Well would you look at that, folks. Holding people accountable works.
The last time we saw the Flyers, they were looking sluggish, getting shut out by the Sharks on the second night of a back-to-back, and John Tortorella dialed in on Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny as guys who weren’t playing up to standard, and would be benched to send a message (even if not playing them meant the team, on paper, wouldn’t have as good of a chance of getting back into the game and pulling out a win).
And send a message it did. Both players were visibly frustrated after the game, but acknowledged that they knew they weren't playing well enough. And, credit to them, after a couple of good practice days, they both turned up for last night’s game and just... played better.
The jump from both was pretty noticeable right about from the hop, and we saw both of them chip in nicely offensively in this one. Neither scored a goal, but both picked up two assists, and the work was pretty nice.
The highlight reel: Hayes did the heavy lifting on Joel Farabee’s goal, getting the initial chance that was stopped, picked up his own rebound, and chipped the puck out front to the trailing Farabee.
And on the Flyers’ first goal of the night, Konecny made a stunning spinning pass on the rush over to Tony DeAngelo for the goal.
It was flashy, to be sure, but the work across the whole of the night was solid, and that’s exactly what we needed to see. They settled back into their roles and got back to driving offense again. So, seemingly, it was message received.
So benching worked, and now we’ll see if it continues to work—Wade Allison and Morgan Frost were last night’s victims, having their minutes cut significantly (playing 5:09 and 7:43 respectively across all situations), in a game where the team had already come into it rolling with an 11F/7D lineup. So we’ll tune in on Saturday to see if this play works on these two as well, and, more generally, how long this card can keep being pulled before it starts to get stale.
Bits and bobs
Say hello to the PDO bender
The Flyers have been getting pretty handily outplayed for, well, much of the season, but last night saw things reach just a hilarious new level. Despite the Flyers managing a 4-3 win, the Panthers came out of this one with a 68-31 advantage in shot attempts and 2.76-1.48 advantage in expected goals at 5-on-5 (those advantages jump to 109-39 and 4.99-1.94 when you expand to all situations), and we’ll just leave you for a moment to sit with that.
And they still won!
Now, we know that this kind of thing is simply not sustainable, and the team seems to know it too. But somehow, things are still breaking the Flyers’ way, inexplicably, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how long they’re able to keep this going.
Everyone say thank you to Carter Hart
The Panthers brought an absolute shooting gallery last night, and the fact that things didn’t go very, very badly for the Flyers on the scoresheet is thanks to Hart. Now, it was definitely a bit of a weird one for Hart—he was having trouble with his rebound control and looked at times like he wasn't tracking the puck as well as usual, but then he still came up big when it mattered and was able to help the team hold on for the win. All told, he came out of this one with 48 saves on 51 shots and a .941 save percentage, and his perfect record on the season intact. Even when he’s clearly not at his best, he’s still doing something pretty spectacular, and if the Flyers are looking to keep stringing together wins while they work to get their process in order, to avoid the wheels completely falling off, Hart is going to be the key to that. He’s been pretty stellar so far, here, and it’s been a real sight to behold.
Rasmus Ristolainen is back
A quick stat for you: in last night’s game, at 5-on-5, Ristolainen was on the ice for two Flyers shot attempts for, and 21 against. That’s an 8.7 CF% and -29.46 CF% Relative, for those keeping track at home.
Now, we can be generous and point out that this was Ristolainen’s first game back from injury, and acknowledge that it’s going to take anyone in that situation a bit of time to get back up to game speed, but the point remains that this was just a pretty brutal showing for him. We’ll see how things trend as he gets some more games under his belt, and in which direction this moves the needle as far as the overall defense group’s impacts go.
A better showing from Noah Cates
And one last small thing before we go. The Flyers seemed pretty invested through this early part of the season in keeping Noah Cates at center and seeing what they can get out of him there, and it’s been fine, but last night we saw him moved back over to the wing, and it became pretty immediately clear why he’s probably better suited on the wing in the long term. We saw him playing with a bit more jump, he did some nice defensive work (showed good overall positioning, forced a turnover), and even created a bit of offense just from pure hustle and hard work. In short: he looked more like what we’ve come to expect as “himself.” And it’s a team game, to be sure, and Cates will play where he’s asked, but if the team is looking for the way to get the most out of this player, well, they may have just found it.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick and HockeyViz.