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What we learned from the Flyers 5-3 loss to the Capitals

Some observations for your morning…

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The losing streak keeps on rolling. In what’s already been made very clear to be a cursed season, the Flyers keep seeming to find ways to lose in more and more gut punch fashion, and we can certainly tack on last night’s to that list. The Flyers had themselves a comfortable enough lead in the third period, but a couple of bad bounces, and the Capitals found themselves back on top, and the Flyers were walking away with nothing. They’re making some progress around here, but they’re still struggling to pick up wins.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

On getting the better of play

Probably what makes last night’s loss the hardest to swallow is that for the majority of that game, the Flyers were the better team. They were out-skating and out-working the Capitals, and keeping their offensive weapons overall pretty quiet. And this all showed in the underlying numbers—the Flyers came away from this one with a 52.63 CF% and 56.25 SCF% (though those do go down to 49.92 percent and 53.1 percent when score adjusted). The Capitals weren’t without their own chances in this one, but the Flyers had their offense clicking quite well. They built on the good work we saw in transition on Saturday, they were playing well as a unit, and they certainly were not afraid to take shots in this one.

In short, they looked good for almost all of this game.

Learning to win

But that almost if a pretty important qualifier here. The Flyers had a nice lead until the tail end of the third period, but big mistakes cost them this one—between a blown coverage by Max Willman on the tying goal to a brutal turnover behind the net by Ivan Provorov on what would be the the Capitals’ winning goal, they were ugly and just not what you want to see at that point in the game.

And while we can point to those as individual mistakes, Mike Yeo also understands that this is a team issue. One of their biggest lessons they’re working on is learning how to win games (and also how not to lose them):

I think that we can look at the game and we can see that we can play that way for 57 minutes and there’s no reason why we can’t play it for 60. Obviously, the tension heats up a little bit, the game gets on the line and part of the mindset has to be that you can’t all of the sudden get afraid to lose or get afraid to make a mistake because I thought we were very aggressive in the game. I thought we were aggressive the way we defended, the way that we closed away time and space, the way that we attacked, then you grab that lead and can’t just say we’re going to hold on here because now you’re just getting away from everything that you’ve had success with. Part of it’s being smart but at the same time it’s not about being safe. We have to continue to learn that and teach that.

It’s not a small task to fix all of this and really right the ship, process wise, but we’re seeing them inching closer to that mark. The mistakes were costly here but that shouldn’t be a deterrent from playing with intensity late in games. It’s a tough balance, and one that the team is still working towards finding. And hey, if nothing else, this one was one more learning lesson. We’ll see what they’re able to take with them into their next game.

Team’s still cursed

This feels like something of a minor detail, but we can’t not point it out. For as much as we liked their efforts and play overall in this one, we couldn’t get away without a clear reminder that these are the Flyers we’re talking about, and these Flyers are still cursed. Late in the third period, just after giving up the lead, the Flyers were trying to get things tied back up with a 6-on-5 goal, but things went badly awry. The Capitals won the puck back and John Carlson attempted to send the puck off the glass and out, and instead of more or less following the glass straight down the ice as he almost certainly planned, it took a weird bounce off the glass, straight over the heads of Giroux and Provorov, and beat them down ice into the empty net. And I mean… what are you even supposed to do with that. It’s a true Murphy’s Law situation, and pretty emblematic of the season on the whole.

An adventure for Martin Jones

The title here really says it all, but last night was a bit of an adventure for Martin Jones. He had his work cut out for him, getting back into the lineup for the first time since January 25, and in some ways, you could definitely tell that he had been away for that long. While he settled in some as the game went on, his rebound control was a bit messy, and he wasn’t tracking pucks all that well through traffic. As the team in front picked up some steam, he settled in as well, but him knocking off a bit of rust plus some defensive gaffs had the Flyers in a tough spot.

All told, he gave up four goals on 24 shots, so this doesn’t end up looking great by the numbers, but the eye tells us it worked out to just be a fine showing. A bit more steadiness might have helped them out, but we can’t look at this one and say goaltending cost them the game.

Winter of Gerald

After taking a scary injury in Saturday’s game in Detroit and dealing with some eye swelling that kept him out of Thursday’s in Pittsburgh, Mayhew made his triumphant return to the lineup, and we do mean triumphant return. As we said, the team overall was playing quite well in this one, but Mayhew was on a whole other level. He’s sort of been the poster child for the favorite hockey adage that if you’re skating hard and going to the net, good things are bound to happen, and was that ever the case last night. Mayhew picked up two goals (one on the power play and his second at 5-on-5) on the night, and led the team in scoring chances with six. He was playing with a lot of jump, and he was a key factor in the team’s offense going as well as it was.

In fact, he was playing so well that late in the game, he was elevated to the top line with Giroux and Atkinson. Now, that’s not a configuration that we can imagine them rolling with longer term, but it was working last night, and it seemed right to reward Mayhew with more ice time.

And as far as the hard working identity that the team is trying to get back to, Mayhew is certainly embodying it.