Well, at least that’s over. The Flyers closed out their home-and-home series against the Red Wings with a weird noon game yesterday, and, well, it didn’t go very well for them. Just as they did in Wednesday’s game, the Flyers fell into an early hole, when a defensive breakdown inside the first five minutes of play opened up a ton of space for the Red Wings, and Tyler Bertuzzi got them on the board. The Flyers tried to rally from there, but the hole got even deeper for them in the second period, when some time for them in the offensive zone failed to turn into a goal, and then Dylan Larkin forced a turnover, started a rush up-ice and took advantage of an iffy change for the Flyers, and fed Filip Zadina to put them up 2-0.
And from there we saw the Flyers and Red Wings swap power play goals, then the Flyers getting a nice little revenge goal from Scott Laughton after a missed penalty (more on that later) to pull the game within one, but the weren’t able to capitalize on their chances with the extra attacker at the end of the period, and Detroit sealed themselves a win with an empty net goal. And the Flyers have dropped their first two games in a row back from the break.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
Alright, let’s jump right into it with the elephant in the room. That’s not exactly news, but it was painfully, painfully clear yesterday. We’d gotten news on Friday that Sean Couturier had undergone back surgery and would be out for the rest of the season, and Kevin Hayes and Ryan Ellis were considering surgery and we’re likely not going to see either of them for the rest of the season, either. Rasmus Ristolainen is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury and missed yesterday along with Derrick Brassard, who was dealing with some soreness after his return to action on Wednesday.
Then, during the game, we saw Travis Konecny take a puck to the mouth and require some patching up, and a scary play where Gerry Mayhew, driving the net, was tripped by Thomas Greiss and sent headfirst into the boards before he could get his hands up. He was down on the ice for a while, bleeding pretty heavily from a cut above his eye, and didn’t return to the game. Somehow that wasn’t a penalty either.
And we’re not done! Elsewhere in the organization, Morgan Frost has missed the last two games with the Phantoms with a non-COVID illness, and both Cam York and Linus Sandin took hard hits that knocked them both out of the game on Friday, and had them miss last night’s as well. And we don’t really have much in the way of analysis to offer there, it’s just staggering how the injuries have piled up this season, and continue to pile up. It’s beyond parody at this point.
The big question heading into this game was around how the team would respond from just an absolutely brutal first game back after the break. Mike Yeo was clear in his displeasure with the team’s play after that one, and a lot was put on this game as a chance to respond and show that Wednesday wasn’t them showing their true selves. And the good news, despite the result, is that the team did manage a good response in this one.
The Flyers had some more jump in this one, were looking more cohesive, and did end up getting the better of play, on the whole. They came out of this one with an adjusted 55.54 CF% and 60.05 xGF%. They did a much better job not just of getting chances, but getting quality chances. They probably deserved a better outcome in this one, but their defense remained an issue, and burned them pretty badly in the worst time.
But like Yeo said after the game, he “thought the attitude was in the right place [today],” and they’ve got something to build on.
The power play produces
On top of their 5-on-5 play, the Flyers really needed to see an improvement in their power play’s performance in this one—they were really just awful, if we’re honest, in Wednesday’s showing—and we did see just that as well yesterday.
All things considered, they didn’t get a ton of time on the man-advantage to work with, but it was enough. In just over five minutes of power play time, they put up 13 shot attempts, nine scoring chances, and five high danger chances (which is a stark contrast to Wednesday, where they put up 13 shot attempts, four scoring chances, and one high danger chance in nine minutes of power play time). Their entries were smoother, their puck moving crisper, and they were rewarded for that improved work, as Keith Yandle picked up a goal (his first of the season!). It wasn’t a perfect effort, there’s still room for them to tighten up, but with as depleted of a personnel group that they have to work with right now, we’ll take it.
We’re still appreciating Isaac Ratcliffe out here
What can we say, the kid’s here and making the most of his opportunity, and there’s a lot to like in that. He played a big part (sorry) in Yandle’s power play goal, as the Flyers have been playing him at the netfront position to set screens, and he did well here, just as he did on his first NHL goal (but this time the puck went straight past him). His line at even strength with Jackson Cates and Zack MacEwen didn’t put up stellar underling numbers (a 26.47 CF% and a 10.72 xGF%), but they did at least pass the eye test, providing a nice bit of energy for the team, as is their job around here.
His time in the AHL has been a bit up and down, but Ratcliffe’s taking an opportunity with a limited but still pretty straightforward role with the big club and running with it. And in a season where positivity is hard to come by, that’s been a nice thing to see.
Carter Hart does it again
And to close out on a bit of a bummer of a note, it was another quite solid showing from Carter Hart, even in this loss. He didn’t have the busiest of workloads, facing just 23 shots on the afternoon, and even though the numbers don’t end up looking stellar (with 20 saves and an .870 save percentage) it’s hard to come away from this one feeling too fussed about Hart’s play. He settled in nicely to this one, and was able to keep the team in this game until the end. As has been the case all year, it’s not his fault that the defense in front of him is breaking down badly and leaving him exposed.
Hart’s been one of the real bright spots around here, even as things are going poorly, and here’s hoping that these losses which are not his fault don’t start to weigh too heavily on him.