It was a quiet night in the NHL last night, with only one game on the docket in the Flyers at the Blackhawks, and let us tell you, it was thrilling.
Okay, that’s an overstatement. It was kind of a sleepy game that felt like it was going on for forever. And the Flyers, on the second game of a back-to-back, dropped it 3-1. Fun stuff.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com
By the numbers
This was, shall we say, not a big night for the Flyers offensively. Looking at the 5-on-5 numbers, and even accounting for the fact that because of all of the penalties called on both sides, we only had a hair over 40 minutes played at 5-on-5, they just didn’t have a whole lot going on for them. All told, the Flyers put up 10 scoring chances and five high danger chances at 5-on-5, and owned just 32.26 percent and 45.45 percent of those respective shares. They also put up just 1.39 Expected Goals, so while they did slightly underperform the expectation in only scoring one goal, it’s not like they were generating a lot to test the Blackhawks and just got supremely unlucky. There just wasn’t a whole lot going on there.
Fatigue setting in
Part of that sleepiness that we talked about in the intro, and part of the reason why the Flyers might not have had a whole lot going on offensively is fatigue starting to get to the team.
We saw it manifesting pretty tangibly last night. For one, the Flyers went the final 12:12 of the second period without a single shot on goal, as we saw the air really leave their game for a while there. We also saw some players with their minutes cut—Bobby Brink played 14:10 and Noah Cates played just 10:10 after putting up two goals on Sunday. And neither of them, certainly, were playing poorly enough to merit a big cut in minutes, so what this tells us is that after long college runs and getting tossed right into the fire to get adjusted to NHL speed, they’re probably starting to wear down a bit.
And as far as the overall team fatigue goes, it makes sense too—it’s been a long season in general, and the Flyers did empty the tank a bit to pick up a win over the Penguins on Sunday, and then had to turn around and fly to Chicago to play again last night. That’s a lot to work against.
A note on discipline
Another likely byproduct of that fatigue kicking in is that the Flyers, chasing the game for most of the evening, got caught taking some sloppy penalties and putting themselves at a further disadvantage. The Flyers took six minor penalties last night (though one ended up being a coincidental minor) and four of them were sort of tricky-tacky stick infractions (a slash, two hooks, and a trip).
The good news, at least, is that despite all of those penalties taken on the night, it was a successful showing for the Flyers’ penalty kill. In those 10 minutes of penalty kill time, the Flyers were under seige a bit, giving up 19 shot attempts and 12 shots on goal, but they were able to keep those chances largely to the outside, and the Blackhawks were only able to put up five high danger chances, despite a good bit of offensive zone time to work with. And, of course, the Flyers were able to keep the Blackhawks from converting on any of those chances, so they made it out of this one unscathed, even if they were playing with fire a bit.
Another solid night for Sandstrom
The emergency recall rolls on for Sandstrom, and he’s continuing to make the most of it. He had a relatively busy night, and he did just fine in it (not stellar, but fine). He faced 33 shots in total and allowed three goals for a .909 save percentage, and stopped five of the six high danger shots he faced.
It was all a bit of a mixed bag. Those totals don't sound stellar on their own, but he also had to deal with some ugly breakdowns for the skaters that opened up chances for the Blackhawks. He did make some big saves when needed—and yes, some of those were needed because of his own rebound control—and that bit of positive flashes was nice to see.
All in all, he’s still adjusting to this level, so things are bound to be a bit up and down for him. This showing was fine enough, and there are lessons to be learned from the less great bits, so we can live with it.
And finally, as we said, we’re really settling in to the final week of the season, and we have just two more games on deck before this thing wraps up. We have two notes as a bit of housekeeping:
The Flyers are sitting at fourth from the bottom of the standings, with 61 points and two games remaining. The Canadiens and Coyotes, with 51 points each, will not catch the Flyers, but the third place Kraken with 58 points and four games remaining could, and the Flyers could catch the Devils ahead of them (62 points), but probably not the Blackhawks (65 points, two games remaining). All of this is to say that the Flyers are probably going to finish the season between third and fifth worst in the league, and we’ll see how that all pans out come draft lottery time.
The Flyers also have one more regular recall left for the season, and we’re hoping that this could be used to give a player like Wade Allison or Tanner Laczynski a look to close out the season. They’re fun and have been through a lot this season. Let’s lean even further into the all kill chaos team, shall we?