The Flyers would give us a moment tonight where we were justified to feel some hope that the current losing streak would end with a win over the New York Rangers, but being the 2021-22 Flyers, 37 seconds was all they could afford. A back-and-forth affair with some legitimate strong play from the Flyers against a team that is technically in first place in the NHL’s best division (and one whose rebuild has frustratingly lapped the Flyers’ own attempts) would ultimately end exactly how we thought it would two-and-a-half hours prior.
Victory tonight—snatched from the Flyers and replaced with defeat like a golden idol replaced with a bag of sand—would have put a stop to their current losing streak at six. Instead, the losing continues and the Flyers are facing down three games with the only two Metro teams they haven’t faced yet this season that may put them right back at their season’s worst streak of 10. It’s a back-to-back with the New York Islanders, who have struggled this season and currently find themselves in last place in the division, courtesy of a canceled game earlier this season. The Flyers will follow that up with a home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets—who got plastered to the tune of 9 goals allowed to the Florida Panthers tonight—on Thursday. If the Flyers played the way they did tonight in any of these three games, especially against opponents who should be weaker than these New York Rangers, then they should be able to avoid a second double-digit winless streak. But I don’t think, with the ups and (mostly) downs of this season, anyone would be surprised if that didn’t happen.
The Flyers started slow, with the Rangers jumping out to a 9-1 advantage in shot attempts in the first five minutes, capped off by a Claude Giroux hooking penalty that led to a quick Rangers power play goal. Still in the first half of Giroux’s penalty, the Rangers set up and Adam Fox moved a quick pass across the ice for Mika Zibanejad, who one-time-roofed the puck into Carter Hart’s net—extending Zibanejad’s point streak against the Flyers to seven games.
It would be another five minutes, around the nine-minute mark, when the Flyers finally put their first shot on goal, a Joel Farabee bad-angle slap, and then just another minute before their first goal. A quick rush began with a Rangers turnover to Scott Laughton, who backhand-shoveled the puck into the crease area where it was poked by Travis Konecny and buried by a crashing Oskar Lindblom for his fifth goal of the season.
Both teams had a few more dangerous-looking opportunities in the few minutes that followed—including the below post shot that bounced off Hart’s back before getting scooped off the goal line by Keith Yandle. The Flyers then managed to take the tie score into the first intermission despite getting buried in puck possession for more than half of the period. They battled back in the second half, finishing with 6 shots at 5-on-5 to the Rangers’ 7.
"'Thank you' - Keith Yandle" - Carter Hart pic.twitter.com/s0NfhpSQ7E— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) January 16, 2022
The Flyers took their momentum into the beginning of the second period, taking the lead in shots within the first few minutes, but they were set back by a penalty call when Kevin Hayes tripped Greg McKegg. They were able to kill it off thanks to a strong couple of plays from Lindblom and some saves from Hart.
Cam Atkinson was able to draw a holding penalty on K’Andre Miller in cutting to the net, leading to a pretty impotent-looking power play. The Rangers rode that kill into the better of play for most of the rest of the period—they finished with 12 shots on goal, with 7 coming at 5-on-5, and recorded three high danger chances while holding the Flyers to zero. But the period ended exactly where it began and the Flyers found themselves just a period win away from beating the Metro’s first place team to end their seven-game losing streak.
The two teams traded puck possession to start the third period before the Flyers starting ripping off some dangerous play—including a Cam Atkinson scoring chance blockered away by Igor Shesterkin, an entire shift from the first period with the Rangers on their heels, an odd man rush that ended with a nearly great offensive play from Nick Seeler, who crashed into Shesterkin and the net in trying to deke around him, and a surprise bounce onto Travis Konecny’s stick all alone in front of the net. By the time the midway point of the period came, the Flyers had once again caught the Rangers in 5-on-5 shots on goal, and they would finally be rewarded with a Cam York goal—the first of his young NHL career—on a play that began with a strong drive to the net with the puck by Zack MacEwen.
The Rangers would respond almost immediately, taking the Flyers first lead of the game away from them before Lou Nolan-substitute Steve Kramarck had even announced York’s goal. A series of one-touch cross ice passes would end up on Filip Chytil’s stick before finding the back of the net—assists from Artemi Panarin, his second of the night, and Ryan Strome.
Then, catching Carter Hart without a stick on some extended play in the zone, Adam Fox stepped in and took a shot that was deflected past Hart by the NHL’s best net front scorer, Chris Kreider.
Best net-front presence in the league right here. pic.twitter.com/mPIG89EfLO— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 16, 2022
The Flyers would pull Hart with just over two minutes left in the period and the six-man unit of Claude Giroux, Cam York, Joel Farabee, James van Riemsdyk, Cam Atkinson, and Ivan Provorov patiently moved the puck around the zone for over a minute of that remaining time. Mike Yeo would take a timeout with 27.5 seconds left and send out the same unit with Kevin Hayes in for van Riemsdyk, but the game would ultimately come to an end without much sweat from the Rangers.
- The Flyers’ power play was once again Not Good, but at one point they had Cam York at the top of the umbrella with Joel Farabee to his right and it was very easy to envision a future Flyers power play where those two are regulars in those spots. That positive glimpse into the future isn’t something that’s come easy much this season, so I do think it’s important to note when it does happen.
- The Oskar Lindblom—Scott Laughton—Travis Konecny line actually looked pretty good tonight, playing with what appeared to be what they call chemistry and even scoring a goal.
- The worst part about this game is not that they lost—I think a good number of us have resigned ourselves to a losing season from the Flyers—and it’s not even that they lost to the Rangers. It’s that they actually looked pretty good for large stretches of the game, even finishing with more 5-on-5 shots than the Rangers. There haven’t been many potentially undeserved losses in 2021-22, but this game can be added to the list.
- Carter Hart played pretty well but was not necessarily outstanding in any way. Made all the saves he should have, wasn’t particularly out of position or egregiously to blame for any of the three Ranger goals. He had 24 saves on 27 shots—not one of his statistical bests but nothing disappointing either.
- This was the first meeting between these two teams since the Flyers joined the Rangers, Canucks, and Canadiens as exes of Alain Vigneault. The Flyers are now 135-128-37-10 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Rangers and 0-1-0 post-AV. Now that his tenure is complete, Vigneault had a better points percentage in New York (.596) than he did in Philadelphia (.568). His final Philly tally is the worst amongst coaches who have led both teams: Fred Shero’s .642, Mike Keenan’s .638, and Roger Neilson’s .595.
- Mika Zibanejad now has 23 points in his last 13 games against the Flyers. That is in part buoyed by the two back-to-back six-point games he had last season, but it also includes at least one in seven straight. Mika is currently one of the potential “last men in” for the All-Star Game roster, and points now in five straight overall, he’s making a pretty good case to receive some votes. (Confession time: I did not vote for the Flyers’ player, Cam Atkinson to be the Metro’s last man in, instead depositing my very, very valuable click for a notable former Flyer who’s up for the slot.)
- Oskar Lindblom has now scored 10 points in his last 15 games. It’s not a number that would necessarily warrant an “on fire” label or anything like that, but it’s certainly on fire-er than scoring 1 point his first 21 games. Combined with some very engaged play in his defensive zone and some nice plays in all three zones, Lindblom’s goal made tonight possibly his best game of the season.
- Cam York led the Flyers in Corsi for percentage, shots for percentage, and was on the ice for both Flyers goals and zero Rangers goals.
- Jackson Cates played 8:10 tonight, apparently. Despite watching the entire game with the volume up pretty loud, I don’t think I heard his name called once and don’t recall seeing him either.
*All stats via Natural Stat Trick and Hockey-reference.com.