The West Coast trip rolls on and it continues to be not very kind to the Flyers. After splitting their first two games while not really playing all that well, the Flyers were looking to get themselves back on track against the Kings last night, and it really didn’t go as planned for them. The Flyers again showed some flatness, some defensive messiness, and it all came back to bite them in a big way. They dropped this one 6-3 as their struggles out West continued. The Disney on Ice trip remains cursed.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
Starting on time
With the Flyers’ energy being a bit inconsistent over the previous two games, one of the hopes coming into last night’s was that they would be able to bring some good energy and start on time and, well, that didn’t happen. The Flyers saw their defense break down pretty spectacularly (more on that later) to allow the first goal for the Kings just 12 seconds into the game. And the first period continued to be unkind to them—they were on their heels quite a bit and struggled to get much going offensively. Though they did get a bit of offense going—looking at you, Joel Farabee—they were still pretty well outplayed early on. The first period saw them out-shot 11-7 at 5-on-5, and out-chanced 20-10 in shot attempts, their offense struggling mightily to get going. They did pick up a bit more steam as the game went on (they improved their CF% from 33.33 to 46% and SCF% from 42.86 to 43.28 when you look from the first period to the average for the whole of the game), but it still wasn’t a very complete or threatening effort, and it certainly wasn’t a great way to set the tone for the game.
But if we’re looking for a more positive takeaway from this game to keep this from getting too doom and gloom, it would be that the Flyers certainly were trying some things in this one. They got a bit of luck in the third period, with another extended 5-on-3 power play to work with, they did their best not to squander this one like they did in San Jose. Mike Yeo called a timeout to draw up a play, and after the Flyers were able to get possession of the puck in the offensive zone, he pulled Martin Jones to get a third extra attacker out there for the Flyers. They were able to get a nice bit of puck movement going, and it culminated in a goal for Kevin Hayes. It was a bold play, and a nice bit of faith in his group from Yeo—the move says that the belief was if they could just get one goal early in the period, they could get rolling well and really get themselves back into this game, and he was going to do everything he could to help them do that.
Might there also be something to be said for the fact that it took having three more players on the ice for the Flyers to score that second goal of the night? Yeah, probably. So maybe this isn’t all neat.
Breakdowns a killer
We talked earlier about the very first defensive breakdown of the night which led to the Kings’ first goal on their first shift, and this would turn out to be something of an ugly trend for the Flyers. They saw three of the six goals against come as results of plays where the defensemen just lost their man or made a poor judgment and it came back to bite them.
The first goal saw Ivan Provorov get caught puck watching and lose Victor Arvidsson behind the net, opening up the scoring chance for him, and the same sort of issue popped up on the Trevor Moore goal, wherein Provorov fails on the clear attempt, then fails to push Philip Danault off the puck and eliminate the pass in front to Trevor Moore, and on the scramble in front, neither he nor Justin Braun could take away the shot. And then on Danault’s goal, with he and Moore sprung on the rush after Keith Yandle tried to pinch along the boards to keep the puck in fails to do so, Kevin Connauton assumes incorrectly that Kevin Hayes (who is still coming back from two core muscle surgeries and takes a while to get up to speed), will be able to get back quickly, pressures Moore too aggressively but fails to take away the shot or the pass, and when the pass gets over to the still open Danault, he doesn't miss his shot.
We almost want to lump the Brendan Lemieux goal into this category, but that’s a bit more tenuous, as it was less of an egregious breakdown and more a case of Connauton just getting outworked and not being quite fast enough to keep up. Still not great though.
And all of this is to say that the weaknesses in this defense corps were on full display last night. The first pair is playing way over their head right now, and when Provorov is off, it quickly turns disastrous, and the third pair is just, well, not an NHL third pair. We’re going to keep banging on the “play Cam York” drum here, and not because we expect that this is going to be an immediate and complete fix, but just because he’s good and, well, things certainly can't get any worse.
Not a stellar night for Martin Jones
But for all that talk about the defense struggling mightily in this one, it wasn’t exactly a stellar night for Jones either. He had a pretty heavy workload in this one, as he faced 33 shots across all situations, and he stopped 28 of them for an .848 save percentage, which is, as the section header says, less than stellar. He came up with a couple of big saves when they really needed him to, but he also kicked out a couple of dangerous rebounds, and at times looked to be a bit off of his angles (evidenced on the Lemieux goal, where he overcommitted slightly to the left side, and gave Lemieux a bit too much space to work with on the five hole, where he was able to slip the puck through). He needs more help than he got, certainly, but the fact remains that we didn’t really see him at his sharpest in this one.
If we’re looking for a bit of good news, it’s that the Flyers do have some reinforcements coming as soon as today. Carter Hart, Scott Laughton, and Derick Brassard have all been removed from the COVID protocol list, and will be joining the team in Anaheim, and it’s possible that two, if not all of them, are able to get back into the lineup for Tuesday’s game (the third depends on Brassard’s status, as he was also injured still when put on the list). It’s something, and getting Hart back will be a big boost, but it also doesn’t immediately fix all of the issues plaguing them during this trip. The Ducks, even though they've lost their last three games, are still sitting comfortably in second place in their division, and have found a way to do some damage this season. It isn’t going to be an easy game, and the Flyers are going to have a lot of work to do if they want to come away with a win in this one, and salvage any sort of positive feelings about this trip. They should have at least one practice day before the game, and that should help them a bit, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. They’re still going to be without arguably their best forward and their best defensemen, and it looks like they will be for a while, but that can’t be an excuse here. They’ll need to find a way to work smarter, and for the players left to actually step up.