At long last, the road trip is over! The Flyers were back in Philly after a tough road trip, and that return, well, it wasn’t terribly kind to them. They had a tough task ahead of them, facing off against the Maple Leafs, and things went just about how we might have expected. Credit to them, the Flyers hung with them for about two periods, but the Leafs’ skill won out in this one, and it ended with a 6-3 loss for the Flyers. So it goes.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
Two big things
The biggest takeaway from this game was almost certainly the play of Kevin Hayes and Ivan Provorov, who are both looking like they’ve found new life and are really impressing again. Provorov picked up two goals and an assist on the night, meaning he factored into each of the goals scored by the Flyers. He was the most active we’ve seen recently offensively, showing a real willingness to jump up, but none of this came at the expense of his defensive poise. It was a really complete game for him, and it was a welcome development.
Hayes, too, saw his offensive game pop in this one. He picked up the Flyers’ first goal of the evening and made a nice assist from below the goal line on Provorov’s first goal. We saw his offensive creativity flashing, and he looked strong on the forecheck, and he came out of this one second on the team in shot attempts and leading in individual scoring chances, with eight and five, respectively. There was a bit of a scare as he got tangled up with a Leafs player and looked to be in a bit of discomfort, but nothing ended up going catastrophically there, thankfully.
And while we always want to see the team’s top players doing well, seeing these two, who had struggled at points this season for a host of different reasons, really does mean a bit more. If they can keep this going, pick up a bit of momentum and get closer to old form, that goes a long way for the confidence of both the players and the team.
Welcome to the NHL, Ronnie Attard
And, of course, our other big development was Ronnie Attard making his NHL debut after signing out of Western Michigan earlier this week. And, all in all, that debut went pretty well.
You could tell he was working at getting adjusted to the speed and timing of the NHL game (the one time he wiped out a bit kind of felt fitting), so it wasn’t the cleanest of games we’ve seen him play, but we did still see some nice flashes. Attard of course flexed that booming shot of his—he put up four attempts and one shot on goal—and while he wasn’t as active as some of the other defensemen on the rush, we didn’t see him shying away from jumping in. He made a couple of nice defensive plays along the board, and his good first pass was a standout as he was able to use it to get his teammates moving up-ice in transition.
And that last bit was probably the biggest positive—one of Attard’s biggest strengths at the college level was his ability to kick start his team in transition, something that the Flyers have struggled with this year and sorely need help with, and to see that part of his game already looking like it’s translating to this level is a very encouraging sign. We’ll just have to see how he can build on all this.
Bits and bobs
A good start, at least?
As we alluded to in the introduction, the Flyers actually put together a good start to this game. They came out with good jump and didn’t give the Leafs too much to work with. They outshot them 10-5 and outchanced them 8-5 in scoring chances and 4-1 in high danger chances at 5-on-5, but couldn’t convert on any of those because Jack Campbell made some huge saves to bail the Leafs out.
The scoring broke open in the second period, and while the Flyers were still able to hang in there for the middle frame, the third is where things started to get away from them. The Leafs surged, were quicker and harder on pucks, and the Flyers just gave them a little too much respect. The Leafs were able to get the Flyers scrambling around a little bit in the defensive zone a few times, and that was where they could let their skill take over, the Flyers didn’t really stand a chance.
And there’s a lot to grapple with in terms of feelings to take away from this one. On the one hand, it’s true that the Flyers’ own mistakes came back to bite them here, and that makes this tough to swallow. But on the other hand, the Leafs are just a much better team than the Flyers, and even though the Flyers were able to stick with them for much of this game, the talent disparity did become pretty apparent in the end.
An adventure for Carter Hart
To tack onto the weirdness that was last night’s game, Hart had himself a somewhat uncharacteristic messy and chaotic showing. It started off well enough, but then something happened to cause a cut on his thumb, and maybe that’s what did it, maybe it’s coincidence, but he seemed off after getting that patched up.
We had nearly a misadventure in handling the puck behind the net, inconsistencies in sealing up his posts, a bit of scrambling and getting out of position, and just Hart generally not looking as composed as he normally does. And while it’s hard to pile on him too much—the Leafs are a very good team with a lot of skill, and there was some defensive weirdness happening in front of Hart, compounded by being down a man and dealing with scrambled pairs for a good bit of the final frame—we do have to still make note of how Hart’s play contributed to how this one shook out.
On the power play
In the least shocking of developments, last night saw a continuance of the Flyers’ struggles on the power play. They didn’t have a ton of time to work with, drawing just two minors on the night, but they really had nothing going on for them in that time. They had flashes of decent puck movement, but it didn’t amount to anything—they totaled just two shot attempts and zero scoring chances in those four minutes of time on the man advantage.
They also gave up their ninth shorthanded goal of the season, which is tops in the league and pretty emblematic of how things are going around here.
A bit of drama
Late in the first period, Zack MacEwen and our old pal Wayne Simmonds dropped the gloves and looked like they wanted to go, but the officials got in between them to prevent it, and I popped a note in this outline that they should’ve just let them fight. You know, for the content.
You still cannot fight Wayne Simmonds. pic.twitter.com/WeI6aUgc3u— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) April 3, 2022
They got another chance though! These guys weren’t going to let this go, it seems, and they got their chance to fight in the third period after all (which was perhaps ill advised for MacEwen but we digress). And this plus the breakaway goal he scored in the second period felt like we had vintage Wayne Simmonds back in the building. And that’s pretty fun.