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
Two big things
A bad start and too little too late
This really does feel the the story of the season, huh? The Flyers dug themselves into a deep, deep hole early in this one, and for a while it was looking like they were dead in the water. And while there may be something to be said for needing to get back into the swing of things after an unexpected extended break, it’s not like four days between games is a lifetime.
The Flyers were knocking on the door for stretches in this one, but the Bruins were really clearly the better team. The Flyers came out of this one with an adjusted 39.09 percent of the CF share, and 31.22 percent of the xG share, and in a way, it feels like a small miracle that they were able to keep this one close.
We liked how they were able to rally for stretches in this one, and it did show a nice bit of the resiliency that the fans and coaching staff alike have both been asking for, but between the process not supporting them to the degree that they needed and the early hole they dug themselves in being significant, it all felt like too little too late.
Carter Hart was a difference maker
And this, yeah, this also really feels like the story of the season too. The real reason that the Flyers were able to stay in this game for as long as they did was, once again, Hart’s play. The start to this game was a real doozy, and the two goals given up were tough to see, but it’s hard to blame them on Hart—between two failed clears and a lucky bounce in front on the first goal, and just a stellar pass across to Pastrnak on the power play for the second, those are tough to face and there’s not a whole lot more that we could have asked of Hart on those plays. But, that said, he still really locked things down as the game went on, and when he had to bail the skaters out later on in the game, he did it with relative ease. All told, he stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced, and all 11 of the high danger shots. In short, the Flyers got some more really great play out of Hart in this one, and it’s a shame that he isn’t getting more support, and the team isn’t getting the wins to reward it.
Bits and bobs
A five forward power play??
We’ll give Mike Yeo credit in this one, he was throwing everything he could at the wall here, from a very early goalie pull with close to four minutes left in regulation, to going with five forwards on the power play, when they had about a minute of 5-on-3 time to work with. It... did not work out for them, but it’s not a bad idea, and we like the readiness to show a bit of creativity.
Reinforcements helped, but not enough
The Flyers are inching back towards having a relatively healthy and complete lineup here (we said relatively!), as they got Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, and Travis Sanheim back (but still lost Rasmus Ristolainen). And while this certainly wasn’t the team’s best game still, and we didn’t see them at their most dangerous offensively, getting these players back was still a huge boost. Because we’ve been talking a lot recently about how, despite any good energy and compete they've brought while even more shorthanded, they just didn’t have the skill to be as threatening as they want to be, at least on a consistent basis. Getting those players back into the lineup wasn’t like flipping a switch and seeing the team magically fixed, but it has them in a better spot to get back on track.
New looks on defense
With Ristolainen out for this one, we saw the Flyers having to do some shuffling of their first two defense pairs, and it was... interesting. We started the game with Provorov paired with Sanheim, and Cam York paired with Justin Braun. And the Provorov-Sanheim pairing pretty immediately wasn’t clicking—they were the ones beaten on the first goal against, and with Provorov pretty immediately looking like he was fighting it in this one and not settling in as much as they would like, for the second period, they moved Braun back up with him to help stabilize a bit, moving Sanheim down with York. And the latter pair is certainly an interesting one, probably not one that you want to roll with long term this season, as it puts their two best puck movers together and the impacts on the other two pairs might not be great, but pairing their skillsets is interesting. They looked fine together in a limited look, and we can daydream a bit about the possibility of this being a fun pairing down the road. We’ll take whatever we can get here.
Speaking of Cam York!
Cam York plays until the final horn to deny Brad Marchand of an empty-net goal. pic.twitter.com/7SuigTXBOM— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) January 14, 2022
It’s a smaller thing, and something that we alluded to in the recap up top, but this game was very close to ending 4-2 with a Brad Marchand empty netter, but that was negated when York raced back, chipped the puck away from Marchand. It was nice to see him showing that level of jump, that late in a lost game, and sacrificing his body to do it. Does it mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things? No. But it does go a long way to make a positive impression in the eyes of his teammates and coaches.