Here we are again.
Flyers fans may remember that the last season in which the team had a 10-game losing streak, they made the playoffs and became the first and only team to do that in NHL history. That was the 2017-2018 season, which followed a season in which the team had a 10-game winning streak and missed the playoffs—again, becoming the first and still only team to accomplish such a feat.
Combine such statistical oddities with the fact that the Flyers have also made the playoffs in every even-numbered year since 1996 and there still remained some hope following this season’s 10-game losing streak that something weird and miraculous would happen. It’s all right there in the tea leaves, after all: 10 losses in a row equals playoffs, 10 wins in a row equals no playoffs, alternate playoff years.
But now that we’re on the brink of a second such streak, what sort of lie can we possibly tell ourselves? Ten losses in a row twice equals double-playoffs? Cancels each other out and equals no playoffs? Two playoff years in a row? Not this year but next?
The Flyers are coming off one of their stronger games of the season, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders where they allowed only 20 shots on their own net, the third-lowest total of the year. Despite this, they still can’t score in shootouts (0/16 this year after 8/25 last year), and they dropped their ninth consecutive game. The Flyers, already down Sean Couturier, are now without Kevin Hayes, as he underwent an abdominal procedure the morning of the aforementioned Islanders game and won’t be available for three to four weeks.
The Blue Jackets are having a middle-of-the-road season, their 17-18-1 record placing them fifth in the Metro and tenth in the East. They have not been strong all season, giving up 3.61 goals per game, the third most in the league right now, but have especially struggled since returning from the Omicron break. In those eight games, they’re 3-5 and averaging 3.12 goals per game and 4.5 goals against. That includes seven goals allowed to both the Lightning and Hurricanes and a nine-goal thrashing by the Florida Panthers.
Columbus will be without potential All-Star Jakub Voráček in what would have been their first meeting since he was traded back to the team that drafted him. They’re also down Adam Boqvist, the NHL-level return from the Seth Jones trade; Cole Sillinger, the center that they selected with the draft pick also acquired in the Seth Jones trade; and 26-year-old defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov.
Flyers projected lines:
Joel Farabee—Claude Giroux—Cam Atkinson
Oskar Lindblom—Scott Laughton—Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk—Morgan Frost—Gerald Mayhew
Max Willman—Connor Bunnaman—Zack MacEwen
Ivan Provorov—Justin Braun
Cam York—Travis Sanheim
Keith Yandle—Rasmus Ristolainen
Blue Jackets projected lines:
Gustav Nyquist—Boone Jenner—Oliver Bjorkstrand
Yegor Chinakhov—Alexandre Texier—Patrik Laine
Jakub Voráček—Jack Roslovic—Emil Bemström
Eric Robinson—Sean Kuraly—Max Domi
Zach Werenski—Andrew Peeke
Gavin Bayreuther—Jake Bean
Gabriel Carlsson—Dean Kukan
Keep an eye on:
- Claude Giroux, who is the subject of swirling trade talks, making each game he plays charged with the possibility that it’ll be his last game with the Flyers. Giroux is leading the Flyers in points with 31 in 36 games, a 70-point pace over 82 games.
- Jakub Voráček, who is 10th all-time among in games played, 5th in assists, 10th in points, and 1st in blocks (not shots, but Twitter accounts) for the Philadelphia Flyers franchise. This will be Voráček’s first game back in Philadelphia since last season, and his first as a Blue Jacket since January 19, 2010 when he was 20 years old. Voráček has a goal and 25 assists for the Blue Jackets this season.
- Cam Atkinson, who spent the first 10 years of his career with Columbus before the offseason trade that brought him to Philadelphia. He is currently on pace to score more points this season than eight of those seasons, with 29 points in 39 games, on pace for 61 points in an 82-game season. He leads the Flyers in goals, shots, and time on ice among forwards. Atkinson had 13 goals and 3 assists in 28 Flyers-Blue Jackets games over the last decade, but this will be his first in orange and black. At this point, the Voráček/Atkinson swap is looking a lot like one of those very rare trades where all four parties are pretty satisfied with the way things turned out.
- Boone Jenner, who has a team-high 15 goals for the Blue Jackets. Jenner is the team’s captain and—this was surprising for me but maybe not for people who pay more attention—their longest tenured player, currently in his ninth season with Columbus.
- Jake Voráček, the tabby cat whose house I live in, whose meals I provide, and whose temperament is even more erratic than his namesake’s.
- The Flyers have never had two 10-game losing streaks in one season. In the franchise’s second season, 1968-69, they had three losing streaks of 11, 9, and 9 games and in 2006-07, they had a 10-game and a 9-game streak.
- The Flyers are 16-13-3-8 (W-L-T-OTL) against the Blue Jackets since they entered the league at the turn of the century.
- In the three games since Mike Yeo assembled the Lindblom—Laughton—Konecny line, they have scored 3 goals playing together and have allowed 1. They are outshooting their adversaries 23-14 and have an expected goals for percentage of 63.5%.
- Zach Werenski is averaging 26:18 minutes per game, which is less than only Thomas Chabot and Darnell Nurse in the NHL this season. Werenski has the most points by any defenseman in the 2015 draft class, ahead of Ivan Provorov, Chabot, and Noah Hanifin.
- Claude Giroux’s .86 points per game is 18th in the NHL amongst forwards over the age of 30 and 11th amongst forwards on expiring contracts. If he truly is on the move, he’s not just a veteran presence depth acquisition for a contending team, he’s a legitimate piece that would slot into any team’s top six if not the top line.
- The most points any player has ever scored in a season with only one goal is 40 from Matt Carle for the Flyers in 2010-11. Voráček currently has one with 25 points. It’s unlikely he’ll go the rest of the season without scoring another goal, but if he does he’d be the only forward in the top 50 of that list and would probably top it. The most points in a season without a single goal is Jimmy Thompson’s 29 for Toronto in 1947-48.