Ah yes, just what we all wanted, two games in a row against the Islanders. This week got off to an interesting start, as a tweak to schedule meant that the Flyers were dealt a home-and-home series with the Islanders these last two nights, and this went, well, just about as well as we might have expected. The Flyers put up a pretty brutal showing in their UBS Arena debut, dropping that one 4-1, but did rebound well in last night’s showing. They got the better of play for much of the night, but still gave the Islanders just enough wiggle room to come back and tie to force overtime. It was hard fought, and goaltending very nearly saved them, but the Flyers ended up losing last night’s in a shootout to close out that series.
And the even worse news? With those two losses, the Flyers’ losing streak hit nine consecutive games for the second time this season. What a time to be alive.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
Two big things
Offense, at last
We’re going to focus specifically on areas of improvement seen between these two games, and the most immediate improvement that we could see was in how well the Flyers were generating offense. They came out flat in Monday’s game and while they did pick up a bit of steam as the game went on, they never really recovered, and it served as a tone setter more than anything else. Their breakouts were ugly, they were struggling at times to complete even short passes with little pressure, and their offense was looking a bit anemic because of it.
The Flyers went from being thoroughly outplayed on Monday (putting up an adjusted 48.67 CF% and 39.44 xGF% at 5-on-5), to thoroughly outplaying the Islanders last night (rebounding with an adjusted 52.53 CF% and 58.04 xGF%, still at 5-on-5). In truth, last night was the best we’ve seen the Flyers look in a while in terms of how they were able to move the puck, work as a five-man unit, and generate some nice offensive chances. There was a lot to like in this efforts, but the unfortunate reality is that with how shorthanded they are up front right now, they just don’t really have the finishing talent to cash in on as many of those chances as they otherwise might. But that, of course, shouldn’t take away from the good that they were doing. There’s still a good bit of work to be done—they can improve and need to keep this rolling—but it’s a step in the right direction.
The power play delivers
And also quite improved from the first game to the second? The power play!
Now, this was a distressingly low bar to clear, as Monday’s game really did see the Flyers outplayed while on the man advantage—the Islanders put up five shot attempts to the Flyers’ three and three scoring chances to the Flyers’ two while shorthanded, and it was ugly. So it was going to be hard to replicate that performance for another night, but it was still nice to see the power play settle in a bit after that.
And settle in they did! The Flyers didn’t have a ton of power play time to work with in this one, but they were still able to get a nice bit of production, in terms of chances generated. All told, they put up nine shot attempts, three scoring chances, and one high danger chance in 5:59 of time on ice. And we would certainly like to see them getting a bit more in the way of more dangerous scoring chances, but this is still a step forward. They were moving the puck better in this one and doing better on their entries, and that all paid off for them. And hey, they also picked up one very weird goal.
The rare double five-hole against Varlamov as the puck bounces off the end boards, through Varly's legs, and JVR jams it home from his office. pic.twitter.com/euK7ucnscp— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) January 19, 2022
Now, there’s a lot of luck that has to happen for a goal to come together like that one did, but it’s still something. It was a nice idea by York to miss wide and hope the rebound off the boards kicked out to one of the forwards in front. Tough to imagine that’s what he envisioned happening, but we’ll take it.
Bits and bobs
Depth tested again
If there’s on thing for sure, it’s that’s the Flyers have been through the absolute ringer this year. They’re still without Sean Couturier and Derick Brassard up front, so thin in the center department, and now with the news that Kevin Hayes had another core muscle surgery (to drain some fluid, if that detail isn’t too gross for anyone) and will be out for the next 3-4 weeks, that center depth is taking another hit, and the forward group tested even more.
So we should offer some credit to the forwards after last night’s game for being active and often quite dangerous. Even very shorthanded, they showed that they’re still capable of doing some damage, and that’s good, because they’re going to be shorthanded for quite a while longer. Not to be too much of a downer. Moving on.
Speaking of forwards showing up, there were certainly a handful of quite strong performances from the Flyers’ forward group over these last two games. Travis Konecny picked up two weird goals in this series, but it’s still two goals, and pretty well broke him out of his funk. Claude Giroux had a goal last night and was making some really nifty plays, so crisp and creative that we can only say it was looking like vintage Giroux. And Oskar Lindblom was a really bright spot between these two games. He didn’t score, but he was creating some really nice looks—he had nine shot attempts across these two games and four scoring chances, and was really looking like his old, dangerous playmaking self. And all of this really stands out as a contrast to how defeated the offense has looked through stretches in this losing streak. Now, we have some players picking up steam, gaining confidence, and the team is reaping the benefits.
We’re hesitant to say that this is absolutely a couple of players turning a corner, and unequivocally a sign that things are going to turn for the team with how they’re able to drive success, because we’re afraid of jinxes and have been hurt before, but it’s something. It’s a step in the right direction, and that’s something.
The last loss was a real gut check
But with all that said, last night’s loss was the more difficult to swallow of the two, probably of these last eight in a row. Because the Flyers legitimately rebounded well from Monday’s loss and played, overall, quite a solid game. They were, by and large, the better team in this one, but it still didn’t matter. They let this one get away from them just long enough for the Islanders to pull themselves all the way back into this game. The Flyers deserved to win this one in regulation, and to see this one lost in a shootout was tough. There were some improvements made, and for how much Mike Yeo has talked about wanting this team to improve their resiliency in particular, they have a real chance to do that heading into tomorrow’s game against the Blue Jackets. So... we’ll see how this goes.
More reinforcements please?
This is a smaller note, and a little tangential to the happenings on the ice over these last two games, but we’re still bringing it up: can we see Wade Allison back up with the Flyers soon please? He had a solid first weekend back with the Phantoms, held up well in a three in three, and really, in general there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot more he needs to prove at that level. The Flyers need scoring and they need energy right now, and he would certainly offer both of those things. It’s easy to envision him sliding into the top-9 and just taking Gerry Mayhew’s spot and hopefully giving them a bit of a jump. It feels like only a matter of time before that actually happens, but here’s hoping that time comes sooner rather than later.