Well, we’re not sure what we expected here. The Flyers were coming off a high from their first shootout win of the season on Sunday, and facing a tired Blue Jackets team that had lost their last seven in a row, and they dropped this one. They did some good work in coming back from a 2-0 deficit, but they couldn’t grab a lead, and they couldn’t even hold on long enough to force overtime and give themselves a chance there. And for those keeping track at home, that loss puts them just one point up on fourth worst in the league, and six up on dead last. Hooray?
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
A weird night for Carter Hart
We’ll start with the sort of elephant in the room here—this was not the best showing we’ve seen from Carter Hart. And it does feel a little worse with the knowledge in the back of our heads that it’s coming on the heels of another sort of messy showing, but the fact remains that this one on its own was still less than stellar.
On the whole, Hart allowed three goals on 29 shots faced, not terrible in isolation, but we’ve seen him do better with even more difficult workloads. We used this word already, but messy really does seem to be the most apt description for how things played out last night. Hart had a bit of trouble still sealing his posts, and was kicking out some wild and quite dangerous rebounds. And while some defensive breakdowns in front of him certainly didn’t help, and we can’t ignore that, we did still see Hart creating more trouble for himself than we normally do. This was a tough one.
And a big night for Noah Cates!
But swinging to a more positive note, we have a first NHL goal to talk about!
Noah Cates scores his first NHL goal! pic.twitter.com/Vyf5U8lYUm— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) April 5, 2022
In just his fourth NHL game, he picked up his first goal, and it was a nice one, finishing off a stellar chance set up from behind the net by Patrick Brown. And the excitement was pretty palpable.
And it was a nice reward for what’s been a solid bit of play for Cates on the whole. He doesn’t tend to bring a ton of flash in his game (although we see he’s certainly capable of it), but he’s been quietly very solid since his debut, and last night was no different. He brought good energy, and made a couple of really nice plays to break up Blue Jackets chances, all fueled by tenacity and strong forechecking, It’s a difficult game to jump into and already have all of the details taken care of, but so far Cates has been able to do it, and it’s been a real treat to see.
Not much doing on the power play
Ah, yes, the power play. Credit to the Flyers, they were able to give the Blue Jackets some trouble and draw some penalties (four minors in total), and they got their chances on the man-advantage, but that was about it. In those eight minutes of power play time, the Flyers were able to get a bit of solid puck moving going, and were able to put 16 shot attempts up, but they struggled to get much going in the way of dangerous chances (they totaled just five scoring chances and two high danger chances in that span). And if you pair that with how they struggled to get entries into the offensive zone once they’d been chased out, and we come away from this one not feeling very good about the power play, still.
And part of this is just that this is what happens when you aren’t dealing with a wealth of talent to pull from to fill out your power play units, but the Flyers have enough to work with that we should be getting something even a bit better than this.
A mixed bag for Ronnie Attard
Okay, a lot to unpack here. There was a lot going on in Attard’s game last night. We saw some positives, to be sure—the top of that list being his shot sent in on goal that was deflected by James van Riemsdyk and got him his first NHL point—but we’re also seeing him battling his way through some growing pains here, and that’s leaving him still looking (understandably) like a work in progress.
But there is a note to be made here about the situation he’s been put in. For his debut, Keith Yandle was pulled out of the lineup, presumably because the Flyers decided (rightly) that this was a pairing that wasn’t going to work, and while they certainly couldn’t have predicted that Nick Seeler, initially determined to be the best fit with Attard, would get hurt immediately, turning around and just putting Attard with Yandle seems a curious move. The pair didn’t work last night, and it’s a hard position they’re putting Attard in right now—trying to figure out his own game at this level with not just a partner that can’t cover for him in a pinch, but can barely take care of his own assignments. The Flyers are going to have to figure something out here, breaking up one of the top two pairs perhaps, if they want to do their due diligence in giving these young players their best chance at success. Attard has to work on his own details and help himself, but the team needs to help him too.
The big picture
This might not have been the toughest loss of the season, but this one was tough to swallow, because it really should not have been close. The Flyers were the much more rested team—they haven’t played since Sunday, whereas the Blue Jackets played the night before (an emotional, very physical game against the Bruins) and then had to travel for their second game in two nights—and they were getting the better of the chances by a comfortable margin. Across all situations, the Flyers put up a 57.78 CF% and 55.34 xGF%, and while the gap closes a bit when you isolate to just 5-on-5, we still see the Flyers with an edge—50.93 CF% and 60.31 xGF%. They were facing a goalie who was on his third start in four days, and they couldn’t do more to take advantage. The Flyers did some good work in this one, and they did flex some playmaking creativity, but the next thing they need to master is working out how to close on more of those chances.