They did it! The winless streak is over! The Flyers were able to stop the bleeding, end the winless streak at 13 games, and end the month of January on something of a high note.
We’re free until the next losing streak swings around (but that feels like a problem for future us).
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
Was this game... fun?
First and foremost, we have to give the team some credit for putting together a pretty engaging game. There was a lot that felt a little cursed heading into it, an early game, with a snowstorm just wrapping up, and a building so empty that they moved everyone down to the lower bowl to fill it out a bit (which, plus offering free snacks and soda to those in attendance, was a nice gesture), But despite all of the weirdness that the day brought, the team still, well, brought it.
Things got away from them in the third period, as they were out chanced 19-9 in shot attempts and 12-8 in shots on goal at 5-on-5, but through the first two they were hanging right with the Kings, and it was a pretty even game, despite the differences in roster strength. This one saw some nice rush chances and a lot of back and forth action, and we’re almost comfortable enough to say that this was a fun game. And, really, that’s a win in and of itself.
Third line finding its legs
And let’s be honest, while the Flyers did not make this one easy for themselves, it felt pretty clear in a cosmic sense that this one was going to go their way after the first goal. Because, I mean, if you’re the Kings and Rasmus Ristolainen does this to you? It’s over, man.
Ristolainen trade value— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) January 29, 2022
Do you like what you see @31OtherNHLTeams pic.twitter.com/i8Xx27DqYg
And this play, impressive and hilarious as it was, was bookended by some nice work by the third line’s forwards. It starts with some patience from Morgan Frost to stop up on the zone entry, create a bit of space, and find Ristolainen coming in with speed, and then it was Max Willman causing a bit of havoc in front of the net, and a great finish by Gerry Mayhew. We’ve joked a bit here that this line is, if nothing else, a stellar AHL line, but they do really seem to be tapping into something here. How much longer are they going to be able to sustain this? That’s an open question. But in the meantime, this line is turning into a real fun one to watch.
Welcome, Isaac Ratcliffe!
And for an extra bit of levity to be found in this one, we had Isaac Ratcliffe making his NHL debut. It’s been a bit of an up and down season with the Phantoms, but he’s been playing well of late, and the call-up, and a chance to show what he can do at the next level seemed deserved. We didn’t see a ton of him in this one, as he was playing in a fourth line role with Connor Bunnaman and Zack MacEwen, but he still brought some nice flashes. He had a couple of good chances and certainly didn’t seem to shy away from bringing a physical game, and threw one massive hit.
Isaac Ratcliffe lays the boom in his NHL debut pic.twitter.com/19qobV5du6— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) January 29, 2022
Kind of the opposite of a “welcome to the NHL moment.” But overall, it was a solid showing, and certainly part of it was from adrenaline from the debut, and now the test will be maintaining that level, but at least in this one, he looked like he belongs.
And this iteration of the fourth line showed some promise as well. It’s clear the Mike Yeo was going for a big sort of crash and bang checking line, and he did get that with these three. And while they did get a couple of looks, the finishing talent isn’t there to the point where you would likely get a ton of scoring out of them. But they did well enough in their matchup, coming out of this one with an adjusted 48.32 CF% and 63.63 xGF%.
Cam Atkinson, man on a mission
If there’s one singular player who stood out in this one, it would be Atkinson. His line with Oskar Lindblom and Claude Giroux was clicking well on the whole, but Atkinson seemed to be on another level, individually. He picked up two goals (including a really stellar shorthanded goal), and lead the team with six scoring chances and four high danger chances across all situations.
CAM ATKINSON SHORTHANDED GOAL! pic.twitter.com/6qRdw923Cl— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) January 29, 2022
It’s not really fair to expect to see one or two players putting the team on their backs and dragging them to a win, but that’s kind of what we got from Atkinson last night. It’s one thing to be dragging your teammates into the fight (and that’s exactly what we want to be seeing from a team’s veterans), but this was a whole other level. The Flyers needed something big to break their way to get out of this losing streak, and it seemed like Atkinson was taking it into his hands personally to make sure it happened here (now let’s just hope he gets a little more help in the next one).
Where to now?
And while there was a good bit to like about this showing from the Flyers, the biggest and most positive of takeaways was simply that it was a win. Now, we do care a lot about process around here, but today outcome feels even more important.
With their hopes of making a playoff run all but down the drain, the team has had to quickly change their plans and find other objectives for the season, new metrics for calling the season a success. Things now become about getting some players back on track, re-emphasizing good habits, and continuing to develop some of the younger players, but that was all really hard to do when the weight of a 13 game losing streak is crushing you. The team’s been handed something of a reset here, and while they still are what they are, they at least have a chance to recenter themselves and work on getting back on track. This could be the first step in the right direction, and it’s on them to keep this rolling.