Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Flyers have lost yet another game. I know, it’s shocking. While the previous game against the Devils may have shown flashes of what sustained the team to a good October record, this matchup against the New York Rangers was far more in line with what has been expected in the past couple months from this team.
The lead up to this game was certainly interesting, however. Kevin Hayes was healthy scratched, and while John Tortorella claimed that he wanted to keep things private, he did admit as much that he is looking at things beyond the ability to score. Personally, this blogger thinks that scratching is more of a punishment than an opportunity to learn, but also, this blogger is not an NHL coach, so what do I know!
Flyers coach John Tortorella on scratching Kevin Hayes, the leading scorer on a team averaging 2.39 goals per game: "I can't keep looking by things because we're worried about scoring." pic.twitter.com/lARlJeSzFp— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) December 17, 2022
Additionally, Lukas Sedlak made the decision to return to his native Czechia and his contract with the Flyers will be terminated. In his press conference, it was stated that there was no one thing that determined him to make this decision, but major influences were the fact that he is far away from both family and his girlfriend.
On top of that, Zack MacEwen also wasn’t in the lineup for tonight, so the Flyers iced a combination of eleven forwards and seven defensemen against the Rangers. What could possibly go wrong with that strategy? Well, apparently a lot!
The Flyers got off to a decent start in spite of all the pre-game drama with James van Riemsdyk scoring his fifth goal of the season only 7:11 into the game.
Unfortunately, the lead wasn’t going to last all period. Mika Zibanejad made a good cross-ice pass, and Artemi Panarin was able to capitalize and shoot one right past Carter Hart. You hate to see it — unless you’re advocating for the tank.
Mika, the Good sauce + the Bread. pic.twitter.com/xP8Q3T4RUA— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) December 18, 2022
During the second period, most fans already knew that the Flyers’ power play was bad, but K’Andre Miller made sure to remind everyone just how bad. Even though it wasn’t an official shorthanded tally, the Flyers did so poorly at preventing the Rangers from picking up any momentum while down a man that Miller was able to take off on a breakaway and score.
Only a few minutes later, Barclay Goodrow extended the lead for the Rangers. Honestly, for a team that not only benched the player with the most points because he was too weak defensively but chose to ice seven defensemen tonight, you would think that they wouldn’t suddenly give up three goals in a row. Alas, the Flyers did.
The Rangers were extremely close to making it four unanswered goals during a delayed penalty, but the puck was still sitting on the goal line by millimeters, so it didn’t count. As the Rangers went on their subsequent power play, however, Scott Laughton was able to take off on a breakaway and score shorthanded. That is how to turn the momentum around right there.
Going into the third, the gameplay between the two teams felt mostly even until the Rangers padded their lead with a goal from Jimmy Vesey.
It wasn’t entirely meant to last, however, as the Flyers got back within one from a snipe courtesy of Morgan Frost. With Frost being on the top line, Tortorella is showing a lot of trust in him, and so a goal rewards that trust.
The Flyers earned a power play with about three minutes left in the game, and it wasn’t long into the power play that Tortorella made the choice to pull Hart for the extra attacker to make it a 6-on-4. It didn’t work, though, as Jacob Trouba shot the puck down the ice and scored an empty net shorthanded goal.
The decision was made to pull Hart again, and when Kaapo Kakko went to score, Tony DeAngelo interfered with the play. Even though the puck never crossed the line, the decision was made to give the Rangers another goal, credited to Ryan Lindgren.
With that, the game ended on a 6-3 score. It wasn’t nearly as lopsided of a match as the goals suggest, but the Flyers weren’t able to get the better of the Rangers outside of the early van Riemsdyk goal.
I’m pretty certain that no one outside of Chuck Fletcher and company was expecting this Flyers team to do well this season. The talent isn’t there, and the offseason upgrades didn’t move the needle enough. The best thing for this team would be to fully commit to a rebuild and bottom out. Tortorella seems to be inching in that direction, especially with the decision to bench Hayes.
Yet, that doesn’t make the process any more enjoyable. For as much as we can joke about everyone rooting for the tank, that’s not what motivates people to come to a hockey game. Both during the NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast and on Twitter, people kept commenting on how many Rangers fans seem to have invaded the building tonight. Sure, New York City is only a quick train ride away, but if the Flyers were doing well, there wouldn’t be as many seats on sale for rival fans to come watch their team.
It’s even worse when the front office doesn’t seem to think a rebuild is necessary for this team.
It’s the middle of December, the Flyers keep falling in the standings, and the direction of the franchise is just as muddled as ever. If I could, I’d love to ask for a better hockey team as my Christmas present this year.