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What we learned from the Flyers 4-1 loss to the Ducks

Some observations for your morning...

Philadelphia Flyers v Anaheim Ducks Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images

Well, at least it’s over. This Disney on Ice trip, as always, was unkind to the Flyers, and they closed this one out with a 4-1 loss to the Ducks in Anaheim. The hits kept on coming in a difficult trip, as the news came down before the game that just as they were getting Scott Laughton and Carter Hart back, and things were inching back toward normal, they would be without Claude Giroux and Ivan Provorov as they were placed in COVID protocols. That’s the reality of things right now, but it sure does feel pretty cursed.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick

Starting on time

Okay, so the Flyers did not start on time in their last game against the Kings, and that came back to bite them in a big way. They had some rest before this game, and while they were missing some key players, they had something to prove in this one. Surely this would mean they were bound to have a good effort and jump right off the hop, right?

*touches imaginary earpiece*

What’s that? I’m being told they did not in fact start on time in this one either? Well that’s a real shame.

Indeed, the Flyers dug themselves into a hole in this one early again, and it wasn’t very pretty. While they did avoid allowing a goal on the very first shift of the game, they did still give up two before we even hit the midway point of the first. Their offense was really struggling to get much going—they were out-chanced pretty comfortably, being outdone 19-12 in shot attempts and 8-5 in scoring chances, and were outshot 9-6—and the Ducks’ speed was giving their defenders some trouble, to boot. And that’s not all on energy, the reality is that they just really weren’t executing on much early. They managed to get back within one late in the period thanks to a very nice goal by Cam Atkinson, and in some ways it felt like a bit of a miracle that they made it to the first intermission with just a one goal deficit.

Playing low event hockey

If you did tune in for this one and came away from it feeling pretty bored, well, you're not the only one. For a lot of this game, there wasn’t really a whole lot going on, and the Flyers were stuck playing something of a low event game. John Gibson played well in this one, and that didn’t really help out their offense, but he also just didn’t see a whole lot of shots from the Flyers. They picked up some steam in the third period, putting up more than half of their shots therein (15), but all told, they only managed 29 shots on goal in this one across all situations. And while they did still get some looks—they came away with 2.38 Expected Goals at 5-on-5—they were a bit one and done in a number of their chances, and lacked the support to sustain too much pressure and make things really difficult on Gibson. So it goes.

A big night for Cam York

But hey, how about some good news? If you're Cam York, last night was certainly an exciting one—he made made his season debut with the team in his hometown, with his family in the building, on the eve of his 21st birthday, to boot. So hey, Happy Birthday, Cam!

He also won World Junior gold on his birthday last year, so it really leaves us to wonder what his 22nd will bring for him, but we digress.

And while part of it likely had to do with him not having his soul crushed by whatever’s been going on up with the Flyers this season just yet, York had himself a very solid debut, and it wouldn't really be a stretch to say that he was the team’s best player in this one.

Everyone, ourselves included, loves to talk about the calmness in York’s game, and that was on full display in this one. Despite his newness in the league, he didn’t look out of place, and didn’t look frazzled by the pace of play. He was steady, so steady that he stood out for a few moments when he was able to stick with Troy Terry (who, with his speed and a hat trick to boot, was giving the Flyers fits last night) and, with a good stick and body position, keep him frustrated. And that in and of itself is a big accomplishment.

We also mentioned how the Flyers were struggling in their matchups, on the whole, last night and often getting pretty well out-chanced, but this was decidedly not the case with York on the ice—by the underlying numbers, he graded out as one of the team’s best players, coming up tops in xGF% with 74.06 percent and second in CF% with 53.15 percent at 5-on-5. And all this while having a pretty substantial workload, as he played 20:19 across all situations.

He brought really good energy, was forechecking well, was activating a bit offensively when the opportunity arose, and he had a really positive impact on the team in transition—in short, the elements we’ve been sold on in his game that make him so effective were coming out in droves last night. He was feeling himself, to be sure, but he was also doing just about everything right.

There remains a lot to like about York’s game, as one of his former coaches at Michigan jumped in to attest, so there’s a lot to be excited about here. The silver lining, with Provorov out for a little bit here, is that York is going to get a really nice chance to show what he can do, and if he keeps playing like he did last night, or even just close to it, it’s going to be hard to send him back down once the defense gets a little healthier.

Carter Hart’s return

Hart made his return from his stay on the COVID protocol list (which he was, uh, not too happy about) last night, and it was a fine enough showing for him. Like Gibson, he didn’t have a massive workload in this one, as he faced 29 shots and nine high danger shots across all situations, but it was still a respectable enough workload. He gave up three goals on the night for an .897 save percentage, which feels less than stellar, but in truth we’re more fussed about the defensive breakdowns in front of him leading up to those goals than Hart’s play on them. He had a good night, but not a lights out, going to steal this game for us night, and that’s, well, it’s fine. He did well enough getting back up to game speed and the latter kind of performance shouldn't really be the automatic expectation. He’s going to need a little bit more help around here.

Context, context, context

And, before we go, we’re going to pull back a little bit and talk about the big picture. This road trip was not a good one, it never really is, but this one just really was not good. And it was also a difficult one, more difficult than some of the ones in recent memory, due to the players that they're missing due to COVID protocols. The hope is that Giroux and Provorov will be release as soon as possible, when their five days in quarantine are up, and they’ll only miss two more games after this one. But, with that said, they were pulled after team meetings yesterday, and cases just seem to be popping up everywhere right now, so who knows if the revolving door will keep spinning, and they’ll be without someone else once they come back.

This is all just to say that the on-ice product is bound to be a little messy here, and might be for a while. Teams love to talk about the next man up mentality, and that's going to be pretty huge for the Flyers over this next little bit, but they also need to find a way to better execute with those next men up. We want to be careful not to be unfairly critical, because everything really is such a mess right now, but to ask for a bit better isn’t unreasonable.