The Philadelphia Flyers followed their first road win (!) of 2022 against the St. Louis Blues by crashing back down to earth in a 6-3 humbling by the NHL-best Colorado Avalanche last night in the Mile High City.
As things go with the Flyers these days it’s less about results in the standings — they should be tanking their way to the bottom, anyways — but about takeaways from the players that are still around and building out potential future roles for next season and beyond.
So without further adieu, five things from Flyers/Avalanche that we liked and didn’t like.
1. Cam York, the real deal
Now the crown jewel of the Flyers’ prospect pipeline on defense, York is graduating from that group in short order — with a standout performance against the NHL’s best team and perhaps most dangerous forward group.
The 21-year-old skated over 20 minutes for the third-straight game, and again on the top pair with Ivan Provorov. Those were far from easy minutes against the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Nazem Kadri. But York held his own at 5-on-5 against all that speed and skill, and has formed an unlikely pair with Provorov the past few nights.
But that’s gravy for the Flyers if York can provide that kind of extra value, the expected value is the breakout pass to Zack MacEwen in the second period that was a thing of beauty.
Cam York with the pass and Zack MacEwen with the finish! pic.twitter.com/C20hR83VWC— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) March 26, 2022
Like a quarterback putting the ball where only his receiver can get it, York’s precision allowed MacEwen to use his body against the defender and finish off a heck of a play.
2. Carter’s Island
Going in we all knew this one would be tough sledding even if the Flyers weren’t on the second half of a back-to-back and the heatseeking Avalanche waiting.
Martin Jones took the task against the Blues with Flyers coach Mike Yeo feeling confident that Carter Hart could be a backbone for his club in a tough situation.
Despite the score, did Hart ever deliver for his bench boss last night. Facing 51 shots and a near constant barrage of chances from the Avs, Hart did everything he could to keep things from getting even farther out of hand — especially in a first period in which the Flyers gave up four goals but could have easily been double if not for Hart.
That theme carried through the following 40 minutes as Hart threw on his cape and did all he could. Given the team the Flyers are icing in front of their young netminder, they’d be wise to start thinking about his workload down the stretch as the losses — and goals against — pile up. Hart is a vital cog in the Flyers’ future, and this kind of expected suffering isn’t productive.
Experience Philadelphia Flyers Hockey pic.twitter.com/GKSNsItHvY— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) March 26, 2022
3. About a whole gear — or two — behind
If you don’t get a chance to watch the Avalanche often, you hear about their team speed all over the ice and it was abundantly apparent against the Flyers.
In the first period the Avalanche looked like they were shot out of a cannon while the Flyers looked to be in slow motion. Only Provorov, York, and Travis Sanheim had any shot of skating with the Avs last night, and the Flyers’ forward corps had maybe a couple who could keep up with Travis Konecny out.
The few times the Flyers could win races — and a couple were won more with effort that speed — they were rewarded. James van Riemsdyk was the beneficiary on Joel Farabee’s effort play in the first, and Hayden Hodgson with a grade A scoring chance off a Sanheim rush.
Farabee with a great effort and JVR buries his own rebound! pic.twitter.com/2ZbLqIPUqX— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) March 26, 2022
Nice to see the effort is still there despite icing a back half on defense and at forward that wouldn’t make American Hockey League teams quiver.
Mike Yeo isn’t getting the job full time, but they play for the guy — most of the time at least.
4. Power play still powerless with Claude Giroux
Not that it was clicking with G, anyways, but the power play has registered just one goal in their last 15 chances since the captain exited stage left to Sunrise.
Colorado has only a league average penalty kill operating at 78% but the Flyers couldn’t muster anything on either of their two chances last night. The progress has been seeing York and Sanheim take over the bulk of the power play time on defense, but results haven’t been there — at least yet.
Part of that lack of results could be Kevin Hayes masquerading as a top unit pivot, but there is a wide range of skill levels on both units right now and a far cry from what the season started with.
5. Cale Makar is fun
We’d be remiss in not touching on the record-setting defender, who scored goals No. 23 and 24 in the win.
Both were impressive finishes with Makar surrounded by Flyers defenders that had little to no effect on the outcome of his diabolical plans. While his skating ability is second to none from the backend, the nuance in his offensive game is just spectacular to watch.
The subtle move to shake York — who recovered a bit — and the patience to get his shot path outside of the stick lane and pick his spot is just unreal. His game is always under control and he makes it look so dang easy.
Even it is was at the expense of the Flyers, watching Makar is a treat and would it ever be fun to see a guy like that in the Orange and Black.